When the season started I (and many other people) said there was one constant for Big Ten basketball: Wisconsin was at the top and Rutgers was at the bottom with 12 teams in between and anyone could beat anyone. Then last night happened:
Rutgers 67, Wisconsin 62
This proves, as many things do, that I am an idiot. Yes, I recognize that Wisconsin was without Frank Kaminsky, but Rutgers has lost at home to St. Peter's, St. Francis, and Northwestern. The Badgers should have been able to replace Frank Kaminsky with Frank Stallone and still win with ease. Was such an upset that it was the first time EVER that Rutgers beat a top 5 team and they didn't even know how to storm the court right.
So yes, everyone can now beat everyone in the Big Ten. If it is mathematically possible for there to be a 14-way tie at 9-9 that is what will happen. If Rutgers hadn't lost at home to Northwestern they would be leading the Big Ten right now. No one is out of the race, as even Minnesota, who is 0-4, has played well enough to win more than their share of they can find a way to close games.
As can be seen from the power rankings that follow, every team has had a high point and a low point.
1. Maryland Terrapins - (15-2, 3-1) - Out of everyone, it seems like Maryland has avoided the "bad loss" Mark Turgeon said that the loss to Illinois was his team being atypical and he is probably right. Every other game they have played well and the loss to Virginia, one of the two remaining undefeated teams, is not bad. The loss to Illinois is the only conference win for the Illini, but as we are starting to see, there probably is no such thing as a bad road loss in this league.
2. Michigan State Spartans - (12-5, 3-1) - The low point was definitely the loss to Texas Southern. No one should suffer the indignity of a loss to a SWAC school at home. The Spartans, however ugly it has been, is still 3-1 and are an overtime loss to Maryland away from being unbeaten in the B1G. Sure, Northwestern somehow took them to overtime, but a win is a win. Michigan State gets a chance to avenge their Maryland loss when they go to College Park this weekend.
3. Wisconsin Badgers - (15-2, 3-1) - I had no worries about Wisconsin until last night. I figured the Purdue game was the boilers just playing really well, but then last night happened. That was just bad. Top to bottom this is still the best team in the Big Ten, but there are serious questions if they can't beat Rutgers even missing Kaminsky. If Nebraska goes into Madison and wins this week you can officially sound the alarm bells.
4. Indiana Hoosiers - (12-4, 2-1) - They are still incredibly shaky in the closing minutes and prone to turnovers, but Indiana has grown a lot since the loss to Eastern Washington. In both conference wins IU has barely hung on to a big lead, but again, wins are wins. As usual, they are going to be a tough out at home. They have a few easier games to build some ground here with Penn State and Illinois coming up.
5. Iowa Hawkeyes - (11-5, 2-1) - It was probably disappointing that they couldn't do much at home in the second half against Michigan State, but I have to give them credit for one of the better wins in conference play when they convincingly beat the Buckeyes in Columbus. None of the non-conference wins are terrible, but losing to Iowa State and Northern Iowa sucks for home state pride.
6. Michigan Wolverines - ( 9-6, 3-1) - Can anyone figure out the Wolverines? They lost at home to NJIT and Eastern Michigan, but are very quietly 3-1 in league play with only a loss at Purdue because they had an atrocious second half shooting the basketball. They probably should have lost to Illinois, but the Illini chose to run one of the worst plays possible for the final shot in regulation and allowed Michigan to win in overtime. As we can see, this year in the Big Ten being lucky and merely surviving like that can be the most important thing.
7. Ohio State Buckeyes - (13-4, 2-2) - Purdue needs to beat the Buckeyes in West Lafayette, mostly because everyone thinks they are a good team when they are not. Their 2-2 is very shaky with the overtime win in Minneapolis. They lost in Bloomington because they missed a critical late free throw. It seems like any time they play a good team they lose, as they are 0-2 against the top 50 and 2-4 against the top 100.
8. Rutgers Scarlet Knights - (10-7, 2-2) - Last night officially put a moratorium on any jokes about Rutgers basketball for the time being. Sure, they have lost some pretty awful games, but they beat Wisconsin and Vanderbilt. What are they going to do this week when they face Maryland?
9. Purdue Boilermakers - (10-7, 2-2) - I still think Purdue can win 12 Big Ten games and be an NCAA team, but the margin for error is thinner after it couldn't close out one of the upsets this past week. Since the first Ohio State game is at home, I think the Boilers can get on a little run here and win their next six games. The toughest one in there is Indiana, who seems like a major wild card not only from game to game, but minute to minute. I also have major concerns about Purdue's offense which is... limited to be kind. This is still a team that lost to North Florida and Gardner-Webb.
10. Nebraska Cornhuskers - (10-6, 2-2) - It is hard to find the right (Incarnate) Word(s) to describe Nebraska. They beat Rutgers and Illinois, but lost to Indiana, Iowa, Hawaii, and Creighton. As we saw last year, they can turn it on late and make a run in Big Ten play, so we will see if they can do it again.
11. Illinois Fighting Illini - (11-6, 1-3) - They did not look good last night, and Illinois has a history of going on major swoons in Big Ten play. That's why Purdue has to sweep them. They are one of those Big Ten teams relatively even with us, so we have to be able to sweep them and gain some separation. None of their losses are really bad and they did beat Maryland.
12. Minnesota Golden Gophers - (11-6, 0-4) - Minnesota cannot close out games. Yes, three of their first four were on the road, but they had a big lead over Purdue, went to overtime with Ohio State, and could not close out Michigan on Saturday after another double digit lead. This team is going to be kicking itself when it tries to defend its NIT crown, and Purdue absolutely needs to win in Minneapolis now.
13. Penn State Nittany Lions - (12-4, 0-3) - I really thought things would be different for Penn State, but it turns out they succeeded against a very, very weak non-conference schedule. D.J. Newbill has succeeded Tim Frazier as the Talor Battle Memorial Great Penn State Guard That Can Win A Game By Himself (TBMGPSGTCWAGBH) Award.
14. Northwestern Wildcats - (10-6, 1-2) - They did beat North Florida, however. Sure, they lost to Central Michigan and couldn't close yesterday, but this is still not a great team. Of course, they are going to add to Illinois' in-state misery by beating them this week.