We have a new contender! The Iowa Hawkeyes clearly had the best week in the league, knocking off both Michigan State and Purdue to open a surprise 2-0. Their schedule is very front-loaded with all five of their games against the Michigan State-Maryland-Purdue trio within the first nine games. With a pair of victories already in the bank they can establish an early lead that no one else can really match. That's why I have them at No. 1 this week.
1. Iowa (11-3, 2-0) - Iowa saw their RPI jump all the way to 16 this week and they were able to become the 4th team in the conference to reach the top 25 of both polls. Both victories were earned too. They flat out beat Michigan State and after a nightmare of a first half at Purdue they dropped 50 on our Boilers in the second half. They should get to 3-0 this week when they host Nebraska
2. Maryland (13-1, 2-0) - I was really concerned for Maryland when they struggled with Penn State, but diamond Stone got the "Blake Griffin playing Purdue in the Garden" treatment from the officials to save them. They then went on the road and put a hurtin' on Northwestern, playing as they should. I expect the Terps to roll until going to Michigan State on January 23rd.
3. Michigan State (14-1, 1-1) - the Spartans started with a pair of road games and earned a split. Even with a healthy Denzel Valentine I don't know if they beat Iowa, but the struggle against Minnesota has to be a concern. Fortunately, Valentine comes back soon. Next week's rematch with Iowa in East Lansing is going to be a very big game.
4. Purdue (13-2, 1-1) - Was the second half against Iowa an aberration or a sign of something more. I trust coach Painter to fix the issues that Purdue had against the press. There is still time to work on it and it is probably a pretty simple fix. I also think that Purdue's lack of timeouts and Iowa hitting some crazy shots played a large role. It was a perfect storm that snowballed against the Boilers, but we will see soon if there is a reason for larger concern. Purdue needs to beat Michigan on Thursday and Illinois on Sunday to right things.
5. Indiana (12-3, 2-0) - Yes, I am moving the Hoosiers up here, but only because their opening schedule is so easy. They didn't look the best in beating Rutgers and Nebraska, but wins are wins. Sunday's game with Ohio State is by far their toughest before going to Michigan in early February. They could easily be 9-0 by then, but without a single top 50 RPI win.
6. Michigan (12-3, 2-0) - The Wolverines claw into a spot here among the contenders because of their dismantling of a Penn State team that probably should have won at Maryland. When the Wolverines are hitting they can beat anyone. They don't even have Caris LeVert at the moment. The next three games against Purdue, Maryland, and Iowa are about as rough as it gets.
7. Ohio State (10-5, 2-0) - Here come the Buckeyes. They can be this year's Purdue in that they have some bad non-conference losses only come through the league and earn a bid right back. This week they go to Northwestern and Indiana, two teams that they might be battling in the middle of the pack all year.
8. Northwestern (13-2, 1-1) - If the goal is to just get to 10 Big Ten wins and hope for the best the Wildcats are off to a good start. Beating Nebrsaka won't raise many eyebrows, but it is a road win. The win over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg looks a lot better now that the Hokies have knocked off Virginia. Northwestern would do very well to beat Ohio State at home on Wednesday. That sets up a possible 5-1 start before going to Maryland.
Here Comes the NIT
9. Wisconsin (9-6, 1-1) - the week went as expected for the Badgers. They lost at Purdue but beat Rutgers easily in Madison. As Greg Gard continues his takeover this team will round into shape eventually. They will be a tough out every week, but there is too much to overcome to get back to the NCAAs.
10. Penn State (9-6, 0-2) - I really feel for the Nittany Lions. The officials kind of took that Maryland game from them by calling a foul every time stone was breathed on. A home game tonight against a struggling Minnesota team is exactly what they need.
Good Job, Good Effort
11. Nebraska (8-7, 0-2) - For any hope of making the postseason Nebraska needed to defend home court, especially against teams in the middle of the league. They failed to do so against Northwestern and Indiana. Now they have to go to Iowa and Rutgers.
12. Illinois (8-7, 0-2) - So much for being high on the Illini. They couldn't get the job done at home against Michigan and came up just short at Ohio State. Now and 0-4 start looms as they have to go to Michigan State on Thursday before hosting Purdue on Saturday.
13. Minnesota (6-8, 0-2) - Well, the Gophers at least pushed Michigan State for a bit. Outside of that, everyone is looking at them as a potential win in conference play. Northwestern, Rutgers, Michigan, and Illinois are the lucky teams that get to play them twice. Yes, we get two Rutgers-Minnesota games but only one Purdue-Indiana game. Thanks, Delaney!
Special Rutgers Category
14. Rutgers (6-9, 0-2) - As I stated, I hate Rutgers basketball because we have to include them in the Big Ten and it takes away from other, better league games. They get a shot at a win this week when they host Nebraska, but I am hoping they go 0-fer because they do not belong here.