A few weeks back I was curious if any team would truly separate themselves as contenders in the conference. After last week, we are finally seeing some squads emerge as contenders. I gushed over Northwestern last week and they still look the part, but Wisconsin and Purdue have shown how difficult of a matchup they are with every team. Then there is Maryland. The team that everyone seems to be waiting for the other shoe to drop on, but they keep winning and winning. Indiana lost a solid player in OG Anunoby but the Hoosiers have played better basketball as of late. Could someone else latch on to the front-runners? Let's take a look.
1- Wisconsin (17-3, 6-1)
Up next: vs. Rutgers (Sat)
- Wisconsin continues to resemble the most complete team in the league. Bronson Koenig had another huge shot to beat Minnesota last week which just shows me how this team can find ways to beat you in any situation.
2- Maryland (18-2, 6-1)
Up next: @ Minnesota (Sat)
- Mark Turgeon thinks there is still plenty of room for improvement with this team. That is a scary thought for the rest of the Big Ten considering they have won 11 of their last 12 games.
T3- Purdue (17-4, 6-2)
Up next: @ Nebraska (Sun)
- Purdue has been beating up teams lately and scored a big road win this week in East Lansing. They move up a spot in my rankings based purely on appearance. The Boilermakers look like a team that is catching stride at a great time of the season.
T3- Northwestern (16-4, 5-2)
Up next: vs. Nebraska (Thurs) vs. Indiana (Sun)
- Absolutely no disrespect to the Wildcats this week as Purdue catches them in my rankings. Northwestern gutted out a close one on the road in Columbus, a place they have not won since 1977. The Cats have their next five of seven games at home.
5- Indiana (14-6, 4-3)
Up next: @ Michigan (Thurs) @ Northwestern (Sun)
- Indiana was on the emotional roller coaster with OG Anunoby's season-ending injury but finding a way to go 2-0 during the week. The upcoming stretch of games might provide more clarity on who Indiana is without Anunoby as they get consecutive challenges on the road.
6- Michigan State (12-9, 4-4)
Up next: vs. Michigan (Sun)
- Sparty has now dropped 4 of 5 games and I start to wonder if we can have the "wait til March" conversation about this Tom Izzo team.
7- Minnesota (15-5, 3-4)
Up next: @ Ohio State (Wed) vs. Maryland (Sat)
- Back-to-back losses by a combined 4 points will make the Gophers next two games very telling. Confidence could be a little fragile especially in tight contests.
8- Michigan (13-7, 3-4)
Up next: vs. Indiana (Thurs) @ Michigan State (Sun)
- Michigan is absolutely on the verge of being an upper-tier team and this could be the week that puts them in that category.
9- Ohio State (12-8, 2-5)
Up next: vs. Minnesota (Wed) @ Iowa (Sat)
- This might be the biggest overreaction to a solid week but I like who the Buckeyes are becoming. Two conference wins and almost pulling off the upset over a hot Northwestern team. OSU has some players that can hurt you.
10- Iowa (11-9, 3-4)
Up next: @ Illinois (Wed) vs. Ohio State (Sat)
- There was a moment in their matchup against Maryland where you had to appreciate the effort and execution to battle back from a large deficit. Then there was Fran McCaffery going crazy on the refs after the game. No clue what you will get from this team on a given night.
11- Penn State (11-10, 3-5)
Up next: vs. Illinois (Sat)
- Penn State got worked in their last two games. Saturday will be a gut-check moment for this team against Illinois.
12- Nebraska (9-10, 3-4)
Up next: @ Northwestern (Thurs) vs. Purdue (Sun)
- Speaking of gut-checks, Nebraska has lost back-to-back games on last second shots. The Huskers have dropped four games in a row after a 3-0 start in league play. The season is entering the danger zone.
13- Illinois (12-8, 2-5)
Up next: vs. Iowa (Wed) @ Penn State (Sat)
- If Illinois is going to show us anything this season, it has to start tonight against Iowa.
14- Rutgers (12-9, 1-7)
Up next: vs. Wisconsin (Sat)
- Rutgers finally got that first conference win last Saturday over Nebraska.Corey Sanders is a solid player and will continue to make Rutgers competitive against several Big Ten teams.