Another BIG week for the conference as the top 3 teams are finally emerging and we can finally give Northwestern their dues after a few BIG wins. So lets take a look at where each teams falls so far.
14. Rutgers (1-8, 12-10) LW: 14 – Wow did the Scarlet Knights give Wisconsin a hell of a scare this weekend. I said last week that Rutgers is no longer an automatic blowout for opponents, well they are turning into a team that will give you everything they have each game. I have a lot of respect for what Steve Pikiell is doing with this program and they are really heading in the right direction.
13. Illinois (3-6, 13-9) LW: 13 – The Illini got a solid win against Iowa but really struggled against Penn State. This season will be a sad ending to the career of Tracy Abrams, who was so talented before the 2 major injury setbacks. Abrams has barely been a factor the last 3 weeks and is now coming off the bench. Malcolm Hill really doesn’t have much help and it seems Illinois will finish in the bottom 3 this season.
12. Penn State (4-5, 12-10) LW: 12 – Penn State ended their 3 game losing streak with the win over Illinois behind Shep Garner and Payton Bank’s combined 35 points and 8 made 3 pointers. They head to Bloomington Wednesday for a tough one at Indiana.
11. Iowa (4-5, 12-10) LW: 10 – Iowa got handled by Illinois and then held their home court against Ohio State to continue their run of inconsistency. Sophomore Brady Ellingson was sensational in the Ohio State win in Peter Jok’s absence, scoring 17 while knocking down five from behind the arc, something that fans in Iowa City have been waiting a few years to see in a big game. They have 2 very winnable games ahead with Rutgers and Nebraska on the docket.
10. Minnesota (3-6, 15-17) LW: 8 – The Gophers have now lost 5 in a row, they had a chance to beat Maryland and looked like they were going to in the first half. But the Terps manhandled them in the second half and Minnesota turned the ball over on a critical possession in the games final minute. They are in desperate need of a win and have Illinois and Iowa ahead to try to turn things around.
9. Nebraska (4-5, 10-11) LW: 11 – The definition of inconsistency is this Nebraska team. They just added Purdue to their list of upset wins that already included Indiana and Maryland, but still can’t seem to win against other teams that they should be beating. An explanation of their inconsistency is that Tim Miles and his squad are very young. Their lone senior Tai Webster is continuing to carry them, but needs consistent help from the rest of his backcourt mates. They’ll host Michigan State this week before traveling to Iowa on Super Bowl Sunday.
8. Ohio State (3-6, 13-9) LW: 6 – This isn’t a team that is inconsistent, just one that continues to underperform. I don’t get how they can play so well against Minnesota and then a few days later get dominated by an Iowa team without Peter Jok. It might be time to just say Ohio State isn’t the team they thought they were going to be. They host Maryland Tuesday night in what would be a huge win for the Buckeyes before traveling to Michigan.
7. Indiana (4-5, 14-8) LW: 5 – Indiana is also in real trouble without OG Anunoby and to add salt to an open wound, James Blackmon is out indefinitely as well. The Michigan loss was their worst in nearly two decades and it was followed by another ugly loss to Northwestern with the Hoosiers shooting just 32 percent from the floor. They got Juwan Morgan back for both of those games but he contributed just 3 points in both. Someone besides Thomas Bryant is going to step up, but the depleted backcourt might be too much for the Hoosiers to overcome.
6. Michigan (4-5, 14-8) LW: 9 – Michigan annihilated Indiana this past week with a 30 point win. They had six in double-figures and shot 63 percent from the floor. This game was a reminder of how good Michigan can be. Like Ohio State they are very talented and experienced, but just can’t put together a run of consistency. They followed the Indiana win with a tough loss at Michigan State, in which they couldn’t hit anything from behind the arc. Their only game this week is at home against their rivals from Ohio on Saturday.
5. Michigan State (5-4, 13-9) LW: 7 – Tom Izzo’s team desperately needed that win against Michigan on Sunday. Miles Bridges notched his 4th double-double of the season and he got some much needed help from Nick Ward, despite only playing 16 minutes because of foul trouble. The Spartans travel to the Lincoln to take on Nebraska on Thursday in a must-win game for both teams.
4. Purdue (6-3, 17-5) LW: 3 – The Boilermakers played one of their worst defensive games against Nebraska in the upset loss. Caleb Swanigan was under 40 percent from the floor for just the 4th time this season. Purdue is now staring at the toughest 2 game stretch ahead in the Big Ten with Northwestern and Maryland, two teams that have lost a combined 2 games in the month of January.
3. Northwestern (7-2, 18-4) LW: 4 – With six consecutive wins and their four losses to quality opponents, the resume has never been even close to as good as it is right now for the Wildcats. They are a very strong defensive team and extremely unselfish on offense. They are 13th in the nation in assists at 17.1 per game and a lot of that stems from the outstanding leadership of Bryant McIntosh who plays like Aaron Craft only he can score the basketball better. If they win at Purdue this week, it might be the most significant win in program history on their way to their inaugural dance in March.
2. Maryland (7-1, 19-2) LW: 2 – With the exception of a 3 minute brain fart period on January 1st against Nebraska, Maryland had a perfect January. They are hot off a huge win at Minnesota this weekend in which they played a near-perfect game. Melo Trimble is still the leader of this team, but his freshman teammates Kevin Huerter, Anthony Cowan, and Justin Jackson are all playing like upper classmen. Huerter is emerging as one of the deadliest shooters from behind the arc in the country, he knocked down 46 percent of his threes in the month of January.
1. Wisconsin (7-1, 19-3) LW: 1 – Good teams find a way to win games that they play terribly. That is what happened against Rutgers Saturday. Wisconsin played by far its worst game of the season but still won. The one thing we learned from the game is that Ethan Happ can score 30 points if needed. He single-handedly won that game for the Badgers on offense and he even contributed 4 steals, including one in overtime. He is the front-runner for player of the year in the conference.