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Ranking the B1G: Maybe The Conference Doesn’t Suck After All

Three teams beat ranked opponents this week.

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The month of November was not kind to the Big Ten. From Indiana losing to Indiana State to the debacle that was the Big Ten/ACC challenge, the conference was primed for mediocrity.

December, however, has been a little kinder. Michigan State continues its death march to, uh, March, Purdue is looking like the clear second best team in the conference, and other teams left for dead are showing signs of life.

1) Michigan State Spartans (Last Week: 1)

Previously: W vs Oakland 86-73*

Michigan State plays Oakland seemingly every year, and seemingly every year it turns into a close game. This one was no different, as the Spartans were tied with Oakland at 66 apiece with 6:11 left in the game. Michigan State pulled away from there.

Up Next: vs Houston Baptist (Mon), vs Long Beach State (Thu)

2) Purdue Boilermakers (LW: 2)

Previously: W vs Butler 82-67*

Butler isn’t the same now that Chris Holtmann is with Ohio State, but they’re still not a bad squad (one that was actually able to beat said Buckeyes earlier in the season). Purdue made them look silly for 40 minutes, with the game never really in doubt.

Up Next: vs Tennessee State (Thu)

3) Ohio State Buckeyes (LW: 3)

Previously: W vs Appalachian State 80-67

The Buckeyes have been feasting on lower competition after starting 2-0 in the Big Ten. This game was no different. We’ll get to see just how good Ohio State is when they play North Carolina on Saturday.

Up Next: vs The Citadel (Tue), vs No. 7 North Carolina (Sat)*

4) Michigan Wolverines (LW: 6)

Previously: W at Texas 59-52, W vs Detroit Mercy 90-58*

The Texas game played a lot like the Wisconsin/Penn State game, in so far as Michigan determined the pace the entire game, and a normally frenetic Shaka Smart team simply fell into the trap and was never really able to adjust. Detroit never had a chance.

Up Next: vs Alabama A&M (Thu)

5) Maryland Terrapins (LW: 4)

Previously: W vs Catholic 76-59

Yes, they played a religion last week. As it turns out, catholicism is only Division III. Maryland still only led by six at halftime.**

Up Next: vs Fairleigh Dickinson (Thu)

6) Minnesota Golden Gophers (LW: 5)

Previously: W vs Drake 68-67

What is going on in Minneapolis? In the span of two weeks, Minnesota has gone from one of the best teams in the nation to barely scraping by against Drake, who, by the way, led for most of the game. And who knows, maybe with a few extra seconds Drake actually finishes the job...

Up Next: vs Oral Roberts (Thu), vs Florida Atlantic (Sat)

7) Northwestern Wildcats (LW: 7)

Previously: W vs Chicago State 96-31, W vs Valparaiso 84-50, W at DePaul 62-60

Northwestern seems to have a little bit of Penn State in them, though, insofar as they clearly overwhelm teams that are a step below them in talent and/or quality, but struggle mightily when they play anyone remotely close to them. This week that opponent was DePaul. They trailed for most of the game, and were finally able to come through late in the second to take the lead for good.

Up Next: vs Lewis (Tue)

8) Penn State Nittany Lions (LW: 9)

Previously: W at George Mason 72-54

Winning on the road by 18 against a team that made them look silly last season is better than the alternative. They also played without Tony Carr.

Up Next: vs Binghamton (Tue), vs Rider (Fri)

9) Indiana Hoosiers (LW: 12)

Previously: W vs No. 18 Notre Dame 80-77 (OT)*

It looks like things are starting to settle down for Archie Miller’s squad. The Hoosiers are one of four teams to have beaten a ranked non conference opponent the season. The first two, obviously, are Michigan State and Purdue. Indiana is the third. The fourth one is...

Up Next: vs Fort Wayne (Mon), vs Tennessee Tech (Thu)

10) Rutgers Scarlet Knights (LW: 13)

Previously: W vs Fordham 75-63, W vs No. 15 Seton Hall 71-65

...your Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Rutgers has been par for the course so far, beating all the overmatched opponents and losing to anyone with a pulse. It’s possible that this win was just another upset in the string of upsets that happen in the regular season, and there’s nothing else in the rest of the non-conference that will tell us otherwise. We’ll see what Rutgers is made of when they travel to Purdue in a few weeks. Enjoy the win for now.

Up Next: vs Stony Brook (Fri)

11) Nebraska Cornhuskers (LW: 10)

Previously: L vs No. 13 Kansas 73-72

The tricky part of Nebraska’s schedule difficulty so far is that they didn’t have much of a choice. Kansas is the second leg of a home-and-home, Creighton is a yearly series, and St. John’s is part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games. UCF is the only one they really had a choice in, and it’s also one they shouldn’t have lost. At least they finish the non-conference out with some bottom feeders...

Up Next: vs UTSA (Wed), vs Delaware State (Fri)

12) Wisconsin Badgers (LW: 8)

Previously: W vs Western Kentucky 81-80

Wisconsin should be 4-8 right now, but for a really bullshit call, they squeezed by Western Kentucky on a last-second free throw. Very Wisconsin-like. We know Kobe King is out for the season, but no one really knows when they’ll get D'Mitrik Trice back.

Up Next: vs Green Bay (Sat)

13) Illinois Fighting Illini (LW: 11)

Previously: W vs Longwood 92-45, L vs New Mexico State 74-69*

I don’t really know what to make of Illinois just yet, but so far they’ve beaten no one of note. Sure, they played to close conference games, but we all know close doesn’t count.

Up Next: vs Missouri (Sat)*

14) Iowa Hawkeyes (LW: 14)

Previously: W vs Drake (Sat)*

The team that almost beat Minnesota couldn’t come within 10 of Iowa at any point past the first half. Funny how it all works.

Up Next: vs Southern Utah (Tue), vs Colorado (Fri)*

*Neutral site game
**Yes, they had some guys out, but it was still a DIII opponent.

Ranking criteria:

  1. Recent performance
  2. Overall body of work
  3. Season expectations