February is upon us. Every Big Ten team has played at least half their conference slate, and a certain order is established. The craziness of the Big Ten, however, dictates that some big shifts could be in play in the next few weeks. Some teams who had tough starts to conference play see their schedules ease up considerably, and others are just starting their gauntlets to end the regular season.
The craziness of the Big Ten has also seen some volatility in these rankings, as no team seems to want to take hold of first place in the conference. In fact, as soon as a team gets ranked first, they go on and lose a game.
1) Maryland Terrapins (+3)
The Maryland team everyone thought we’d get from day one has finally shown up. In their lone game this week, the Terps beat Iowa to get ever so close to a tie for first place in the conference. The good news for Maryland is that they have an opportunity to take sole possession of first with games against Rutgers and Illinois this week. A good showing there would at worst tie them with Michigan State atop the conference.
2) Iowa Hawkeyes (+1)
Iowa split this week, losing on the road and winning at home. The Hawkeyes’ schedule lets up considerably in the coming weeks, after playing one of the toughest to start Big Ten play. Three of their next four are on the road, but they all come against teams in the bottom half of the conference. They don’t face another top-half team again until February 25th, when they visit Michigan State.
3) Michigan State Spartans (-1)
The Spartans did what everyone should do to Northwestern at home, then they followed that up by losing to a Wisconsin team that had just lost two of their key pieces for this game. I wouldn’t want to be the poor team that has to face Michigan State after that performance.
4) Illinois Fighting Illini (-3)
The Fighting Illini found themselves in a battle at home against Minnesota, then another one on the road at Iowa. They won the first one, but not the second. There were also some hard feelings at the end of that Iowa game. I’ll let y’all look it up on your own time. It’s good that the Illini took care of business in the early part of the conference season, because this is what their next four games look like: vs Maryland, vs Michigan State, at Rutgers, at Penn State. Ouch.
5) Penn State Nittany Lions (+3)
The Nittany Lions did what they hadn’t yet done in Pat Chambers’ tenure: win a game at Nebraska. They also took care of Indiana earlier in the week to remain in the hunt for a top-four spot in the conference standings and a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament.
6) Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-1)
Credit Rutgers for doing more than anyone would have expected of them to date. However, the Scarlet Knights are going to have to win a game outside of the RAC if they plan to keep pace in the conference. On top of that, if they want to remain in the right side of the bubble, they cannot afford to lose at home at all. To make matters worse, five of their next nine games are on the road. Out of their four remaining home games, three come against teams that are either ranked or have already beaten the Scarlet Knights. And, in the case of Illinois, both.
7) Wisconsin Badgers (+2)
Winning at home is considerably easier than winning on the road, but winning at home against a team tied for first in the conference when you’re missing two key pieces on your team is considerably more commendable than “just” winning at home. And, if not for a late collapse earlier in the week (in the game that got one of those missing pieces the suspension), they could have been perfect.
12) Michigan Wolverines (+4)
Michigan played away from Crisler Arena twice this week, and both times the Wolverines came victorious. After losing back to back home games (the game against Rutgers was technically a home game), Michigan did well to beat their freebie on Tuesday.
9) Ohio State Buckeyes (+2)
This is the part of the rankings where things get jumbled. Ohio State gets the nod this week for beating the teams in front of them, and doing so without D.J. Carton against Indiana.
10) Indiana Hoosiers (-4)
Although the Hoosiers lost both of their games last week, the teams below them in the rankings only won against the freebies. They get this spot by virtue of playing road games at Non-Northwestern and Non-Nebraska.
11) Minnesota Golden Gophers (-4)
Minnesota game really close to notching a road win against Non-Northwestern/Non-Nebraska on Thursday, but a potential go ahead shot was blocked in the waning seconds, and Illinois was able to put the game away. They get a chance to pick up some quality wins in the coming week, however.
12) Purdue Boilermakers (-2)
Purdue would have gone 0-fer this week if not for Northwestern’s inability to close a game out. The Boilermakers were not as fortunate at Rutgers.
13) Northwestern Wildcats (—)
Can’t close games out. Not much to see here. Well, there’s the fact that Boo Buie inherited Talor Battle’s shooting mentality.
14) Nebraska Cornhuskers (—)
Like Northwestern, the Huskers look good for stretches then fall off the face of the earth for long enough to give the opposing team a comfortable cushion.