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Big Ten Power Rankings: A Fight For Number 2 Emerges

Illinois, Rutgers, and Northwestern are all in a fight for the No. 2 spot in the Big Ten standings.

Jan 31, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers guard Sam Griesel (5) pressures Illinois Fighting Illini guard Terrence Shannon Jr. (0) during the second half at State Farm Center. Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Rankings reflect games played through Monday, January 30th.

A mere week and a half ago, half a game separate number two from number 12 in these standings. As the conference enters the tough stretch and teams to enter their “make a case” mode, the cream is starting to rise.

No one is going to catch Purdue, who now holds a three and a half game lead against the rest of the conference after Wednesday’s games, but the battle for number two may not be decided until March, as Illinois, Rutgers, and Northwestern, are all tied in the loss column, with the Illini and the Scarlet Knights up a win over the Wildcats. Northwestern, of course, can lock in a tie with a win against Michigan this week.

1: Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue continues to be the class of the Big Ten. They’re the unanimous number one team in the AP poll, and is unlikely to relinquish that title unless Indiana can get the best of them in Bloomington.

2: Northwestern Wildcats

The Wildcats are on the tail end of a brutal, covid-induced stretch that saw them play six games in 13 days. They end the nightmare at home against Michigan, then at Wisconsin on Sunday. They get back to a more manageable pace the rest of the way.

3: Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois has had a bit of a resurgence after some style and personnel changes. After starting 0-3 in conference play, the Illini have won seven of the past eight games, and sit at a second-place tie with Rutgers at the moment.

4: Indiana Hoosiers

Another team with a bit of a resurgence late, Indiana is squarely in the middle of the pack now. If they can get the best of Purdue this weekend, they should be able to push for a top four spot in the conference standings.

5: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Rutgers’s blowout losses to Iowa and Michigan State don’t make up for their win against Penn State, so the rankings reflect it by rewarding other teams ahead of them.

6: Michigan State Spartans

The Spartans split the week last week, beating Iowa at home, then doing what just about every other team is doing, and getting worked by Purdue at Mackey.

7: Maryland Terrapins

The third team on a bit of a resurgence as of late, Maryland has now won four of the last five contests. The last three games, of course, all came at home. I take it Kevin Willard didn’t have a problem with the schedule during that stretch?

8: Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State can’t seem to get out of its own way on the road, looking as bad away from home as they look good in Bryce Jordan. The Lions will need to pick up a win or two on the road if they want to keep the NCAA Tournament hope alive.

9: Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa should probably be higher on here, as they completed the sweep of Rutgers this past week. Were it not for the loss to Michigan State, they’d have had a great week.

10: Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin needs some answers. They have now lost six of the last seven games, after fooling everyone into thinking they’d contend for a top four spot in the conference yet again. If they don’t figure things out quickly, they might find themselves playing on Wednesday in the Big Ten Tournament.

11: Michigan Wolverines

Another team that needs to figures things out quickly, Michigan lost both of its games last week. One was a hard fought loss to Purdue without Jett Howard, the other, a 22-point loss to Penn State that was nowhere near as close as the score indicated. If they want to enjoy any postseason at all, let alone the tournament, they need to start putting some wins together.

12: Ohio State Buckeyes

At this point, the Buckeyes are trying to avoid Wednesday. But, with a 3-7 record in conference play, and games at Michigan, Iowa, Purdue, and Michigan State still left on the schedule, not to mention a visit from Maryland, Illinois, and Northwestern, there may not be enough wins left for them to avoid their fate.

13: Nebraska Cornhuskers

The injury bug has derailed yet another season for Nebraska. What looked like a promising year is likely headed for another Wednesday debut in the Big Ten Tournament. Silver lining: One more win and they can eclipse last season’s total. They have at least nine more tries.

14: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Their 2023 class is pretty good!

Chart - Week over Week Rankings - January 31st - Purdue is first, Northwestern is second, Illinois is third, Indiana is fourth, Rutgers is fifth, Michigan State is sixth, Maryland is seventh, Penn State is eighth, Iowa is ninth, Wisconsin is tenth, Michigan is eleventh, Ohio State is twelfth, Nebraska is thirteenth, Minnesota is fourteenth.
Look at those matching colors!