Maryland is coming off a week in which they split games with Indiana and Northwestern. The Terrapins were outclassed in the second half against the Hoosiers and ended up being routed by 19 points. Northwestern proved to be a bigger challenge than many thought as Maryland needed a last-second putback to top the Wildcats. All things considered, Maryland did have a down week, but has a chance to move up in the polls with a matchup with Ohio State on Thursday.
1. Wisconsin (18-2, 6-1) – Since the Badgers fell to Rutgers back on Jan. 11, they’ve won three consecutive games, including blowing out Iowa by 32 points. Forward Frank Kaminsky is showing no ill-effects of the concussion and is averaging 19 points-per-game and 8.3 rebounds-per-game since returning to action. Wisconsin is back in the top five and dominating like a potential Final Four team should.
2. Maryland (18-3, 6-2) – Knocking off Indiana at Assembly Hall is no easy task and the Terps found that out first-hand last week. Things did look bleak against Northwestern until a late run, highlighted by a Dez Wells game-winning putback, gave Maryland an uplifting win at home. With the Buckeyes next on the docket, it’s a battle of arguably the two top freshmen in the conference in Melo Trimble and D’Angelo Russell. Another shot for Maryland to prove that they can win on the road.
3. Ohio State (16-5, 5-3) – This isn’t the Ohio State team that we’ve been accustomed to see in recent years. It’s a young group that’s been inconsistent, but the talent is clearly there and they’re starting to put it together. After dropping both contests to Iowa early in the Big Ten schedule, the Buckeyes have won their last two games, including a 12-point win over Indiana to give them a split with the Hoosiers for the season. Sophomore forward Marc Loving has been a nice compliment to Russell and is averaging 11 and nearly four rebounds a contest.
4. Indiana (15-6, 5-3) – After throttling Maryland, Indiana has lost their last two games to the likes of Ohio State and Purdue. The Boilermakers easily dispatched the Hoosiers by 16 points, leading throughout the entire game. With a matchup with Wisconsin and another Maryland rematch looming, we’re going to find out if Indiana is for real.
5. Michigan (13-8, 6-3) – Michigan lost star guard Caris LeVert for the rest of the season. Then guard Derrick Walton Jr. missed the Nebraska game after being a big producer in a win against Rutgers and a tough overtime loss to Wisconsin. It’ll be interesting to see the progression of guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman as coach John Beilein is giving the freshman extended minutes due to the depleted backcourt.
6. Purdue (13-8, 5-3) – Purdue has been one of the surprise teams in the Big Ten. While they’ve lost three conference games, the Boilermakers have been the likes of Illinois, Maryland, and Wisconsin very tough. Not to mention that they knocked off Indiana on Wednesday night. The low post combination of A.J. Hammons and Issac Haas has been very productive so far and forces teams to knock down perimeter shots.
7. Michigan State (13-7, 4-3) – Michigan State has been all kinds of inconsistent this season. The Spartans won two of their first three Big Ten contests, but haven’t won consecutive games since. With Rutgers on tap on Thursday night, they need a win in a bad way.
8. Iowa (13-7, 4-3) – Despite getting dismantled by Wisconsin nine days ago, Iowa still has a series sweep of Ohio State in their back pocket. Forward Aaron White is enjoying a very strong season, but has struggled in Iowa’s last two games. As White goes, so go the Hawkeyes.
9. Illinois (13-8, 3-5) – Illinois was expected to be a sleeper team in the Big Ten, but losing star Rayvonte Rice somewhat threw a wrench into those plans. However, in Rice’s absence, sophomore guard Malcolm Hill has stepped up his game and is averaging 16.3 points-per-game over his last six contests (averages 14.0 for the season). With Penn State and Rutgers next up on the schedule, the Fighting Illini have a chance to get to the .500 mark with plenty of time left in the season.
10. Nebraska (12-8, 4-4) – Nebraska, like many teams in the conference, has had their fair share of inconsistent play. The Cornhuskers have won two out of their last three, including victories over Minnesota and Michigan State. Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields continue to fill it up, but aren’t getting much help elsewhere.
11. Penn State (14-7, 2-6) – Penn State had a horrific start to the Big Ten schedule as they dropped their first six contests by an average of 7.7 points-per-game. However, in their last two contests, the Nittany Lions have upended Rutgers and Minnesota. With a date with Maryland on the schedule for Feb. 4, Penn State will have a chance to prove they belong in the thick of the conference race.
12. Minnesota (13-9, 2-7) – Even though Minnesota is one of the top scoring teams in the nation, the Golden Gophers have had their fair share of struggles this season. Minnesota dropped their first five Big Ten games and their only victories are Rutgers and Illinois. Guard Carlos Morris has been a great pickup for coach Richard Pitino and the Gophers will need Morris and Andre Hollins to come up big down the stretch if they want any shot to make an NCAA Tournament run.
13. Rutgers (10-11, 2-6) – After knocking off Wisconsin on Jan. 11, Rutgers has dropped four consecutive games. With a four-game stretch that features Indiana and Ohio State, the Scarlet Knights have a tough road ahead in order to climb back into the Big Ten race. If there’s any positive to take from the early portion of the conference schedule, it’s been the post play of Kadeem Jack and Junior Etou.
14. Northwestern (10-10, 1-6) – Northwestern really don’t have much luck when it comes to close games this season. After failing to come out on the winning end in four single-digit games, the Wildcats hit number five when they allowed the Terps to steal one at home last Sunday. It could be a long remainder of the season for the team from Evanston.