The Big Ten was more of the same this past week as, once again, teams losing on the road has become commonplace. There are always upsets when favorites go on the road in conference and play, but the rate of these upsets is alarming. The Big Ten looks like a six-bid conference, but that will change. I am just not sure whether the number will go up or down. This is a very top-heavy conference.
Michigan started the week on a high note with a win over Ohio State. Then the Wolverines went to Illinois and got beaten, and they are back to where they were last week at this time. This team is a mess, and they don’t have the coaching to get out of it.
Rutgers got off the mat this week with an impressive come-from-behind victory against Nebraska, yet their lowly status remains undiminished. I don’t anticipate much change over time for these Scarlet Knights. They are solid defensively, but the offense is lacking.
Penn State remains one of those teams that’s hard to defeat at home – Wisconsin experienced that firsthand when Penn State pulled an upset victory against them this week! Unfortunately for them, though, they also have road games, which explains why they rank lower in our power rankings.
Minnesota has recently experienced a sudden regression to earth, dropping their last three games. Although Minnesota came close to upsetting Michigan State earlier this week, they fell short late. This next week will be crucial for Minnesota.
The Hoosiers had an unfavorable week. They faced two of the top teams in the Big Ten this week and were soundly defeated in both contests, especially at home against rival Purdue – leading many fans and analysts to wonder whether this team truly has what it takes to compete for an NCAA Tournament spot in 2024. At present, it doesn’t look like it does.
Maryland was unsuccessful in two close games this week – at Northwestern and at home versus Michigan State – falling just short in both contests, contributing to their low position in our power rankings. The Terps are an up-and-done team, and they are running out of time to correct it.
Following an impressive start, Ohio State has faltered since the start of January. Ohio State snapped its three-game losing streak with an impressive win against Penn State on Saturday but seems to be taking its usual tumble as we enter into the thick of the schedule. The loss to Michigan was unacceptable.
Iowa had an encouraging road win at Minnesota early in the week before faltering at home against Purdue on Saturday. Although Iowa remains unpredictable and hard to gauge, I expect they’ll make some surge come March/April. The Hawkeyes need to pick it up more on the defensive end of the floor.
Michigan State won two games this week to give Spartan fans something to cheer about, defeating. They beat Minnesota late before holding on against Maryland on the road for its first Big Ten road victory. Should Michigan State go to Wisconsin and win this week, they will join the upper tier of the conference. The Spartans have played one of the toughest schedules in the country, but have won just two of those eight games. Minnesota and Maryland are not world-beaters and the fact the Spartans struggled to win close games will leave me skeptical about the Spartans.
Northwestern had nearly an incredible week but fell short against Nebraska on the road on Saturday. While Northwestern remains difficult to beat at home, they remain vulnerable on the road, an issue shared by most teams in the Big Ten this season.
The Cornhuskers lost to Rutgers on the road, which is a terrible loss for the Huskers. They saved the week with a hard-fought victory over a good Northwestern team. They have to learn to win on the road; they are talented, but they can’t afford losses to teams like Rutgers.
Wisconsin suffered its first Big Ten Conference loss this season at Penn State. Still, it rebounded with at victory against Indiana on Friday to remain among the Big Ten’s elite three and remain league title contenders throughout. I had the Badgers last week, but after watching them play this past week its hard to ignore that they are lacking on the defensive side of the ball.
Illinois bounced back impressively from last Sunday’s unexpected upset loss against Maryland with two victories this week. It welcomed Terrence Shannon Jr. back into their lineup, providing further momentum going forward. The Illini, with Shannon, can win the Big Ten.
With Wisconsin’s impressive play, Purdue’s position near the top of our power rankings had been at risk over recent weeks. Still, the Boilermakers managed to secure some stability with two impressive road victories over Indiana and Iowa this week.
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