1. Michigan State (7-1, 1-0)
This past week, the Spartans continued to show why they are one of the best teams in the nation. First, in their third game against a top-10 opponent, they dominated fifth-ranked Notre Dame from start to finish, 81-63. Then just three days later, Michigan State never trailed in an easy 86-57 win over Nebraska in its conference opener. After a brutal November schedule, things get much easier for the Spartans, as they face Rutgers and Southern Utah this week.
2. Purdue (8-2, 2-0)
Being one of just three Big Ten teams to win games in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge puts Purdue in the second spot in the power rankings. The Boilermakers overcame slow starts in both halves to knock off No. 17 ranked Louisville Tuesday night, then picked up a pair of five-point wins over Maryland and Northwestern over the weekend. After years of being overly reliant on big men, Purdue surprisingly turned to its guards this year. So far, that strategy is working as the team’s starting lineup is all averaging over nine points-per-game. Perhaps the biggest X-factor for Purdue this year is the emergence of senior guard Dakota Mathias, who averages 15.5 points-per-game and shoots 53.7 percent from three-point range. This is an interesting week for the Boilermakers, as they host an undefeated Valparaiso team that will be hungry to knock off an in-state opponent.
3. Minnesota (8-1, 1-0)
In one of the best games of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Minnesota came up just short at home against No. 10 Miami. The Golden Gophers were able to bounce back over the weekend and defeat Rutgers, 89-67. Junior forward Jordan Murphy is starting to pick up steam as an All-American candidate, thanks in part to finishing with a double-double in every game so far this season. The Gophers will have a pair of challenging road games this week, playing at Nebraska Tuesday night and at Arkansas Saturday night.
4. Michigan (7-2, 1-0)
The Wolverines were never expected to win at North Carolina on Wednesday night, but they were never even as close as the 15-point final margin indicated. Michigan did manage to bounce back over the weekend with a dominant 69-55 win over Indiana. Freshman guard Jordan Poole had a breakout game, making five three pointers and scoring 19 points. If he continues to contribute like that off the bench, Michigan will be a dangerous team to play. The Wolverines have a tough stretch coming up hosting UCLA Saturday, and then playing at Texas next Tuesday.
5. Maryland (7-3, 1-1)
After suffering three close losses in four games, Maryland pulled out a tough win at Illinois in overtime Sunday night. Anthony Cowan is emerging as a leader on this team while freshman forward Bruno Fernando is quickly becoming a fan favorite in College Park. Losses to St. Bonaventure, Syracuse and Purdue were disappointing, but the fight this team showed was not. Maryland likely isn’t good enough to compete for a Big Ten title this year, but no team will want to face them come March. The Terrapins face Ohio this Wednesday and Gardner Webb Saturday.
6. Penn State (7-2, 1-0)
The Nittany Lions suffered a tough loss at NC State last week, but they made up for it by gutting out a tough win at Iowa Saturday night. Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens are turning into a dangerous inside-out duo, and this might be one of the best teams Penn State has had in years.
7. Ohio State (6-3, 1-0)
Just four days after getting dominated at home against Clemson, Ohio State played its best game of the season Saturday night in an 83-58 demolition of Wisconsin on the road. Keita Bates-Diop played well in the contest, as did freshman forward Kaleb Wesson. Most impressively, the Buckeyes dominated Wisconsin star Ethan Happ, holding him to just seven points. Ohio State could put itself in a nice position for January if it can move to 2-0 in Big Ten play Monday night against Michigan.
8. Nebraska (6-3, 0-1)
Nebraska had yet another inconsistent week, as the Huskers never trailed in a 71-62 win over Boston College, then never led in an 86-57 loss at Michigan State. The play of their two big men, Jordy Tshimanga and Duby Okeke, has been disappointing so far this year, and their development is crucial for the team’s postseason hopes. The Huskers are in the midst of a tough stretch, with Minnesota, Creighton and Kansas next on their schedule.
9. Northwestern (5-4, 1-1)
It was quite the dramatic week for Northwestern, as it lost on a last-second shot at Georgia Tech, came back in overtime to defeat Illinois, then allowed Purdue to score the last seven points of its game to fall 74-69. The Wildcats have been a huge disappointment so far this week, but they still managed to stay competitive and haven’t dug themselves in too deep of a hole to climb out of yet. Northwestern gets a much needed week off before hosting Chicago State next Monday.
10. Rutgers (6-2, 1-1)
With six teams losing multiple games last week, somebody had to take the last spot in these rankings. Rutgers certainly played tough enough to earn this spot. The Scarlet Knights made a statement Tuesday night when they packed the arena for their showdown against Florida State, and the team backed their fans up by playing a competitive game until the end. While it’s loss at Minnesota wasn’t as competitive, the team has another opportunity to make a statement when they host Michigan State on Tuesday night. Rutgers also hosts NJIT and Fairleigh Dickinson this week.