RLR Big Ten Power Rankings: Badgers Grab The Top Spot

By Vincent Lungaro on January 19, 2022 at 1:09 pm
Jan 18, 2022; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Wisconsin Badgers guard Johnny Davis (1) reacts after making a three point basket against the Northwestern Wildcats during the first half at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
© David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

There's been some pretty big movement within the Big Ten in just one week since our inaugural power rankings dropped. Let's take a look at where Penn State and the rest of the conference land in this week's RLR Power Rankings. 

14. NEBRASKA (6-13, 0-8 Big Ten) — Net: 201 — KenPom: 162
Last Week: 14 
Next Game: at No. 19 Ohio State (Jan. 22) 

The Cornhuskers were not competitive against a Purdue team that looks as if it's finding its stride again, getting blown off the floor, 92-65. Nebraska did give Indiana a game, but the result was still the same in the 78-71 loss. How does two more matchups against Top 25 teams in the next week sound?! 

13. MARYLAND (9-9, 1-6 Big Ten) — Net: 114 — KenPom: 96
Last Week: 13 
Next Game: vs. No. 17 Illinois (Jan. 21)

Congratulations on your first Big Ten win Terps fans! Unfortunate for you that your team dropped the next two games. Safe to say interim head coach Danny Manning won't be getting the full-time gig at season's end. 

12. MINNESOTA (10-5, 1-5 Big Ten) — Net: 82 — KenPom: 90
Last Week: 10
Next Game: vs. Rutgers (Jan. 22) 

In its only game since last week's power rankings, Minnesota fell to Michigan State on a Joey Hauser buzzer-beater. Positive COVID-19 results within the Gophers program saw their game with Penn State scheduled for Wednesday get postponed. It remains to be seen if their next game against Rutgers will be a go. 

11. NORTHWESTERN (9-7, 2-5 Big Ten) — Net: 80 — KenPom: 58
Last Week: 11
Next Game: at No. 4 Purdue (Jan. 23) 

Just when it looked like Chris Collins was heading for another awful Big Ten finish, his team pulled off the biggest shocker of the conference season so far. The Wildcats went into East Lansing on Saturday without leading scorer Pete Nance and knocked off a Michigan State team that had won nine games in a row. 

10. MICHIGAN (8-7, 2-3 Big Ten) — Net: 54 — KenPom: 30
Last Week: 12 
Next Game: at Indiana (Jan. 23) 

The Wolverines came off their COVID-19 pause and nearly knocked off Illinois in Champaign. They then hammered Maryland Tuesday night. I'm not ready to say Juwan Howard's crew is back just yet, though. A road matchup with Indiana on Sunday should tell us a lot of the trajectory of this team.

9. RUTGERS (10-6, 4-2 Big Ten) — Net: 113 — KenPom: 93
Last Week: 8
Next Game: vs. Iowa (Jan. 19) 

When Ron Harper Jr. is good, Rutgers is good. When he's off his game, Rutgers struggles. He poured in a career-high 31 points in Rutgers' 70-59 win over Maryland on Saturday, knocking down six 3-pointers. That followed a road loss to Penn State where Harper Jr. didn't really ever find a rhythm and finished with just 7 points. 

8. PENN STATE (8-7, 3-4 Big Ten) — Net: 85 — KenPom: 66
Last Week: 7
Next Game: at Iowa (Jan. 22) 

It's probably a bit unfair to drop the Nittany Lions a spot after losing at Ohio State without   Seth Lundy on Sunday. I think it's pretty clear what he means to this team offensively as they really struggled to breakdown the Buckeyes defense in his absence. Tough break for Penn State to get its scheduled home game with Minnesota postponed. That's a game the Nittany Lions would probably be favored to win and pull themselves back to .500 in the Big Ten. 

7. INDIANA (13-4, 4-3 Big Ten) — Net: 33 — KenPom: 28
Last Week: 6 
Next Game: vs. No. 4 Purdue (Jan. 20) 

Fourteen second-half turnovers doomed the Hoosiers in a loss at Iowa last Thursday. It would have given Indiana its first true road win of the season. Luckily their next two games (No. 4 Purdue, Michigan) are at Assembly Hall and represent a big opportunity to stack some more resume-building wins. 

6. IOWA (13-4, 3-3 Big Ten) — Net: 21 — KenPom: 19
Last Week: 9 
Next Game: at Rutgers (Jan. 19)

It was a really good week for the Hawkeyes. They overcame a halftime deficit to beat Indiana and then collected a road win over Minnesota. Iowa is our biggest riser of the week, jumping up three spots from No. 9. 

5. OHIO STATE (12-4, 4-2 Big Ten) — Net: 22 — KenPom: 23
Last Week: 5
Next Game: vs. Nebraska (Jan. 22) 

Ohio State couldn't complete the season sweep over Wisconsin, but did accomplish that feat against a shorthanded Penn State. The Buckeyes also demolished a hapless IUPUI squad in a game that was added after both teams lost some nonconference matchups because of COVID-19 pauses last month. 

4. MICHIGAN STATE (14-3, 5-1 Big Ten) — Net: 25 — KenPom: 24
Last Week: 1
Next Game: at No. 8 Wisconsin (Jan. 21) 

Woof. That was a bad, bad loss to Northwestern. Take nothing away from the Wildcats, but that's a game the Spartans should have had no problem winning. Especially when you consider Northwestern was missing its best player in Pete Nance. Things could get worse before they could get better too for Michigan State, with road tilts against Wisconsin and Illinois on deck. 

3. ILLINOIS (13-4, 6-1 Big Ten) — Net: 11 — KenPom: 12 
Last Week: 2 
Next Game: at Maryland (Jan. 21) 

The Fighting Illini came up just short against Purdue in what was the best Big Ten game of the season to date. Illinois clawed its way back to force overtime and then another one thanks to late buckets from Andre Curbelo and Alfonso Plummer, before the Boilermakers pulled away in the second OT. Foul trouble limited Kofi Cockburn's impact (Bo Borowski just whistled him for another debatable foul as you read this) and allowed Purdue to feast inside. Curbelo's return is a game-changer for the Illini, as he gives them an added dimension on offense to compliment Cockburn. 

2. PURDUE (15-2, 4-2 Big Ten) — Net: 7 — KenPom: 4
Last Week: 4 
Next Game: at Indiana (Jan. 20) 

I nearly, nearly bumped up Purdue all the way to No. 1 as Purdue went into Champaign and defeated Illinois in a thriller, giving us a glimpse of the Boilermakers team we all expected to see at this point in the Big Ten season. Senior guard Sasha Stefanovic was magnificent against the Illini, scoring 22 points on 6-of-11, including 5-of-8 from three. He also came up clutch, hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer to open up the second overtime.

1. WISCONSIN (15-2, 6-1 Big Ten) — Net: 17 — KenPom: 25
Last Week: 3 
Next Game: vs. No. 14 Michigan State (Jan. 21) 

Johnny Davis continues to play a really high level and Wisconsin continues to win. That's now seven-straight for the Badgers after getting some revenge against Ohio State and holding off a feisty Northwestern squad. Davis scored 27 and grabbed 8 rebounds in the 82-76 win over the Wildcats. Wisconsin edges Purdue for the top spot thanks to that head-to-head win over the Boilermakers in Mackey Arena just a few weeks ago.