Big Ten Power Rankings: Tight in the middle

It continues to be all Wisconsin in the Big Ten title race but things are getting interesting in that race for which team will be seeded second in the Big Ten Tournament.

They should consider renaming the Big Ten in men’s basketball this season ‘The Little 13 and Wisconsin.’ The Badgers are that good. Wisconsin is running away with the Big Ten and has a three-game lead on the pack with eight games to play.

Now the other 13 teams, however, have some interesting weekly battles going on. Here is the seventh edition of’s Big Ten Power Rankings.

14. Northwestern (10-13, 1-9, KENPOM: 134, RPI: 152):The Wildcats won their conference opener on the road at Rutgers. That may end up being Northwestern’s season highlight. Since then the Wildcats have dropped nine in a row. They have two home games this week but it’s against Michigan State and Iowa. So in another words 1-9 could be headed for 1-11. (LAST WEEK: 14)

p>13. Rutgers (10-15, 2-10, KENPOM: 183, RPI: 118):Rutgers dropped two more games last week and the Scarlet Knights have to deal with Purdue and its size in their only game this week. It’s pretty clear though that Rutgers and Northwestern will be battling to the end to see which team avoids the No. 14 slot. (LAST WEEK: 13)

p>12. Minnesota (15-9, 4-7, KENPOM: 46, RPI: 88): The Gophers have been good this season at The Barn where they are 13-2 including a win over Purdue last week. But away from home, Minnesota is 1-5. This week: two road games at Iowa and Indiana. It will be tough for Minnesota to come out of this week with another victory. (LAST WEEK: 12)

p>11. Penn State (15-9, 3-8, KENPOM: 81, RPI: 90):The Nittany Lions have won three of their last five after opening conference play with six consecutive losses. Penn State has a shot at an upset special this week when it plays host to Maryland over the weekend. Last week, Penn State gave the Terps all they could handle in a 64-58 Maryland win. Don’t be surprising if Penn State returns the favor in Happy Valley. (LAST WEEK: 11)

10. Michigan (13-11, 6-6, KENPOM: 87, RPI: 79):The Wolverines are reeling following a lopsided home loss to Iowa and a road decision at IU. That’s three losses in the last four games. It doesn’t get any easier this week with a game at Illinois where the Illini are 11-1 this season with the only loss coming to Indiana. (LAST WEEK: 7)

p>9. Nebraska (13-10, 5-6, KENPOM: 109, RPI: 101):The Huskers split a pair of games last week but the schedule gets much more difficult this week when they host Wisconsin and then travel to Purdue. These are not the two games needed for a program trying to get back in the race to at least finish in the middle of the Big Ten race. (LAST WEEK: 10)

p>8. Illinois (16-8, 6-5, KENPOM: 60, RPI: 47):The Illini have to get a split this week and the chances are that they will. Illinois plays host to Michigan and travels to Wisconsin. Two wins last week moved the Illini up a notch, especially since one of those wins was at the Breslin Center. A split this week keeps the Illini in the hunt for the Big Ten’s upper tier. (LAST WEEK: 9)

p>7. Michigan State (15-8, 6-4, KENPOM: 28, RPI: 52):The home loss to the Illini was exactly what the doctor did not order for Michigan State. A road game at Northwestern should get Sparty back on track but then is home game with Ohio State where both teams need a win to stay in the conversation for the top four or five teams in the conference. (LAST WEEK: 4)

6. Iowa (15-8, 5-5, KENPOM: 27, RPI: 38):The Hawkeyes snapped a three-game losing skid this past week with first a road win at Michigan and then a convincing home victory against Maryland. The Hawks have a good chance at making it four in a row with games against Minnesota and Northwestern this week. Two more wins and Iowa will be one of the teams battling for a top-four Big Ten Tournament seed. (LAST WEEK: 8)

p>5. Indiana (17-7, 7-4, KENPOM: 50, RPI: 32):The end of the season schedule favors IU with one of the biggest obstacles coming up Wednesday at Maryland. After that the Hoosiers will play four of their final six games at home where IU is 14-1 this season including 5-0 in the Big Ten. The next home game is Sunday against Minnesota. IU needs a split this week at the very least but a sweep would make the Hoosiers a legitimate contender for second place in the Big Ten. (LAST WEEK: 6)

p>4. Purdue (15-9, 7-4, KENPOM: 54, RPI: 72):The Boilermakers split a pair of games last week and fell into a four-way tie for second. But this week the schedule looks favorable with a road game at Rutgers and a home one against Nebraska. Rutgers is just 6-6 at home, one of two B1G teams with six home losses this year. (LAST WEEK: 5)

p>3. Maryland (19-5, 7-4, KENPOM: 38, RPI: 16):The Terps have dropped three of their last five games, finding life on the road in the Big Ten to be difficult. But at home Maryland is 14-1 and looks to avenge a 19-point loss to Indiana earlier in the year when the two teams meet Wednesday night. Maryland desperately needs a win to right its ship, while a loss could make the Terps a middle of the back conference team. (LAST WEEK: 3)

2. Ohio State (18-6, 7-4, KENPOM: 14, RPI: 33):The Buckeyes have a shot to establish themselves as one of the top two teams in the Big Ten if it can beat Penn State at home this week and then go on the road and beat Michigan State in the Breslin Center. That won’t be easy as it’s one of the B1G’s toughest venues but with D’Angelo Russell in the backcourt anything is possible. (LAST WEEK: 2)

p>1. Wisconsin (21-2, 9-1, KENPOM: 6, RPI: 6):The Badgers deserve the Big Ten title and Bo Ryan is probably deserving of coach of the year, too. Wisconsin has had a target on its back, and even with losing Traevon Jackson, the Badgers have been able to maintain. Wisconsin will face a difficult environment early in the week at Nebraska and then come home to play red hot Illinois. (LAST WEEK: 1) Top Stories