By Chris Emma-
(CBS) With each passing game, the Big Ten becomes a bit more unpredictable.
The Michigan team that beat Michigan State was romped by the same Iowa Hawkeyes who lost to the Spartans. The Hawkeyes dropped a tough one at home to upstart Ohio State, then put together a blowout win against the Wolverines.
Beyond the far-and-above top three of the Big Ten, Wisconsin and Ohio State have begun to show potential for a rise to the conference’s top tier, while promising programs like Minnesota, Northwestern and Indiana remain inconsistent.
So, the question remains unanswered: Who’s the Big Ten’s best team?
The Big Ten Tournament will reveal the an answer in fascinating form, with a league filled with parity coming to a clash in Indianapolis. But, one thing is for sure—this is some fun basketball to watch.
There are fun players to watch on each team, from Michigan State’s Gary Harris to Penn State’s Tim Frazier to Iowa’s Aaron White. The battle to be the Big Ten’s Coach of the Year remains wide open, with Michigan’s John Beiliein, Iowa’s Fran McCaffery and Northwestern’s Chris Collins leading the race.
Through it all, there have been great games. Surely, more will follow. An intriguing year of Big Ten play will continue on until the month of March finally brings definitive answers.
Emma’s Big Ten Power Rankings
1.) Michigan (17-6, 9-2) – In a blowout win over Nebraska, the Wolverines were dominant. In a blowout loss handed by the Iowa Hawkeyes, they were totally lost. Michigan remains the Big Ten’s best, even in an inconsistent week.
2.) Michigan State (20-4, 9-2) – The Spartans looked like a complete team in a win over Penn State, then failed to close out in a loss at Wisconsin. So goes life in the Big Ten.
3.) Iowa (18-6, 7-4) – The Hawkeyes better resemble the team that dominated Michigan than the one that lost to Ohio State days earlier. Iowa is a legitimate contender for postseason success.
4.) Ohio State (19-5, 6-5) – From totally lost to found, the Buckeyes seem to have their groove back. Wins against Iowa and Purdue have Ohio State back toward the top of the Big Ten.
5.) Wisconsin (19-5, 6-5) – Suddenly Bo Ryan’s team is surging. A key road victory against Illinois got things back on track, then an upset of ninth-ranked Michigan State proved the Badgers are back on track.
6.) Northwestern (12-12, 5-6) – Chris Collins hoped a week of rest would be beneficial for his Wildcats. It would actually derail their momentum, as he admitted after a home loss to Nebraska. Still, Northwestern is a tough team to beat.
7.) Minnesota (16-8, 5-6) – A gut-wrenching triple-overtime loss to Purdue is one that will haunt the Golden Gophers, but Richard Pitino’s team rebounded with a comeback win against Indiana. A wild season at Williams Arena continues on.
8.) Nebraska (12-10, 4-6) – The Cornhuskers have had success at home but struggled on the road. They had a mixed bag of results with a drubbing handed in Ann Arbor and then a big win against Northwestern.
9.) Indiana (14-9, 4-6) – A late loss to Minnesota is one the Hooisers will wish they could have back. Indiana’s young team will have to rally late this season in order to reach the NCAA Tournament.
10.) Purdue (14-10, 4-7) – Yikes, where to begin with Purdue? The Boilermakers were lucky to escape with a triple-overtime win against Minnesota, then completely unraveled against Ohio State. It’ll be another bad year for Matt Painter’s team.
11.) Illinois (14-10, 3-8) – In the battle to stay out of the Big Ten’s basement, Illinois staved off Penn State for its third win in conference play. The Fighting Illini are still a total mess, but not the worst of the bunch anymore.
12.) Penn State (12-12, 3-8) – Two more losses pile up for Pat Chambers’ Penn State team. The Nittany Lions have two talented players in Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill, but not much else.
Player of the week: Traevon Jackson, Wisconsin guard – After a solid 14-point, seven-rebound performance in a win over Illinois, Jackson delivered the game-winning bucket in a key victory over Michigan State while adding eight assists and five rebounds.
Team of the week: Ohio State – The Buckeyes have brought their winning streak to three with victories over Wisconsin, Iowa and Purdue. Now, Ohio State seems to have its season back on track and is in position to snag a high seed in the NCAA Tournament—a hope that was fading away over the past weeks.
1.) The Hawkeyes have potential
It’s still an Iowa team that gets rattled in late-game situations, but the young Hawkeyes continue to show maturity.
Roy Devyn Marble has shown the abilities to be one of the Big Ten’s best scorers, while Aaron White continues his consistently stellar play. Iowa has plenty of playmakers throughout its deep rotation and has potential to make a deep run in the postseason.
2.) Ohio State, Wisconsin may be back
The perplexing year of Big Ten basketball has taken an interesting turn with Wisconsin and Ohio State each registering a pair of important wins during the week. Now, the Big Ten standings have the Buckeyes in fourth and the Badgers in fifth.
3.) Purdue trending the wrong way
This was supposed to be the rebound year for the Boilermakers. Instead, Purdue continues to trek downward. An immature team showed it can’t compete with the top — and sometimes the middle — of the Big Ten, falling on the road against Ohio State.
Painter had high hopes that Purdue could improve upon its CBI appearance of last year, potentially making a run to the NCAA Tournament. Instead, an NIT bid will take a bit of luck.
Chris Emma covers the college sports scene for CBSChicago. Follow him on Twitter@CEmmaScout.