Illinois Purdue Basketball

Purdue forward Trevion Williams (50) and Illinois center Kofi Cockburn (21) go for a rebound during the second half Tuesday night in West Lafayette, Ind. No. 21 llinois defeated Purdue 79-62.

Ohio State's free fall and Illinois's surge mark another unpredictable week.

1. Michigan State (14-4, 6-1 Big Ten)

The Spartans hadn't played for six days before taking on Indiana late Thursday night at Assembly Hall. Good time for a rest. Michigan State will play three games in seven days and four games in 10 days, with three of those contests on the road.

Up next: at Indiana late Thu.; at Minnesota Sunday.

2. Illinois (14-5, 6-2)

Illinois strolled into Mackey Arena and manhandled Purdue, winning by 17 points. Teams just don't do that, no matter how up or down the Boilermakers may be. That's the same Purdue team that beat Michigan State by 29 in the same arena a little more than a week earlier. If not for that pesky 20-point loss at Michigan State a few weeks ago, the Illini would be in the top spot in these rankings.

Up next: at Michigan Sat.; vs. Minnesota Jan. 30.

3. Iowa (14-5, 5-3)

Iowa matched Rutgers' physicality in a really good game Wednesday night, which isn't easy to do. The Hawkeyes are tied for second in the country with six Quad 1 wins. And Luka Garza generates more national player of the year buzz every time he takes the court. Even with a spate of injuries, this could be one of Fran McCaffery's more complete teams in Iowa City.

Up next: vs. Wisconsin Jan. 27; at Maryland Jan. 30

4. Rutgers (14-5, 5-3)

The Scarlet Knights have just one road win (at Nebraska) this season, but that's about the only knock against Steve Pikiell's squad. Ranked for the first time since 1979, Rutgers pushed Iowa to the end of Wednesday night's game and were a play or two away from winning. This is a legitimate team with the potential to make noise in the NCAA Tournament.

Up next: vs. Nebraska Sat.; vs. Purdue Jan. 28

5. Maryland (15-4, 5-3)

Maryland hasn't been pretty over the past couple of months, but winning ugly sure beats losing. The Terps are still quietly right in the race for the top of the conference, which is right where most folks had them before the season. But it feels like there's another level Maryland can get to.

Up next: at Indiana Sun.; vs. Iowa Jan. 30.

6. Wisconsin (12-7, 5-3)

Nebraska's going to give up some three-pointers, but Wisconsin hitting 18 will probably end up being an extreme case this season. Still, the Badgers took care of business in a game they probably needed to win, with three of their next four away from home.

Up next: at Purdue Fri.; at Iowa Jan. 27.

7. Penn State (14-5, 4-4)

The Nittany Lions righted the ship with a pair of wins over struggling Ohio State and Michigan squads. But beating those two back-to-back is still pretty good. Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins have been one of the league's best 1-2 punches all season, but the Nittany Lions are starting to get more consistent contributions from their role players as well.

Up next: vs. Indiana Jan. 29; at Nebraska Feb. 1.

8. Indiana (14-4, 4-3)

KenPom projects the Hoosiers to lose seven of their next eight games, including Thursday's late game against Michigan State, so it's safe to say Indiana is in the most critical portion of its season. Even if it's just a couple of wins over the next couple of weeks, that would go a long way towards bolstering postseason hopes.

Up next: vs. Michigan State last Thu.; vs. Maryland Sun.

9. Minnesota (11-8, 5-4)

Like pretty much every other Big Ten team, the Gophers have struggled on the road until they went into Columbus and knocked off the Buckeyes on Marcus Carr's late three-pointer. Daniel Oturu continues to have a really impressive sophomore season for the Gophers.

Up next: vs. Michigan State Sun.; at Illinois Jan. 30.

10. Michigan (11-7, 2-5)

The Wolverines aren't playing much defense, especially on the interior, which has played a big role in Michigan's current three-game losing streak. With Isaiah Livers continuing to miss time with an injury, the Wolverines aren't potent enough offensively right now to make up for their defensive shortcomings.

Up next: vs. Illinois Sat.; at Nebraska Jan. 28.

11. Purdue (10-9, 3-5)

Quite the resume for Purdue, which has a 29-point win over Virginia, and a 29-point win over Michigan State, and not a whole lot else of note. The offense just hasn't been consistent enough for the Boilermakers, which should probably be expected after losing stalwarts Carsen Edwards and Dakota Mathias from last year's team.

Up next: vs. Wisconsin Fri.; at Rutgers Jan. 28.

12. Ohio State (12-7, 2-6)

The Buckeyes are in a free fall with an anvil tied to their ankle. They lost for the sixth time in seven games Wednesday night, and join Nebraska and Northwestern as the only Big Ten teams with multiple home losses in conference play. OSU is now tied with Nebraska for 13th in the conference standings after being ranked No. 2 in the country less than two months ago.

Up next: at Northwestern Sun.; vs. Indiana Feb. 1

13. Northwestern (6-12, 1-7)

Northwestern's only win in its last nine games is by five points over Nebraska at home — a game the Wildcats led by 18 in the first half before letting the Huskers get back within three late and being on the fortunate end of a non-call as Nebraska attempted a game-tying three-pointer.

Up next: vs. Ohio State Sun.; at Michigan State Jan. 29.

14. Nebraska (7-12, 2-6)

The two teams directly ahead of Nebraska in these rankings are a combined 2-14 in their last 16 games. Both of the wins have come against the Huskers. Nebraska continues to play hard, and has shown the ability to give opponents trouble despite being outmatched physically most nights. But it hasn't translated to a win since NU beat Iowa at the beginning of the month.

Up next: at Rutgers Sat.; vs. Michigan Jan. 28.

Contact the writer at cbasnett@journalstar.com or 402-473-7436. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.

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