With last season’s regular-season and tournament champion Ohio State not poised to repeat in 2018-19, Maryland is looking like a viable contender to take back their own double Big Ten crown from the previous season. But with Minnesota surging, Indiana still undefeated and so many more teams with solid records early on, this conference season should be one of the most competitive in recent history.
Here’s how each Big Ten team stands heading into the home stretch before conference play begins for 12 of the 14 teams on Friday, Dec. 28:
No. 5 Maryland Terrapins (10-0)
Last game: 83-38 win over Loyola Maryland on Monday, Dec. 10
Next game: at Delaware — Thursday, Dec. 20 at 3 p.m. ET (YouTube)
First Big Ten game: at Penn State — Friday, Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. ET (BTN Plus)
Notes: Maryland, picked to finish first in the conference this season, is certainly looking the part early on. While they’ve only faced one AP-ranked opponent in South Carolina, the Terps are still showing dominance, winning that matchup by 24 points and averaging a 26.5-point scoring margin on the season.
No. 13 Minnesota Golden Gophers (10-0)
Last game: 84-52 win over Coppin State on Wednesday, Dec. 12
Next game: vs. Rhode Island — Saturday, Dec. 22 at 3 p.m. ET (BTN Plus)
First Big Ten game: vs. Wisconsin — Friday, Dec. 28 at 9 p.m. ET (BTN)
Notes: The Gophers are turning heads a season after finishing 24-9 and making the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and new head coach Lindsay Whalen is a big part of that. But, like Maryland, they’ve only faced one ranked opponent (though the win took place in upset fashion) and will only have played two games away from home by the time the conference season begins. Minnesota is looking great so far, but can they take down Big Ten opponents in hostile environments at the same rate?
Indiana Hoosiers (9-0)
Last game: 98-74 win over Missouri State on Sunday, Dec. 9
Next game: vs. Loyola Marymount (Puerto Rico Classic) — Wednesday, Dec. 19 at 4 p.m. ET (Facebook Live)
First Big Ten game: at Illinois — Friday, Dec. 28 at 8 p.m. ET (BTN Plus)
Notes: The Big Ten’s final undefeated team has been similarly unchallenged, and in most areas, the Hoosiers rank in the middle (or at the back) of the pack, statistically. That said, the defending Women’s National Invitation Tournament champions have won 15 in a row since falling to Maryland in last season’s Big Ten Tournament, and the momentum is surely on their side even as they enter a challenging conference season.
No. 22 Michigan State Spartans (9-1)
Last game: 74-66 win over Hartford on Sunday, Dec. 16
Next game: vs. Florida Atlantic — Thursday, Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. ET (BTN Plus)
First Big Ten game: vs. Iowa — Sunday, Dec. 30 at 1 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Notes: The Spartans are riding a six-game winning streak that includes a victory over then-No. 3 Oregon that put them into the top 25. They also have the highest scoring offense in the conference, putting up 85.3 points per game, which is surely aided by their Big Ten-leading 42.3 percent shooting from three.
Illinois Fighting Illini (8-2)
Last game: 74-57 win over SIU Edwardsville on Saturday, Dec. 15
Next game: vs. Missouri — Friday, Dec. 21 at 1 p.m. ET (BTN Plus)
First Big Ten game: vs. Indiana — Friday, Dec. 28 at 8 p.m. ET (BTN Plus)
Notes: The Illini are a gritty team. Their two losses came by just two points apiece, and they followed up their second loss — which came in overtime to Clemson — with an overtime victory over Eastern Michigan. Losses aside, their biggest test of the season against Missouri comes at an opportune time to work out the kinks against a strong team before beginning the conference season.
No. 16 Iowa Hawkeyes (8-2)
Last game: 83-57 win over Northern Iowa on Sunday, Dec. 16
Next game: at Drake — Friday, Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
First Big Ten game: at Michigan State — Sunday, Dec. 30 at 1 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Notes: The name of the game at Iowa this season has been assists, as the Hawkeyes lead the conference in both this category and assist-to-turnover ratio (despite having the third-worst turnover margin in the Big Ten). More specifically, the Hawkeyes are assisting Megan Gustafson, whose 24.7 points per game tops the conference (by almost 5 points) and is good enough for third in the nation.
Michigan Wolverines (8-3)
Last game: 70-47 win over Morgan State on Saturday, Dec. 15
Next game: vs. Southern — Friday, Dec. 21 at 12 p.m. ET (BTN Plus)
First Big Ten game: at Nebraska — Friday, Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. ET (BTN)
Notes: Michigan has faced four ranked opponents so far, coming out of these meetings with a 1-3 record. While they took down then-No. 21 Missouri to open last month’s Gulf Coast Showcase, they couldn’t put together consecutive wins, as they fell to then-No. 10 Texas the next day and never entered the poll themselves. The Wolverines are a strong rebounding team that could give teams without their height some trouble this season.
Wisconsin Badgers (7-3)
Last game: 85-38 win over Chicago State on Wednesday, Dec. 12
Next game: vs. Evansville — Friday, Dec. 21 at 8 p.m. ET (live stats)
First Big Ten game: at Minnesota — Friday, Dec. 28 at 9 p.m. ET (BTN)
Notes: The Badgers are suffering from low scoring, coming in at third-worst in the Big Ten in points per game and not being helped by their conference-worst 54.8 percent from the free-throw line. Their win over Chicago State was encouraging, though, in that it was their first time scoring over 80 points this season and allowed them to show off their conference fourth-best scoring defense.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-3)
Last game: 57-43 win over LSU on Saturday, Dec. 15
Next game: see below
First Big Ten game: vs. Northwestern — Friday, Dec. 28 at 4 p.m. ET (BTN Plus)
Notes: Rutgers’ three losses have, at the very least, been quality losses to teams that are either ranked or have received votes in every poll this season: Drake, Gonzaga and Virginia Tech. Their scoring defense (51.1 points per game) is a conference-best, and even in those losses, they held their opponents to fewer than 70 points.
Northwestern Wildcats (6-3)
Last game: 97-35 win over Chicago State on Monday, Dec 17
Next game: vs. Wichita State (Duel in the Desert) — Wednesday, Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. ET (FloHoops)
First Big Ten game: at Rutgers — Friday, Dec. 28 at 4 p.m. ET (BTN Plus)
Notes: Northwestern halted a three-game losing streak (representing all three of their losses) this afternoon in commanding fashion, making quick work of Chicago State as they hit their highest point total of the season. The Wildcats’ upset of then-No. 21 Duke served as the opening game at their new arena and is their one ranked win of the season so far — which is still one more than last season. Keeping up that type of play and taking advantage of their new home should, at the very least, net them more Big Ten wins than last year’s four.
Penn State Nittany Lions (6-4)
Last game: 80-59 win over American on Sunday, Dec. 16
Next game: see below
First Big Ten game: vs. Maryland — Friday, Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. ET (BTN Plus)
Notes: The Nittany Lions have scored 70 or more points in each of their wins this season (and even in last month’s loss to Stony Brook), but have scored just 58 points in their three remaining losses. Where Penn State falls especially short is defense, especially on the glass, coming in last or nearly last in the Big Ten in all associated categories. If this team ends up having to rely entirely on its offense to win games, it’s going to be a long season.
Purdue Boilermakers (6-4)
Last game: 82-73 loss (2OT) to South Carolina on Sunday, Dec. 16
Next game: vs. Albany — Wednesday, Dec. 19 at 11:30 a.m. ET (BTN Plus)
First Big Ten game: vs. Ohio State — Friday, Dec. 28 at 4 p.m. ET (BTN)
Notes: In spite of their record, Purdue has had some quality games this season, beating then-No. 21 Miami in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and taking No. 25 South Carolina to two overtimes yesterday before finally falling short. A win in their first Big Ten game of the season against the struggling (yet still defending-champion) Buckeyes could give the Boilermakers some confidence heading into conference play.
Ohio State Buckeyes (4-3)
Last game: 46-41 win over Florida on Sunday, Dec. 16
Next game: vs. Butler (West Palm Invitational) — Thursday, Dec. 20 at 12:15 p.m. ET (live stream)
First Big Ten game: at Purdue — Friday, Dec. 28 at 4 p.m. ET (BTN)
Notes: The Buckeyes are looking less lost without Kelsey Mitchell as the season progresses, finally working their way up to a winning record by winning three of their last four, but their roadblocks have been many. Their losses haven’t been bad ones — South Florida and UConn are the AAC’s best teams, while Washington is experiencing something of a resurgence this season — but their offense has left something to be desired, including their 46-point performance against Florida yesterday, reflective of their Big Ten-worst 57.9 points per game.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-5)
Last game: 96-71 win over Denver on Saturday, Dec. 15
Next game: at Arkansas — Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. ET (SEC Network Plus)
First Big Ten game: vs. Michigan — Friday, Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. ET (BTN)
Notes: Nebraska has played a tough schedule this season, most of which is reflected in losses to Drake, Creighton, Washington State, then-No. 22 Miami and then-No. 5 Louisville. But the Huskers haven’t had much to show on the winning end of things, aside from handing former Big 12 foe Kansas its first loss of the season in a close game at home, and their conference-worst scoring defense won’t do them many favors as they face some of the country’s best teams in Big Ten play.
Plus: This week’s Big Ten honors went to Megan Gustafson (Iowa, Player of the Week), Alex Wittinger (Illinois, Honor Roll), Victoria Gaines (Michigan State, Honor Roll), Dominique Oden (Purdue, Honor Roll), Shakira Austin (Maryland, Co-Freshman of the Week) and Naz Hillmon (Michigan, Co-Freshman of the Week).