The Big Ten entered the week with three top-10 teams, the most of any conference in the country. They also entered the week with surging Nebraska and Penn State teams creeping into the NCAA tournament picture.
However, upsets ravaged the Big Ten this week. Purdue, Nebraska and Penn State all lost once, and the Buckeyes lost twice, leaving the conference in the hand of the Spartans, and probably leaving Nebraska in the NIT barring a Big Ten tournament run.
Here’s how I see things stacking up right now in this chaotic Big Ten…
14. Minnesota (14-14, 3-12)
Last Week: 87-57 LOSS vs Michigan State
It’s not easy to decide the ranking of these bottom teams in the Big Ten. Last week I had them all tied. However, after watching Minnesota at home against Michigan State, I realized this team is nowhere close to competitive. They have lost 11 of 12 and haven’t won at home since January 3. They have two of the better players in the conference with Murphy and Mason, but without anyone else to help them, they are helpless. And it is hard to watch.
Previous Ranking: T11
T11. Iowa (12-17, 3-13)
Last Week: 74-59 LOSS at Michigan; 84-82 LOSS vs Indiana
Previous Ranking: T11
T11. Rutgers (13-16, 3-13)
Last Week: 67-58 WIN vs Northwestern; 61-51 LOSS at Maryland
Previous Ranking: T11
T11. Illinois (13-15, 3-12)
Last Week: 78-68 LOSS at Indiana; 72-66 WIN vs Nebraska
Previous Ranking: T11
Again, another week where I don’t know how to differentiate these teams. Rutgers and Illinois got solid home wins, while Iowa was competitive at Michigan and had a chance at home against the Hoosiers. Unlike a lot of Minnesota’s losses, these teams have been at least somewhat competitive as of recently and have some promising young talent to work with.
With a rough week for the Big Ten in terms of their top teams and bubble teams losing, these teams could make this week even worse. Michigan State plays Illinois and Wisconsin, Purdue plays Illinois and Minnesota and Ohio State play Rutgers. These bottom teams could cause some real shake up in the Big Ten and national landscape with some big wins this week.
10. Wisconsin (12-16, 5-10)
Last Week: 57-53 WIN vs Purdue
Good week for the Badgers. They only played once, but they made it worthwhile with a huge home win over Purdue. Happ put up 21 points and 12 rebounds in the win.
It hasn’t been the season Badger fans were looking for, but there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel: Brad Davison. The freshman has been thrust into Big Ten play and has excelled beyond anyone’s expectations. 11.5 PPG, 2.4 APG, and he’s just a tough player who will do anything to help his team win. He has a bright future in Madison.
Previous Ranking: 10
9. Northwestern (15-13, 6-9)
Last Week: 67-58 LOSS at Rutgers; 65-60 LOSS vs Michigan State
The Michigan State game was the epitome of this Wildcats’ season. Northwestern held a 27 point lead at home (ish) against Michigan State only to watch it slip away. Izzo said after the game that part of building a successful basketball program is having a consistent turnout from the fans, which Northwestern did not get Saturday afternoon.
While the home games for Northwestern are being held in Rosemont, Illinois, a 37 minute drive from Evanston according to Google Maps, the fan turnout was mainly all green and gold Saturday. It’s been a long season, that’s for sure, and the quit in Northwestern fans has been something that is shared with a lot of other fan bases across the Big Ten.
Previous Ranking: T8
8. Maryland (18-11, 7-9)
Last Week: 70-66 LOSS at Nebraska; 61-51 WIN vs Rutgers
Some were saying Maryland could jump back into the tournament talks with a road win at Nebraska. I’m not totally sure about that, but it didn’t end up happening anyway, falling by four late to the Cornhuskers. The win over Rutgers was routine, but the Terrapins are just a step below an NCAA tournament team, and I think fans in College Park have accepted that. They also had to accept James Palmer Jr. putting up 24 points in the second half to spur the Nebraska win.
Previous Ranking: T8
7. Indiana (16-12, 9-7)
The Hoosiers are one of the hottest teams in the conference, and one of only four Big Ten teams that did not lose last week. Robert Johnson tied the school record with nine threes in the win over Iowa. He shot 10-of-14 from the field and 9-of-12 from behind the arc.
While they have won four straight, I’m not ready to move them up to Penn State and Nebraska, yet. The Hoosiers have won four games over the bottom four in the conference, and some haven’t been pretty. If the Hoosiers have a good week this week in conference, there is a chance the Hoosiers can even get the five seed in the Big Ten tournament. They will need to win both games; at Nebraska and at home vs. Ohio State.
Previous Ranking: 7
T5. Penn State (19-10, 9-7)
Last Week: 79-56 WIN vs Ohio State; 76-73 LOSS at Ohio State
Previous Ranking: 6
T5. Nebraska (20-9, 11-5)
Last Week: 70-66 WIN vs Maryland; 72-66 LOSS at Illinois
Previous Ranking: 4
Nebraska had a tournament berth laid out in front of them, and I thought they took it. Their last nine conference games were all against unranked teams outside the top five in conference, and their road games were Rutgers, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. They had rallied off six straight and were squarely on the bubble, needing to win out. However, that final road game at Illinois tripped them up. Now I think it will be very difficult to make the tournament without winning the conference tournament.
Penn State didn’t have as bad of a week. While they lost, it was a competitive road loss at the No. 6 team in the country that went down to the last possession. The domination of Ohio State Thursday night was incredible and with opportunities against Michigan and Nebraska this coming week, plus some chances in the Big Ten tournament, they have a chance to put themselves in the tournament. Tony Carr had 49 points this week, and has thrown himself into the conversation for Big Ten First Team All-Conference.
4. Michigan (22-7, 11-5)
Last Week: 74-59 WIN vs Iowa; 74-62 WIN vs Ohio State
Michigan jumped back into the top four in the standings and in my power rankings with a great week. Albeit, they had two home games, but they took advantage. They controlled the entire game against Iowa, and dominated Ohio State for much of that game and took home two more wins to throw themselves into possession for the double bye in the conference tournament.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had a great week, scoring 35 points in the two games. However, the biggest standout to me is Jordan Poole. I know I’ve mentioned him before, but he is so talented. Still raw, but when he is on, he is on. He put up 15 points and hit 4/5 from long range against Ohio State. That’s quite the weapon to have coming off the bench for John Beliein.
Previous Ranking: 5
3. Ohio State (22-7, 13-3)
Last Week: 79-56 LOSS at Penn State; 74-62 LOSS at Michigan
This was not a good week for the Buckeyes. They almost had the conference handed to them last weekend when Purdue lost twice. They did have a tough schedule, and that got them this week with two road losses at Penn State and Michigan. I thought the Purdue road win proved they belonged, but these two losses exposed them a little bit.
This team is solid. They have a lot of talent that Chris Holtmann has gotten out of his players that Thad Matta was unable to. However, they aren’t as talented as the best teams in the country. They’re going to play hard each and every game, but that can only get you so far. Keita Bates-Diop is incredible and Jae’Sean Tate has really emerged as of late, but Jackson is having turnover issues and the Wesson brothers have been inconsistent.
Previous Ranking: 2
2. Purdue (24-5, 13-3)
Last Week: 57-53 LOSS at Wisconsin, 76-73 WIN vs Penn State
I was shocked when I watched Purdue lose at Wisconsin. Then I wasn’t. Purdue has had a lot to prove coming down the stretch of this season. They are not known to finish seasons out or to have any postseason success when they have a team as talented as this year’s team. Then when they lost to both OSU and MSU, Purdue fans were ready to believe it was more of the same. Then there was the game at the Kohl Center.
The Boilermakers are good. It’s concerning to see Vincent Edwards in a boot, but the others picked up the slack Sunday night. However, they have to prove they can win in February and March. And they can. The key will be putting this tough stretch behind them and moving forward. There’s too much talent on this team to give up on them.
Previous Ranking: 3
1. Michigan State (26-3, 14-2)
Last Week: 87-57 WIN at Minnesota; 65-60 WIN at Northwestern
It was a relatively quiet work week for Michigan State, until all of a sudden they were down 43-16 at Northwestern. Then the flip switched. While we saw some of the worst basketball from the Spartans in the first 16 minutes of the game, the next 24 were some of the best. And they did it with Jackson and Bridges combining for 19 points.
Michigan State was the only top-four team in the Big Ten heading into the week to go undefeated this week. The conference is theirs to lose with Illinois and Wisconsin on their schedule this week to finish. Winners of 10 straight, the Spartans have proved the off the court distractions aren’t effecting their play on the court.
Previous Ranking: 1