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03/15/2022

Big Ten power rankings: Who's the hottest team heading into the Big Dance?

After a thrilling season of conference play, the NCAA Tournament is finally here. Iowa defeated Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament championship, and the Hawkeyes’ Keegan Murray was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. All three bubble teams – Michigan, Rutgers and Indiana – snuck into the tournament thanks to a semifinal run from the Hoosiers.

The Big Ten received nine tournament invitations, three more than any other conference. And after a poor showing from the Big Ten in last year’s NCAA Tournament, plenty of teams will be hungry for revenge. Here’s how I view the Big Ten teams that qualified for the Big Dance in this week’s power rankings. (Stats through March 13).

1) Iowa (26-9, 12-8)


NCAA Tournament seed: 5

Big Ten Tournament results: Champion. Defeated Northwestern, Rutgers, Indiana, Purdue

Best win: 75-66 vs. Purdue (neutral site)

Worst loss: 90-86 at Penn State (2OT)

Recent standout: Keegan Murray (31 pts, 9 reb, 8-10 3pt FG vs. Indiana)

AP poll: 16

NET: 14

Quad 1 record: 4-6

KenPom: 13

SOS: 45

There’s an argument for Iowa as the hottest team in all of college basketball after the Hawkeyes’ Big Ten Tournament championship run. Keegan Murray’s versatility and smooth play were at an all-time high, and Jordan Bohannon provided the magic required for any run in March. Iowa drew the Atlantic 10 tournament champion Richmond Spiders in the first round, but have the offensive firepower to make a deep run.

2) Purdue (27-7, 14-6)


NCAA Tournament seed: 3

Big Ten Tournament results: Lost to Iowa in championship. Defeated Penn State and Michigan State

Best win: 80-74 vs. Villanova (neutral site)

Worst loss: 82-58 at Michigan

Recent standout: Jaden Ivey (20 pts, 6 ast vs. Iowa)

AP poll: 10

NET: 13

Quad 1 record: 25

KenPom: 14

SOS: 8-6

Purdue committed 17 turnovers in the Big Ten championship against Iowa, and Jaden Ivey and Sasha Stefanovic combined to shoot 2-for-14 from 3. Purdue’s size limited Keegan Murray to some degree, but Iowa still outscored Purdue 10-4 in the final three minutes. Right now it feels like the early-season idea of Purdue supersedes how they’re currently playing, but the Boilermakers still have the depth and versatility for a Final Four run and Jaden Ivey is the kind of player who can take them there. 

3) Indiana (20-13, 9-11)


NCAA Tournament seed: 12

Big Ten Tournament results: Lost to Iowa in semifinals. Defeated Michigan and Illinois. 

Best win: 68-65 vs. Purdue

Worst loss: 80-62 vs. Michigan

Recent standout: Trayce Jackson-Davis (31 pts, 10 reb vs. Iowa)

AP poll: 16th in receiving votes

NET: 38

Quad 1 record: 4-8

KenPom: 36

SOS: 38

Indiana started the Big Ten Tournament outside of the NCAA Tournament picture, but punched its ticket with wins over Michigan and Illinois. It took a Jordan Bohannon banked-in 3 at the buzzer to take down the Hoosiers in the semifinals, but Indiana gained significant self-belief and momentum at the perfect time. I was surprised to see Michigan seeded ahead of Indiana, but Trayce Jackson-Davis and Xavier Johnson are playing by far their best basketball of the season.

4) Illinois (22-9, 15-5)


NCAA Tournament seed: 4

Big Ten Tournament results: Lost to Indiana in quarterfinals. 

Best win: 80-67 vs. Wisconsin

Worst loss: 81-65 at Maryland

Recent standout: Kofi Cockburn (23 pts, 10 reb vs. Indiana)

AP poll: 19

NET: 15

Quad 1 record: 6-6

KenPom: 17

SOS: 21

After securing a share of the regular-season Big Ten title by beating Iowa on March 6, the top-seeded llini were knocked out of the Big Ten Tournament in the quarterfinals by Indiana. Coleman Hawkins scored a season-high 18 points, but Trent Frazier and Alfonso Plummer combined to shoot 6-for-22 from the field. Illinois still has what it takes for a Final Four run because of the dominance of Kofi Cockburn, coupled with backcourt experience that not many other teams have. 

5) Wisconsin (24-7, 15-5)


NCAA Tournament seed: 3

Big Ten Tournament results: Lost to Michigan State in quarterfinals

Best win: 74-69 at Purdue

Worst loss: 74-73 vs. Nebraska

Recent standout: Brad Davison (23 pts vs. Michigan State)

AP poll: 14

NET: 24

Quad 1 record: 9-3

KenPom: 34

SOS: 18

Things are starting to fall apart for Wisconsin ever since it clinched a share of the Big Ten title on March 1 with a win over Purdue. The Badgers lost on their home court to Nebraska – the worst team in the Big Ten – and were eliminated in their first game of the Big Ten Tournament in a six-point loss to Michigan State. Johnny Davis is a bit banged up but not at risk of missing NCAA Tournament games. At this point it feels like a toss up between a deep run and an early exit in the Big Dance. 

6) Michigan State (22-12, 11-9)


NCAA Tournament seed: 7

Big Ten Tournament results: Lost in semifinals to Purdue. Defeated Maryland and Wisconsin.

Best win: 86-74 at Wisconsin

Worst loss: 64-62 vs. Northwestern

Recent standout: Marcus Bingham Jr. (19 pts, 11 reb vs. Wisconsin)

AP poll: 8th in receiving votes

NET: 36

Quad 1 record: 5-9

KenPom: 40

SOS: 14

Michigan State picked up a pair of wins and some much needed momentum in the Big Ten Tournament. After losing five of seven games to close out the regular season, the Spartans defeated Maryland and Wisconsin before losing by five to Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. It’s never smart to doubt Tom Izzo in March, but the Spartans will have to take down Duke in order to reach the Sweet 16. 

7) Rutgers (18-13, 12-8)


NCAA Tournament seed: 12

Big Ten Tournament results: Lost to Iowa in quarterfinals

Best win: 70-68 vs. Purdue

Worst loss: 53-51 vs. Lafayette 

Recent standout: Geo Baker (23 pts vs. Iowa)

AP poll: Unranked

NET: 77

Quad 1 record: 6-6

KenPom: 74

SOS: 35

Rutgers ran into the red-hot Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, leading to an uncharacteristically poor defensive performance. The Scarlet Knights allowed 80-plus points for just the fourth time all year and shot 28 percent from 3. Rutgers snuck into the NCAA Tournament and will play Notre Dame in a First Four matchup. The Scarlet Knights’ stingy defense could lead to a couple wins in the NCAA Tournament, but they will need to shoot better from beyond the arc. 

8) Ohio State (19-11, 12-8)


NCAA Tournament seed: 7

Big Ten Tournament results: Lost to Penn State in second round.

Best win: 71-66 vs. Duke

Worst loss: 75-60 at Maryland

Recent standout: E.J. Liddell (25 pts, 8 reb vs. Penn State)

AP poll: 11th in receiving votes

NET: 26

Quad 1 record: 5-5

KenPom: 32

SOS: 26

E.J. Liddell, Malaki Branham and Joey Brunk combined for 75 percent of Ohio State’s points in the Buckeyes’ quarterfinal loss to Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament. Kyle Young, Zed Key and Meechie Johnson Jr. are all banged up and could miss the first round of the NCAA Tournament. And the sport’s biggest Cinderella team of recent years, Loyola Chicago, awaits in the first round. E.J. Liddell could carry the Buckeyes to a win, but I’d be surprised to see Ohio State in the Sweet 16.

9) Michigan (17-14, 11-9)


NCAA Tournament seed: 11

Big Ten Tournament results: Lost to Indiana in second round.

Best win: 82-58 vs. Purdue

Worst loss: 75-65 vs. Minnesota

Recent standout: DeVante Jones (39 pts last two games)

AP poll: Unranked

NET: 34

Quad 1 record: 5-10

KenPom: 33

SOS: 7

In Juwan Howard’s first game back from suspension, Michigan blew a 17-point lead to Indiana in the second half of the second round of the Big Ten Tournament. After this loss it was a bit surprising to see Michigan receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament, but the Wolverines will play as an 11-seed against Colorado State in the first round. Hunter Dickinson can give any team problems in the post, but Michigan will need Caleb Houstan and Eli Brooks to knock down shots from long range. 

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