The bubble has started to take shape over the landscape of college basketball. From my perspective, the Big Ten has five locks, two teams that should be in barring a late-season collapse and two teams currently on the wrong side of the bubble that have the opportunity to climb to the right side over these last few weeks. Let’s take a look at who’s who in this week’s power rankings:
Previous Ranking: 1
Purdue’s shocking defeat to Michigan in Ann Arbor, along with its narrow escape against Maryland almost cost the Boilermakers the top spot this week. Luckily for Matt Painter and company, they also had the biggest win of their season with an 84-68 victory over Illinois. I couldn’t in good conscience drop Purdue behind Illinois following that head-to-head result.
2. Illinois Fighting Illini 18-6 (11-3)
Previous Ranking: 2
For the second time this season, Illinois couldn’t get the job done against Purdue, this time at Mackey Arena. On paper, the Illini match up well with Purdue, but they aren’t getting enough out of their wings. Don’t be surprised to see Illinois get a third crack at the Boilermakers in the Big Ten Tournament.
Previous Ranking: 3
Wisconsin solidified its spot at No. 3 with a 70-62 win on the road against Michigan State. Johnny Davis continued his conference player of the year campaign with a 25-point performance on only 11 shots. The Badgers then fell to Rutgers in an ultimate trap game on Saturday. They are easily a tournament team, but you get the feeling where they’re seeded and who they matchup against will be pivotal to how far they can go this season.
Previous Ranking: 4
The Spartans were soundly defeated in the battle for the No. 3 spot this week with Wisconsin. However, they bounced back nicely with a 76-61 win over Indiana. Michigan State has been slowly but surely falling down the AP Poll ranks over the last few weeks as I believe reality is starting to set in. This is the definition of a “good but not great” team.
5. Ohio State Buckeyes 15-6 (8-4)
Previous Ranking: 5
Ohio State, along with seemingly every other major conference contender, fell victim to a hot Rutgers team, losing 66-64 on Wednesday. The Buckeyes bounced back in a major way by shutting down a desperate Michigan offense on Saturday night. EJ Liddell has quietly put together an All-American caliber season and should be in the conversation for player of the year in the Big Ten. The big man spurned the NBA last offseason and has been handsomely rewarded so far.
Previous Ranking: 7
The Hawkeyes, as I alluded to earlier, are a team I believe will make the tournament barring a late-season collapse. KenPom loves Iowa, and the Hawkeye offense has really turned a corner of late. The schedule was easy this week for Iowa as it destroyed both Maryland and Nebraska but scored 110 and 98 points respectively. If it can figure out how to play defense, it could make some noise.
Previous Ranking: 6
Indiana had likely the roughest week of all teams in the conference. The Hoosiers only mustered 51 points in a loss to Northwestern and followed that up with a 15-point loss to Michigan State. For now, they sit solidly in the tournament but if they don’t start playing better, they could find themselves on the bubble in a hurry.
8. Rutgers Scarlet Knights 15-9 (9-5)
Previous Ranking: 9
Conversely to Indiana, Rutgers had the best week in the conference, going 2-0 against ranked opponents. The Scarlet Knights knocked off both No. 16 Ohio State and No. 14 Wisconsin in back-to-back games. Paul Mulcahy has become so much more than the “just a shooter” he used to be. Rutgers has played its way onto the bubble and is the talk of the college basketball world right now.
Previous Ranking: 8
What a whirlwind of emotions for Juwan Howard and the Michigan Wolverines this week. Michigan narrowly escaped a hungry Penn State team, destroyed the No. 3 team in the country, and then didn’t show up at home against rival Ohio State. The win over Purdue was crucial in giving the Wolverines a Quad 1 win, but it’s starting to become “must-win” season for Michigan if it wants to get on the right side of the bubble.
Previous Ranking: 10
Penn State is starting to make rock fights become a habit. Following an ugly loss last week to Wisconsin, the Nittany Lions took part in another ugly contest with Michigan coming up short yet again. They also lost to a bad Minnesota team, 76-70. Penn State and every team following on this week’s power rankings don’t have a shot at the tournament.
Previous Ranking: 12
Northwestern stunned Indiana at home, 59-51, and yet again put up a fight against Illinois before falling short. Don’t look now but I’ve had the Wildcats move up from 13 to 12, and now to 11 in my power rankings. It won’t mean much in the grand scheme of things though.
12. Minnesota Golden Gophers 12-10 (3-10)
Previous Ranking: 11
I wanted to give Minnesota credit for beating Penn State, a team I view to be in the same tier as the Golden Gophers. However, Minnesota also lost to Nebraska this week. This immediately meant I had to move them down no matter what.
Previous Ranking: 13
Last week I mentioned it was a two-team race for the most disappointing team in the conference this season. With yet another 0-2 week in the books for Maryland, I believe the Terrapins are starting to pull away with the crown. Losers of five straight and 10 of their last 13, I’m sure Maryland fans are ready for the season to end as soon as possible.
Previous Ranking: 14
Nebraska won a Big Ten game! Alonzo Verge Jr. and Bryce McGowans paced the Cornhuskers to a 78-65 victory over Minnesota at home for their first win in conference play this season. It only took 13 tries. Congrats, Nebraska!