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Big Ten Hoops Power Rankings: February 22

Don’t let the chaos after the buzzer distract you from what happened before it.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Purdue Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Gard and Juwan Howard understandably stole the show from a national media spotlight this week. However, between the lines we had yet another exhilarating week of Big Ten basketball. Just when I thought I had the bubble scenarios mostly figured out, Rutgers shoved its way onto the scene and Indiana might be falling out of it.

1. Purdue Boilermakers 24-4 (13-4)

Previous Ranking: 1

Old reliable Purdue had yet another perfect week with wins over Northwestern and a red-hot Rutgers team. The Boilermakers may not win the regular season title in the conference due to their four losses, but they have the best shot at a Final Four run in my opinion.

2. Illinois Fighting Illini 19-7 (12-4)

Previous Ranking: 2

Illinois was stunned by Rutgers this week, losing 70-59 in a game even more lopsided than the final score indicates. However, the Illini had a huge bounce-back win against Michigan State on Saturday, winning 79-74. Kofi Cockburn was simply unstoppable, scoring 27 points on only 15 shots from the field. As Cockburn goes, so do the Illini.

3. Wisconsin Badgers 21-5 (12-4)

Previous Ranking: 3

Sunday’s scuffle aside, the Badgers had a very nice week on the court. Wisconsin took care of business against Indiana on Tuesday, 74-69, and then ran away from Michigan in the second half. Johnny Davis absolutely belongs in the Player of the Year race and might just win the whole thing. I have my doubts about the Badger big men and their ability to shut down opposing centers, but the Wisconsin guards can play with anyone in the conference. They have started to pull away from the next two teams on the list.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes 17-7 (10-5)

Previous Ranking: 5

The Buckeyes went 2-1 in a busy week. With an easy win against Minnesota, a surprising loss to Iowa at home and an overtime victory over a desperate Indiana team, Ohio State has started to compile the necessary wins to get a decent seed in the NCAA Tournament. Chris Holtmann and company travel to Illinois on Thursday for a chance at another Quad 1 win.

5. Michigan State Spartans 18-8 (9-6)

Previous Ranking: 4

All is not well in East Lansing at the moment. The Spartans went winless this week, losing a stunner to Penn State before falling to a more respectable Illinois team. They have now fallen entirely out of the AP Poll for whatever that’s worth. Michigan State isn’t at risk of falling out of the tournament, but are slumping at the worst possible time.

6. Rutgers Scarlet Knights 16-10 (10-6)

Previous Ranking: 8

Rutgers played the top two teams in the power rankings this week and went a respectable 1-1. In the past few weeks, Rutgers has gone from a bottom-dweller in the conference, onto the bubble, and now easily onto the right side of the bubble. Winners of four of their last five, the Scarlet Knights now travel to Ann Arbor to take on a depleted Michigan team desperate for a win. This will be a huge game for both programs.

7. Michigan Wolverines 14-11 (8-7)

Previous Ranking: 9

We’ve talked ad nauseum about the skirmish following the Wisconsin game so I won’t rehash it here. On the court, Michigan has been playing better from everywhere but the three-point line. The Wolverines had a big win on the road against Iowa to improve their standing on the bubble. In addition, a loss on the road to a very good Wisconsin team is a respectable loss in the grand scheme of things. With five regular season games left, all without Juwan Howard, this Michigan team will likely either fall apart in disastrous fashion or band together and make a run at the tournament. Time will tell which scenario occurs.

8. Iowa Hawkeyes 18-8 (8-7)

Previous Ranking: 6

Just last week I thought both Iowa was solidly in the tournament, barring a late-season collapse, but now I’m slightly wary. Iowa split the week, losing at home to Michigan but then winning in impressive fashion on the road against Ohio State. Keegan Murray continues to be the real deal, but his supporting cast has faded of late. The Hawkeyes are still in a good spot, but needs to start playing better basketball if they want to make any sort of run even in the conference tournament.

9. Indiana Hoosiers 16-10 (7-9)

Previous Ranking: 7

Indiana has found itself on the bubble in a hurry. Having now lost five straight games, things are getting dicey in Bloomington. The Hoosiers hung tough with Wisconsin, but couldn’t get the job done. They then had Ohio State on the ropes before a horrendous last 30 seconds of regulation and allowed the Buckeyes to get to overtime, where Ohio State easily ran away. Luckily for Indiana, the schedule gets significantly easier with Maryland, Minnesota and Rutgers up next.

10. Penn State Nittany Lions 11-13 (6-10)

Previous Ranking: 10

Penn State finally got over the hump and won one of its patented rock fights, this time against Michigan State. The Nittany Lions followed that up with a blowout win over Minnesota before disappointingly dropping a game to Maryland. Penn State isn’t in the NCAA Tournament conversation, but by all accounts has had a more successful season than most, including myself, expected.

11. Minnesota Golden Gophers 13-12 (4-12)

Previous Ranking: 12

Minnesota helped me sort out the bottom tier of Big Ten teams pretty easily this week by being blown out by Ohio State and Penn State but subsequently blowing out Northwestern. The more time goes by, the less it makes sense Minnesota smashed Michigan this season.

12. Northwestern Wildcats 12-13 (5-11)

Previous Ranking: 11

Northwestern fell back down to earth this week, going 0-2. The Wildcats’ loss to Purdue was of the respectable variety but a 77-60 loss to Minnesota is harder to justify. Northwestern’s next two games are against Nebraska and Penn State so it will have one last chance at moving up the rankings.

13. Maryland Terrapins 13-14 (5-11)

Previous Ranking: 13

Maryland had arguably its best week of the year, going 2-0 against Nebraska and Penn State. Fatts Russell has led the team of late in their quest to gain back some sort of respectability.

14. Nebraska Cornhuskers 7-19 (1-14)

Previous Ranking: 14

Nebraska followed up its lone Big Ten win with a blowout loss to Maryland. It’s not the greatest of looks. Up next is a trip to Evanston to take on a beatable Northwestern team.