It’s officially March! We are just one week away from the Big Ten Tournament and all the chaos that comes with it. The Big Ten has become bubble central throughout college basketball and is littered with midwestern teams. Let’s see how this week’s power rankings shake out in the conference.
Previous Ranking: 1
Purdue’s lone game of the week was a stunning 68-65 defeat at the hands of Michigan State in the Breslin Center. I’m still optimistic for the Boilermakers, though they have shown a dent in the armor lately.
2. Illinois Fighting Illini 20-8 (13-5)
Previous Ranking: 2
Illinois fell just short in a furious comeback against Ohio State Thursday night. The Fighting Illini trailed by 16 with just 5:37 left before climbing all the way back to within three. However, they still came up short. Brad Underwood and company did bounce back nicely by shooting lights out against Michigan and spoiling a furious Wolverine comeback.
Previous Ranking: 3
Don’t look now but Wisconsin has a full-game lead on the rest of the Big Ten in the regular season standings, thanks to two wins this week at Minnesota and at Rutgers. Tonight’s matchup with Purdue at the Kohl Center will be the center of the college basketball universe with massive implications on the line. After that, Bucky has only lowly Nebraska left on the schedule.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes 18-8 (11-6)
Previous Ranking: 4
Ohio State picked up a massive 75-60 win at Illinois and suddenly became a legitimate contender for the regular season crown. The Buckeyes then followed that up by disappearing against Maryland, losing 75-60 and seeing themselves out of the championship conversation. This is still easily a tournament team with potential, but what a disappointing end to their regular season.
Previous Ranking: 5
Things continued to get worse for MSU as the Spartans were demolished on a trip to Iowa, 86-60. Tom Izzo had his work cut out for him as talks of falling out of the tournament entirely began to surface. How did Michigan State respond? By getting arguably its biggest win of the season against No. 4 Purdue. Tonight’s matchup with Michigan will tell us a lot about whether the Purdue game was an aberration or if the Spartans are back in business.
Previous Ranking: 8
The Hawkeyes are back in business. After a disappointing loss to Michigan Iowa has won four in a row, including games over Ohio State and Michigan State. For now, it appears the Hawkeyes have played their way off the bubble and solidly into the field.
Previous Ranking: 7
It’s crunch time for the Wolverines. Michigan started the week off hot, beating a Rutgers team equally on the bubble with them. However, they fell to Illinois Sunday afternoon in a disappointing defensive performance. If this were earlier in the season, a 1-1 week with a loss to a very good Illinois team would be acceptable. In these late times, Michigan needs wins. Splitting games just won’t get the job done.
8. Rutgers Scarlet Knights 16-12 (10-8)
Previous Ranking: 6
Rutgers had all the momentum in the world a week and a half ago. The loss to Purdue at Mackey was understandable. However, the Scarlet Knights proceeded to lose to both Michigan and Wisconsin. Neither is a bad loss, but when you’re firmly entrenched on the bubble you can’t afford to lose three straight games in late February. They finish up the season with Indiana and Penn State. They will likely need to make a decent run in the Big Ten Tournament in order to make the tournament.
Previous Ranking: 9
As foreshadowed last week, the schedule softened up for the Hoosiers and they successfully took care of business with wins over Maryland and Minnesota. By all accounts, they are very much on the bubble with a monstrous matchup with Rutgers on the docket.
10. Minnesota Golden Gophers 13-14 (4-14)
Previous Ranking: 11
This past week, the Golden Gophers hung tight with both Wisconsin and Indiana, but couldn’t take down either one. These last five teams in the power rankings have no chance of making the tournament but bragging rights are still on the line.
Previous Ranking: 10
I jumped Minnesota over Penn State for one reason and one reason only: Penn State lost to Nebraska by 23 points. Any team that loses to Nebraska, let alone by double-digits, deserves to get bumped down.
Previous Ranking: 13
Maryland couldn’t hang with Indiana at Assembly Hall, falling 74-64. The Terrapins then followed that up with a shocking win over Ohio State. I couldn’t tell if the upset was due to them playing well or the Buckeyes falling into a trap game. Either way, I certainly didn’t see it coming.
Previous Ranking: 12
Northwestern had climbed up to 12th in my rankings with a chance to climb even higher at the end of the season due to a weak schedule. Instead, the Wildcats went 1-2 this past week with losses to Penn State and Iowa. Not exactly a strong way to finish out the season. They finish with Minnesota at home.
Previous Ranking: 14
Nebraska lost to Iowa this week. But more importantly, they won another Big Ten game, this time by 23 points! The stunning Cornhusker win was powered by Bryce McGowens 25 points and the whole teams’ 65% shooting from deep.