The top of the Big Ten is starting to get really interesting. Northwestern upset Indiana at home marking five-straight wins with the last three coming against Purdue, the Hoosiers, and Iowa. Indiana then got right back on track with a massive win over Illinois. This weekend, they have a rematch with Purdue in West Lafayette.
If the Hoosiers were to pull off another upset, Northwestern could find themselves tied for first place in the Big Ten as March begins. How does it all shape up with a week to go until the madness begins? Let’s take a look.
No. 14: Minnesota Golden Gophers (Last week: 14)
The Gophers are ready for this year to be over. They’ve lost 9 in a row and are just 1-13 in the Big Ten.
No. 13: Ohio State Buckeyes (Last week: 13)
Minnesota’s only Big Ten win came against Ohio State. The Buckeyes are 1-13 in their last 14 games since they were a Top-25 team.
No. 12: Nebraska Cornhuskers (Last Week: 12)
There is something going on in Lincoln. Nebraska has won 4-of-5 and the Huskers are playing really good basketball right now. If only they were playing this well all season. Their 14-14 record keeps them in the bottom three of the conference.
No. 11: Michigan Wolverines (Last week: 9)
Michigan’s inability to finish games is likely going to cost them a spot in the NCAA Tournament. They dropped another close game at Wisconsin after Hunter Dickinson showed up in a ski mask saying they were going to steal a win, and Jett Howard wore a “Free Juwan” t-shirt. If you are going to have the antics, you need to back it up with wins, and this Wolverines team didn’t do that against the Badgers or throughout the course of the season. An emotional win over Michigan State gives them a chance, but concerns for Howard’s ankle have to be real as he appeared to re-roll it against the Spartans. A lot has to go right down the stretch for the Wolverines to have a shot at making the big dance.
No. 10: Penn State Nittany Lions (Last week: 11)
It may be too late for Penn State, but they are getting back to winning games. They dropped 93 points in an upset over Illinois thanks to Jalen Pickett’s 41 points. Now they face Ohio State and Rutgers this week with a chance to get closer to the bubble again.
No. 9: Wisconsin Badgers (Last week: 10)
Time is also running out for Wisconsin to claim a spot in the big dance. Their next three games will determine if they get there. This week they play Iowa and Michigan, they can’t really afford to lose either of those games. Then, they host Purdue at the start of next week. Connor Essegian’s play as a second or third scorer makes a huge difference in the productivity of this anemic offense. When he is shooting well, they can compete with most of the conference.
No. 8: Iowa Hawkeyes (Last week: 8)
Iowa is really close to being a tournament team, but they need to finish the way they should. That is not as easy as it sounds. Their last two wins were against Minnesota and Ohio State. Their most recent losses came by a combined 34 points against Purdue and Northwestern. If their offense isn’t keeping up with how many points this awful defense gives up, they are at risk of getting blown out of every game.
No. 7: Michigan State Spartans (Last week: 6)
It was a really tough week for the Spartans on and off the court. We’ll focus on the court as their game against Minnesota was postponed and they played their first game after the tragedy and in over a week at Michigan where they fell 84-72. I’m intrigued to see how this talented group responds. They’ll have five games in the last two weeks to attempt to return to normalcy.
No. 6: Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Last Week: 4)
If it weren’t for three missed shots by Wisconsin in the final minute of the game, Rutgers could have lost four straight. It’s looking more and more like the Scarlet Knights aren’t in the upper echelon of the Big Ten. They are certainly a tournament team, but since they upset Purdue, the Scarlet Knights are 7-6 in conference play.
No. 5: Maryland Terrapins (Last week: 7)
If there was any doubt that Maryland was a tournament team, that was completely squashed following their upset of Purdue. Jahmir Young has been playing out of his mind the last couple of weeks, and it’s helped Maryland straighten their season out. Following up the upset with a loss at Nebraska diminished how far the Terps could have moved up otherwise.
No. 4: Illinois Fighting Illini (Last week: 3)
Illinois has lost three-straight road games after falling to both Penn State and Indiana this week. They still have a chance to push for a top-3 spot in the conference. The Illini have contests with bottom-feeders Minnesota and Ohio State, and top dogs in Northwestern and Purdue on their schedule. I could see them winning out or losing three of their last five based on the way the season has gone for them.
No. 3: Northwestern Wildcats (Last week: 5)
The Wildcats are amidst their toughest stretch of the season, and so far they have come out unscathed with wins over the top two teams in the conference. Then, they walloped a good Iowa team by 20 points. It’s been an impressive run, but now they have to take it on the road where they will face Illinois and Maryland this week. If they win out, there is a strong chance they can be the regular season champs in the Big Ten.
No. 2: Indiana Hoosiers (Last week: 2)
I know Northwestern just beat Indiana, but it was in Evanston the game after the Wildcats upset the No. 1 team in the country, and it was by only two points. If we are playing that game on a neutral court I think it goes a lot differently. Indiana is also on the road this week in East Lansing and West Lafayette for two massive games. It’s a week where we can see the Hoosiers claim the No. 1 spot or drop to No. 3.
No. 1: Purdue Boilermakers (Last week: 1)
The gap is quickly closing on what was once a huge margin between Purdue and the rest of the conference. A loss to Maryland this week made it three losses in two weeks. Now, they have a huge rematch with Indiana and a contest with Illinois in their final three games. Those are both at home, but it’s easily two more games they could lose if they continue to not get production from the guys around Zach Edey. The race down the stretch has gotten really close to the point where all three of the top teams are neck and neck.