There were a plethora of great Big Ten games this week, but none may have had bigger implications than the Michigan vs. Michigan State game in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines won the game and took firm control of both the title race and of this week's power rankings. Wisconsin and Iowa also had a great duel that secured the Badgers place in these rankings. Here are the BTP Power Rankings:
Week 17 Power Rankings
#1 - Michigan (Average - 1.1)
The Wolverines have once again reclaimed the top spot after being locked at #2 for the last few weeks. They only had one game last week, but with a huge win over the Spartans, the vote was nearly unanimous for #1. In fact, only one BTP voter did not have Michigan as the top team. Michigan has not been perfect lately, but have been able to come back after each defeat and score an important victory. It's hard to see Michigan falling from their top spot considering they do not play a single team ranked in the top half of these rankings for the rest of the season.
#2 - Michigan State (Average - 2.5)
The Spartans finally dropped from #1 after a few week stay. The loss to their arch-rival on Sunday had to be disappointing, but the fact that the game was not even close at the finish had to be stunning. MSU was the unanimous preseason media selection to win the conference and are now a half game back with 3 games remaining. They are certainly still in this, but they definitely have a more challenging schedule ahead than Michigan. Perhaps getting a week off will help.
#3 - Wisconsin (Average - 2.57)
Outside of perhaps Michigan, there is no hotter team in the Big Ten than Wisconsin. The Badgers have now won five straight including wins over MSU, Michigan, and Iowa. In fact, they were the only team besides Michigan to receive a #1 vote this week. Like Michigan, they have a pretty manageable slate ahead with their only game against a team in the top half of the conference is the season finale against Nebraska. The only problem is that they are 2 games behind Michigan with only 4 games left. They will need some help, but it's hard to see anybody wanting to play Wisconsin right now.
#4 - Iowa (Average - 4.0)
The Hawkeyes suffered a late defeat at the hands of Wisconsin last week to fall to 3 games behind Michigan. They probably have the toughest schedule of any of the top 4 teams, considering they still having to play MSU, Minnesota, and Indiana on the road. It's hard to see Iowa getting back into the title picture, but they certainly are one of the conference's top teams. They will more likely be playing for seeding the rest of the year.
#5 - Ohio State (Average - 5.1)
The Buckeyes maintained 5th place after a pretty quiet week. They played Northwestern and Minnesota at home last week and beat both teams. OSU has been gradually playing better and although they no longer have a serious shot at the title, they are still in great position to get a bye in the Big Ten Tournament.
#6 - Nebraska (Average - 5.8)
It's quite possible that the most underrated team on this list is Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have been red hot lately and have now won 5 straight games including a win over MSU. They are very much in the bubble chatter right now and if they simply beat the teams they should beat like Illinois and Northwestern, they are within striking distance for a bye in the Big Ten Tournament as well.
#7 - Minnesota (Average - 7.2)
The Gophers maintained 7th place this week, but have been pretty disappointing down the stretch. At one point, they were in the Big Ten title chatter, but are now sitting at just 6-9 in the conference after back-to-back losses to Illinois and Ohio State. Minnesota was considering the Big Ten's most likely contender for a 6th bid to the NCAA Tournament, but they will have to score a big win to get in. They get Iowa at home in BTP's Game of the Week, which could be their best opportunity.
#8 - Indiana (Average - 7.9)
How the Hoosiers rose 2 spots this week is not entirely clear. They did beat Northwestern on the road over the weekend, but once again, this seems to be more about the name than actual performance on the court. We will discuss this ranking in more detail below. The Hoosiers have a gauntlet this week with Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio State all in a single week. This is due to the game with Iowa being postponed. This could be the final nail that locks Indiana out of the tourney (assuming no BTT run).
#9 - Purdue (Average - 8.9)
Purdue stayed solid at #9 after losing both games last week. However, playing MSU at home and then Nebraska on the road is never easy. It's hard to argue that Purdue either raised or lowered their status following the results of last week. The Boilermakers still need another win or two to secure an NIT bid.
#10 - Illinois (Average - 10.4)
The Illini moved up 2 spots this week after an impressive win on the road against Minnesota. Illinois has now won 2 of their last 4 games.
#11 - Northwestern (Average - 10.6)
The Wildcats dropped 3 spots this week after losses to Ohio State and Indiana. Like Indiana, this drop might have more to do with name factor than actual performance.
#12 - Penn State (Average - 12)
The Nittany Lions returned to spot #12 this week after losing to Nebraska. PSU looked like they might be turning a corner, but were actually the unanimous choice for last week among voters this time. Sorry Penn State fans.
Last week, I talked about how it seemed like it had been awhile since there was a shakeup at the top. Well, that clearly happened with Michigan jumping the Spartans for #1 this time. What is perhaps a little surprising is that MSU maintained the #2 spot. Granted, the polls were pretty close, but Wisconsin has been playing very well lately. If they had played decently at all late January, they could very well be tied with Michigan right now, if not in the lead for the conference title. It will be interesting to see if they can jump Michigan before the year ends. Michigan is still far more likely to win the conference, but the Badgers certainly could be playing better.
Below that, not much has changed. Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska, and Minnesota maintained their spots. It's hard to argue that anybody else should be above any of these teams. One could make an argument that Nebraska should be moved above OSU, but it's certainly something that is mixed right now. They will likely get some divide this week considering OSU has to go to Indiana.
Below these guys, some of the rankings do not necessarily make that much sense. Indiana at #8 is a bit of a head scratcher. It makes sense to drop Northwestern considering they lost to Indiana, but it still makes more sense to have Purdue above the Hoosiers. Purdue after all just blew Indiana off the court a little while back. Also, in terms of Northwestern, a 3 spot drop does not seem justified. Have they been great lately? No, but a good hunk of those losses were to pretty good teams. It is not that outrageous, but it does seem a little excessive considering that Purdue has lost 3 out of 4 games (only won against IU) and Indiana lost the 3 games before playing Northwestern.
There is not too much to debate at the bottom. As it has been all season, the spots simply rotate based on who won a game last. It is interesting to see Northwestern all the way back down there though.