With each week of the Big Ten schedule, BTPowerhouse will highlight the teams in the conference and project where they will fall come March. This series will take into account a teams performance both out of conference and in the Big Ten, as well as where other conferences may fall in order to give readers our most accurate predictions of how Big Ten teams will be seeded for the NCAA Tournament.
January is now over and we are just one month away from what is shaping up to be an interesting and competitive Big Ten Tournament. This week had a little bit of everything. There were upsets, there were overtime thrillers and complete annihilation. After putting seven teams into the tournament last week, the potential field seems to be shrinking. These rankings will become more interesting when the NCAA releases their top 16 seeds this week.
Let's take a look at who we think will take part in the big dance come March:
1/30 Big Ten Bracketology:
- #5 - Maryland
- #6 - Wisconsin, Purdue
- #8 - Northwestern
- #9 - Minnesota
- Last Four In - Michigan, Michigan State
- On the outside looking in - Indiana
Time is winding down on this season and it is time for teams to get serious. I am not typically someone who overreacts based on the outcomes of one week, but the task here is to project. The field stayed with seven teams this week, with Indiana dropping out of the tournament rankings.
The Hoosiers went 0-2 this week, including a 30-point loss in Ann Arbor to the Michigan Wolverines. The Hoosiers look terrible all week and just received even worse news. Less than a month after losing star forward OG Anunoby for the season to a knee injury, the Hoosiers discovered they would be without guard James Blackmon Jr indefinitely after sustaining a lower body injury at Michigan. The fate of Indiana’s season now lies on the shoulders of big man Thomas Bryant. While Bryant was likely the best player on Indiana’s roster all along, this team now resembles a much worse version of the 2013-2014 Indiana team which failed to make the tournament. Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleh where not enough to take that team to the tournament and it does not seem like Bryant will be any different.
Working our way up the list we see two in-state rivals who matched up against each other this week taking the take two of the final four spots. This is the first time the 2017 BTPowerhouse Bracketology rankings features the Michigan State Spartans. The Spartans were losers in three of their last four games. The were bested by a talented Purdue team at home and even dropped one to a depleted Hoosiers team, all be it on the road. But it is time we buy into Michigan State. On national television Sunday against in-state rival Michigan, the Spartans came to play. All four of the green and white’s freshmen contributed, including improved performances from Cassius Winston and Nick Ward. If Ward can stay on the floor and stay out of foul trouble he has the ability to be the physical inside presence Michigan State needs. If he was three inches taller he would be dominant. Still at 6-8 Ward has the ability to change games and lead a Michigan State tournament run.
Coming up on the losing end of Sunday’s game were the Wolverines. Fans would not have known this was the team that bested Tom Crean’s Hoosiers by 30 just a few nights earlier when they took the floor against Michigan State. While the game was in East Lansing, there is no excuse for your leading scorer and senior presence to go scoreless while playing 30-plus minutes. The inconsistency of Michigan allows them to stay put and projecting for yet another play-in game. In the coming days, the Wolverines play the Buckeyes and Spartans and home and also travel to Indiana. They have an opportunity to win some nice games and build a resume, but they just as easily could be out of post-season contention by this time next week if they fail to take care of business. It will truly depend on what version of John Beilein’s team shows up on each night.
Finally, with little movement in the middle we jump to the top three teams in this week's rankings. For several weeks now I have been convinced it was a two way race for the top two spots in the Big Ten. I now see the error my ways. It is time to buy into the Maryland Terrapins. It took a near Rutgers upset of Wisconsin in Madison Square Garden and a road upset at Nebraska of Purdue for me to see the light.
I do not think Maryland is the most talented or best team in the conference. They may be third or fourth on that list. But where things sit right now the Maryland Terrapins should be the top seeded team in the NCAA tournament out of the Big Ten. The Turtles have taken care of business almost all season. In the past week they overcame a 19-1 run by Minnesota and came back to steal a road win in a surprisingly hostile environment. Mark Turgeon is getting the most out of his freshman and Melo Trimble is making his best attempt to contend with Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan for Big Ten Player of the Year. I also have a soft spot for Canadian players, and Justin Jackson is as good as they come.
This is not to say Wisconsin or Purdue will not trend upward as the season moves forward. Do not be surprised when both are ranked higher than Maryland in the NCAA’s reveal of their top 16 seeds. But the Terps should not be slept on.