Week 12 AP Poll:
#10 - Wisconsin
#17 - Maryland
#23 - Purdue
#25 - Northwestern
Week 12 Coaches Poll:
#9 - Wisconsin
#17 - Maryland
#24 - Purdue
Others receiving votes - Northwestern (73), Indiana (3)
This weeks poll is intriguing to me. The AP Poll now includes four Big Ten teams and also features a top ten team for the first time since Indiana was still good, ranking ninth in the December 12, 2016 poll. Most importantly, the Northwestern Wildcats made their first appearance in the AP Poll this season and are finally gaining national attention.
Working from the top down, the Wisconsin Badgers are ranked tenth and ninth in the AP and Coaches Polls respectively. The Badgers have long been considered one of the top teams in the conference and could be the favorite in many peoples eyes heading into the Big Ten tournament. What is most intriguing to me is the jump Wisconsin made from this week to last week given the scare they had this week. On January 23 the Badgers were ranked 15th in the AP Poll. Since then Wisconsin is 2-0, but very likely could have been 1-1.
On the back of forward Ethan Happ, Wisconsin needed overtime to defeat the last place Rutgers Scarlet Knights. If Rutgers was a half competent team they would have won that game. They needed to either get one extra stop in the final two minutes of convert both of their free throw attempts rather than going 1-of-2 to win the game. Fortunately for Wisconsin the Scarlet Knights let Happ do his thing in space and dominate down the final stretch of the game.
The game was never out of question once Wisconsin forced overtime. I understand you cannot make up results based on what you think should have happened. But jumping 5-6 spots was alarming to me. This is obviously a byproduct of a week full of upsets across college basketball. When the number one, two, four, six, eight and nine all suffer at least one loss in a week, things are bound to shift around.
Jumping over Purdue this week is the Maryland Terrapins. The Terps come in at number 17 in both the AP and Coaches Polls. Maryland is on a roll and it can be credited to elite play from their best player and advanced play from the Maryland freshman. Justin Jackson and Kevin Huerter are playing way above their fellow class men in the conference. Along with Melo Trimble, the Terps own the most surprising back court in the Big Ten. Maryland is taking care of business and winning the games they are supposed, which is why ranked them as the highest seed from the Big Ten heading into the NCAA Tournament.
Finally breaking into the polls this week are the Northwestern Wildcats. This is Northwestern’s first appearance in the AP Poll in the last 139 polls. You know what they say, 140th is the charm. Regardless of how long it took, both the writers and coaches are noticing the recent play of the Wildcats. After handling a depleated Indiana team, Northwestern will be challenged in three of their next five games. If they come out of said stretch with a winning record, things will remain positive. However, a stretch heading to Purdue and Wisconsin and hosting Maryland at home would be tough for any team.
Remaining in the top 25 and not falling too far down is the Purdue Boilermakers. Nebraska was able to upset Purdue this week, causing several fans to panic. There is no reason for that. The Boilermakers lost a road game to a talented team with a talented guard combo in Glynn Watson and Tai Webster who could make things interesting for teams in the Big Ten tournament. Purdue still has the frontrunner for Big Ten Player of the Year in Caleb Swanigan. They still have size and they may be the most talented team in the conference.
What remains absolutely ridiculous is Indiana still receiving three votes in the coaches poll. I know this is nit-picking but what are these coaches watching? Who does Tom Creane have dirt on? Fans should not be surprised due to the immense amount of love the Hoosiers have received all season from the coaches poll, but this team is banged up and flat out bad. My opinion on Indiana is so low, I even left them out of the tournament when ranking the Big Ten teams in my Bracketology piece.