Week 13 AP Poll:
#7 - Wisconsin
#16 - Purdue
#21 - Maryland
Others receiving votes - Northwestern (11)
Week 13 Coaches Poll:
#5 - Wisconsin
#18 - Purdue
#22 - Maryland
Others receiving votes: Northwestern (20)
These are the three best teams in the conference. No doubt about it. They have proven it all year and each week it seems like we say the same thing.
Starting from the top, Wisconsin is the highest ranked Big Ten team once again. Wisconsin is riding a seven game win streak but has looked shaky in some near losses to Michigan, Minnesota and Rutgers. Last week I said I thought Wisconsin was possibly over-ranked following an overtime victory at Rutgers. This week the question is did they deserve to be in the top five?
The coaches seem to think so. Wisconsin is the fifth ranked team in the coaches poll, moving up four spots from number nine last week. It is no secret last week was hectic in college basketball, as many top ranked teams fell to unranked opponents. But the AP voters were not phased by this.
The Kansas Jayhawks remained the third ranked team after losing to Iowa St. Kansas was likely rewarded for their ridiculously difficult stretch, going 2-1 against West Virginia, Kentucky and Baylor all in a weeks time. But Iowa State is unranked and was able to snap the Jayhawks 51 game home winning streak. Baylor went winless this week and although one loss was a road loss at Kansas, the other was a loss at home against unranked Kansas State. Baylor dropped only four spots in the AP.
Wisconsin likely has the resume to be a top five team. They have yet to be upset as all three losses came on the road or on a neutral site against ranked opponents. Their RPI ranks in the top 20 and would likely be higher if their conference was not a mosh pit of parody. In reality it does not matter where they rank until selection Sunday, but Badgers fans would have loved to see a five next to Wisconsin’s name.
Purdue and Maryland played one of the best games of the conference season this week. The Boilermakers came out on top and may be the most talented team in the conference. It is tough to dispute their talents having now beaten both Maryland and Wisconsin this season.
The only thing weakening Purdue’s resume is the road blemishes at Iowa and at Nebraska. It is never easy to win on the road in the Big ten, but losing road games against obviously inferior opponents is something the Badgers have not done this season. Future roads games against Indiana, Michigan and Northwestern will need to be victories if Purdue wants to close the gap between themselves and Wisconsin in the polls.
Maryland was my top seeded Big Ten team in last weeks Bracketology predictions. That was last week and after losing to Purdue at home it is clear I was a bit premature on the Terrapins. Falling only four spots in the AP Poll should not upset anyone. They lost a tough but close game, they have yet to beat a ranked opponent this season and there was a lot of moving in this weeks polls. If Kevin Heurter’s last second shot hits and Maryland wins that game, this is a different story. But that in itself may be the problem.
Maryland needed a freshman to take their final shot knowing Purdue was not going to allow Melo Trimble to touch the ball. Heurter is having a great season but I am but he did not expect to be taking game winning three pointers in his first season. Maryland’s bench is thin and some of their main contributors are young. Their biggest question will be how they will play in physical games against larger and more experienced teams such as Wisconsin and Purdue in March.
Finally, Northwestern fell out of their 25th ranked position in last weeks AP Poll after a 1-1 week. When you are a team like Northwestern, who has been playing good but your conference is having a down year and you do not have a great reputation or a resume win, you needed to be perfect to remain in the polls let alone get out of the cellar. the Wildcats were replaced with Xavier and SMU.
As a member of the Big East, Xavier has played some tough competition. They won at Creighton this week, Northwestern cannot compete with that. SMU has won 16 of their last 17 games and while they do not have a standout victory on their schedule yet, they have only three losses this season and will get another crack at Cincinnati by weeks end. Northwestern fans would likely just appreciate an NCAA Tournament berth much more than a spot in the AP Poll.