With the Big Ten Tournament moving up a week, things ended a bit earlier than fans are accustomed to in Big Ten country, but it was an entertaining regular season, nonetheless. Michigan State won the regular season Big Ten title last week and several other Big Ten teams made their respective pushes for the NCAA Tournament.
However, before teams get ready for March Madness, they will head to New York City for this year’s Big Ten Tournament. The bracket looks particularly interesting this year and fans should expect a plethora of interesting matchups.
With that, let’s take a look at the latest Big Ten power rankings.
Big Ten Week 16 Power Rankings
#1 - Michigan State Spartans (--)
The Spartans entered last week with the opportunity to grab the team’s first outright Big Ten regular season title since 2009. To get there, Michigan State had to get through a home game against Illinois and a road trip to Madison. Both games looked winnable on paper and, as such, Michigan State looked like it could close the deal.
And in the first game, things went according to plan. Michigan State blasted Illinois off the court and grabbed a share of the Big Ten title. However, things proved more challenging on the road against the Badgers over the weekend. The game went down to the final minutes and was basically a tossup down the stretch. But Michigan State found a way to get the job done on the road to grab the outright Big Ten title.
It’s hard not to be impressed with how Michigan State has played over the last month. Since losing to Michigan at home on January 13th, the team is 12-0 and has won eight games against top 100 teams on KenPom. That includes a home win over Purdue and road wins against Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, and Wisconsin.
Not a bad run, to say the least.
Unfortunately, the one thing that’s holding back Michigan State’s resume right now is the lack of quality wins. While the Spartans are certainly partially to blame for this, the biggest issue has been a remarkably easy Big Ten slate for the team. Michigan State finished the season with the easiest schedule in the league, per KenPom, and the team’s resume is now paying the price.
To put this in perspective, just take a look at the latest bracketology projections. According to TRank, Michigan State currently has just two (!!!) wins against NCAA Tournament teams. And that’s despite having a 28-3 overall record. That’s absolutely mind blowing for a team under consideration for a one seed in the Tournament.
The good news is that Michigan State will have an opportunity to fix that this week. The Spartans will open up with either Maryland or Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament, but could very likely face Michigan on Saturday and a team like Purdue on Sunday. If the team hopes to get a one seed, winning out will be essential.
#2 - Michigan Wolverines (--)
The Wolverines are another team on a roll. Michigan entered last week coming off a huge win against Ohio State and the team was able to add two more quality wins to its resume. The first came on the road against a hot Penn State team and the second came on the road against Maryland. As a result, Michigan improved to 24-7 overall.
Over the last eight games, Michigan is 7-1 and has scored wins over Ohio State at home and Maryland and Penn State on the road. The last victory was arguably the most impressive as well, with Michigan blowing out Maryland on the road on Saturday. During this stretch, the Wolverines have also jumped from 27th to 16th nationally on KenPom.
There are still some major concerns about this Michigan team, such as the team’s poor free throw shooting and underwhelming play of Charles Matthews as of late. The Wolverines also have a pattern of going through long scoring droughts.
However, one would be hard pressed to find many teams playing better than the Wolverines over the last few weeks. In fact, using TRank’s custom split feature, Michigan has been the most efficient team in the Big Ten and sixth nationally since losing on the road to Purdue on January 25th. Even if that’s an arbitrary point for cutoff, it puts Michigan’s recent play into context and why the Wolverines look so dangerous.
This week, Michigan will hope to repeat what it did in the Big Ten Tournament last season. It will be an uphill battle once again, however, as the Wolverines are the five seed. The team will face the winner of Illinois and Iowa on Thursday. Should Michigan win there, it would face Nebraska on Friday.
#3 - Purdue Boilermakers (--)
The Boilermakers have not been playing particularly well over the last few weeks, but the team had a great opportunity to rebound last week with two winnable games. Purdue did just that by winning on the road against Illinois and at home against Minnesota.
While Purdue fans are certainly disappointed the team wasn’t able to get a share of the Big Ten title, they shouldn’t get too carried away. The Boilermakers still finished the season at 26-5 overall and 15-3 in Big Ten play. That’s the highest regular season win total for Purdue since 2010 and topped last year’s mark of 25 wins.
The question now will be what Purdue does in the postseason. The Boilermakers were knocked out of last year’s Big Ten Tournament as the one seed and are just 3-5 in the event over the last five seasons. This is a huge opportunity to get back on the right track in an event that hasn’t been all that kind to Purdue over the last decade.
Purdue will begin that quest on Friday against the winner of Indiana and either Minnesota or Rutgers. There’s no doubt that Boilermaker (and Big Ten) fans will be hoping to see the Hoosiers advance for another rivalry showdown.
#4 - Ohio State Buckeyes (+1)
The Buckeyes entered last week off a two-game skid, but had two solid opportunities to add wins to finish the regular season. Ohio State did just that after beating Rutgers at home on Tuesday and beating Indiana on the road on Friday. As a result, Ohio State finished the regular season at 24-7 overall and 15-3 in Big Ten play.
Many have been skeptical of Ohio State this season, but the team continues to find ways to win. That was never more evident than on Friday night, when the Buckeyes gutted a road game out in double overtime. Indiana played with plenty of energy, but Ohio State was the team celebrating at the final buzzer.
Unfortunately, Ohio State will enter the Big Ten Tournament in a bit of a precarious spot. While the Buckeyes are the two seed, many have circled them for a potential upset. Ohio State will get the winner of Penn State and Northwestern on Friday and that’s not welcome news for the Buckeyes, who are 0-2 against Penn State this season. Should Ohio State win there, it will likely get Purdue on Saturday afternoon.
#5 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (-1)
The Huskers had two games last week and were able to score wins in both matchups. The first came at home against Indiana on Tuesday and the second also came at home on Sunday against Penn State. As a result, Nebraska improved to 22-9 overall on the season.
In most years, Nebraska would be shoe-in for the NCAA Tournament at this point. The Huskers have 22 regular season wins, finished fourth in the league standings, and have won eight of the last nine games. All of those facts would lead one to conclude that Nebraska will hear its name called on Selection Sunday.
However, this isn’t most years. The bubble is exceptionally strong this season and the Huskers simply don’t have many quality wins. As such, Nebraska enters the Big Ten Tournament needing some quality wins to feel comfortable. According to TRank, Nebraska is currently the eight team outside the field.
The good news is that Nebraska should get an opportunity to do just that this week. The Huskers are the four seed heading into New York City and will likely get Michigan on Friday and a potential matchup with Michigan State on Saturday. Two wins would certainly put the Huskers in great shape of making the Tournament.
#6 - Penn State Nittany Lions (-2)
The Nittany Lions were arguably the hottest team in the Big Ten heading into last week. Penn State had won four of five with the only loss coming in the final minutes on the road against Purdue. It was a team that looked like it was hitting on all cylinders.
Unfortunately, that momentum didn’t carry over into this week. Michigan beat Penn State on Wednesday and the Nittany Lions fell on the road against Nebraska on Sunday. Star forward Mike Watkins was also injured, putting his status into doubt for this week. As a result, Penn State now sits at 19-12 overall and 9-9 in Big Ten play.
While I thought Penn State was the Big Ten’s best bet at a fifth at-large NCAA bid last week, that’s no longer the case. Realistically, Penn State will need to get to Sunday to have a chance and might even need to win the entire Big Ten Tournament to get in. It’s not a great development considering where the team was a week ago.
Penn State’s trip to Madison Square Garden will start on Thursday with a matchup against Northwestern. Should the Nittany Lions make it out of there, the team would face Ohio State on Friday. A win there would likely set up a matchup against Purdue.
#7 - Wisconsin Badgers (+2)
The Badgers had three games last week and had mixed results. Wisconsin opened with wins over Minnesota and Northwestern, but lost at home to Michigan State on Sunday. The team finished the regular season with a 14-17 overall record. The program hasn’t finished a season with a losing record since 1998.
Indiana was the team slipping under the radar a week ago, but it looks like it’s Wisconsin now. The Badgers have won four of the team’s last six games with the only losses coming against Michigan and Michigan State. While Wisconsin still isn’t a great team, don’t underestimate what the Badgers will be able to do in New York City.
This week, Wisconsin will open Big Ten Tournament play against Maryland on Thursday. Should the Badgers win there, the team will face Michigan State on Friday.
#8 - Indiana Hoosiers (-1)
The Hoosiers had quietly won four straight heading into last week and were hoping to prove themselves in two challenging games. However, Indiana fell short in both games. The team started by losing on the road to Nebraska on Tuesday and then fell in double overtime at home against Ohio State on Friday. As a result, Indiana fell to 16-14 overall.
Indiana now heads to New York City hoping to make a magical run through the Big Ten Tournament. The Hoosiers are the six seed and will face either Minnesota or Rutgers on Thursday evening. Should Indiana find a way to win there, it will advance to Friday to face arch-rival Purdue in what figures to be a great game.
#9 - Maryland Terrapins (-1)
The Terrapins split the team’s games last week, beating Northwestern on the road on Monday and losing at home to Michigan on Saturday. The mixed results left Maryland at 19-12 overall and 8-10 in Big Ten play heading into the Big Ten Tournament. This is the first time Maryland has finished with a losing Big Ten record since joining the Big Ten.
While some talking heads will likely argue that Maryland is still alive for an at-large NCAA bid, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The Terps are probably now in a position where the team needs to win the Big Ten Tournament to make the NCAAs. The team simply doesn’t have enough quality wins to argue otherwise.
Maryland will open up Big Ten Tournament play on Thursday against Wisconsin. Should the Terps win that matchup, the team will get Michigan State on Friday.
#10 - Northwestern Wildcats (--)
The Wildcats had three games this week and saw dreadful results in all three matchups. In fact, Northwestern went 0-3 in those games, losing at home to Maryland and Wisconsin before losing on the road against Iowa on Sunday. As a result, Northwestern finished the regular season at 15-16 overall and 6-12 in Big Ten play.
A few weeks ago, it looked like Northwestern might be rising. Unfortunately, nothing has seemed to go right since beating Michigan at home on February 6th. In fact, Northwestern is 0-6 since that win with three home losses and a loss to Rutgers.
The Wildcats will hope to resurrect a rough season in Madison Square Garden. The team opens with Penn state on Thursday. Should Northwestern win, it will face Ohio State on Friday. The Wildcats went 1-1 against the Nittany Lions this season.
#11 - Illinois Fighting Illini (--)
The Illini had a brutal final week of the season, but did add a little bit of momentum over the weekend. Illinois opened with a road loss to Michigan State on Tuesday and a home loss to Purdue on Thursday, but scored a solid win over Rutgers on Sunday.
Illinois will enter the Big Ten Tournament as the 13 seed and will face Iowa on Wednesday. This is the second time in three years that Illinois has found itself playing in one of the dreaded Wednesday Big Ten Tournament games. Should Illinois beat Iowa, it will face Michigan on Thursday.
#12 - Iowa Hawkeyes (+1)
The Hawkeyes saw mixed results in the final week of the regular season. Iowa lost on the road to Minnesota on Wednesday, but scored a win over Northwestern on Sunday. As such, Iowa finished the season at 13-18 overall and 4-14 in league play.
Perhaps the brightest spot of the week was for Jordan Bohannon, who intentionally passed up a school record on Sunday to honor Chris Street. It was an incredible moment and one that demonstrates what sports are all about.
Iowa will open the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday against Illinois. Should the Hawkeyes win that matchup, the team will face Michigan on Friday. Iowa won its lone matchup against Illinois this season on January 11th.
#13 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (+1)
The Golden Gophers snapped a nine-game losing streak this week with a win at home against Iowa on Wednesday. Unfortunately, Minnesota followed that up by getting blown out on the road against Purdue on Sunday.
Minnesota will now face Rutgers on Wednesday to open the Big Ten Tournament. Should the Gophers win there, the team would face Indiana on Thursday.
#14 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-2)
The Scarlet Knights had two games this week and lost both matchups. The first was on the road against Ohio State and the second was at home against Illinois on Sunday. As a result, Rutgers finished the regular season at 13-18 overall and 3-15 in Big Ten play.
While there may have been excitement about this Rutgers team a few months ago, a brutal finish to the regular season has erased all of it. The Scarlet Knights went 1-10 to close the regular season with eight of those losses coming by 10 points or more. More simply put, the performance was nothing short of horrific.
Given the horrid finish, Rutgers will enter the Big Ten Tournament as the 14 seed with a matchup against Minnesota on Wednesday. In its four seasons with the conference, Rutgers has played on Wednesday in each Big Ten Tournament. The Scarlet Knights lost to Minnesota in the team’s only meeting on December 3rd.