The Big Ten regular season concluded on Sunday as it usually does, with a multitude of marquee matchups and exciting finishes. Michigan and Michigan State battled in East Lansing on Saturday, Wisconsin went down to the wire in Columbus, and the Gophers pulled off a massive upset earlier in the week.
All of those matchups gave us an interesting set of power rankings this week. So, let’s take a look at where the Big Ten sits as of March 11th.
Please also note that this year’s rankings are going to be a tad different. I am only going to look at things each team has accomplished on the court. No projecting or predicting anymore. I will place an emphasis on recent play, but I am only going to be looking strictly at results going forward.
Big Ten Week 19 Power Rankings
#1 - Michigan State Spartans (+2)
The Spartans entered this week in an uncomfortable position. The team had dropped a manageable road game against Indiana and needed help from Purdue to have another shot at the Big Ten regular season title. Luckily, the team caught a break as the Boilermakers fell on the road against Minnesota.
Purdue’s loss would setup a massive week at home for the Spartans. Two opportunities to win a Big Ten title, including a game against Michigan on Saturday.
And Michigan State ended up being able to deliver on its opportunity. The Spartans beat Nebraska at home on Tuesday and arch-rival Michigan on Saturday night. The two wins pushed Michigan State to 25-6 overall, 16-4 in Big Ten play, and to the program’s second straight regular season Big Ten title. A remarkable achievement given some of the team’s struggles in the first few months of the season.
Many things can change during the conference tournaments, but Michigan State currently looks like the Big Ten team best poised to make a deep run this year. Cassius Winston has been fantastic, Matt McQuaid is playing better than he ever has before, and other teammates are stepping up. The defense has also grown exponentially over the last month or so.
This week, Michigan State will enter the Big Ten Tournament as the one seed and with an expectation of coming home with another title. The Spartans will open up on Friday afternoon against either Indiana or Ohio State. Whoever the opponent is will be desperate as both the Buckeyes and Hoosiers are sitting firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
#2 - Purdue Boilermakers (-1)
The Boilermakers had a mixed week of play. Purdue opened with a loss on the road to Minnesota on Tuesday night, but followed that up with a road win at Northwestern on Saturday afternoon. The split locked up a share of the Big Ten regular season championship for Purdue. Its second in the last three seasons.
LOOKING BACK at #Purdue's 24th Big Ten Championship.— Purdue Mens Basketball (@BoilerBall) March 10, 2019
You won't want to miss this one.#BoilerUp pic.twitter.com/mzeGEdhAC1
Given the program’s preseason expectations, winning the Big Ten regular season title is a pretty remarkable achievement for the Boilermakers. The team did return Carsen Edwards, but didn’t have many proven options around him. As such, this was arguably the best coaching job of Matt Painter’s career. Many thought this team could miss the NCAA Tournament as late as January. Now, the team hopes to grab another title this week.
Purdue will enter the Big Ten Tournament as the two seed and will face either Minnesota or Penn State on Friday. The Boilermakers went 3-1 against those teams this season.
#3 - Michigan Wolverines (-1)
The Wolverines entered this week with plenty of momentum. Michigan had scored huge wins over Nebraska and Maryland and had won four of its last five games. The team would put that improved play on the line on the road against Michigan State in a colossal showdown in East Lansing.
Unfortunately, things wouldn’t go well for the Wolverines.
Despite a fast start, Michigan fell apart in the second half and ended up falling to the Spartans for the second time this season. The loss ended Michigan’s conference title hopes and dropped the team to 26-5 overall and 15-5 in Big Ten play. For a team that started 17-0 and appeared to have an inside route to a Big Ten title a few months ago, it was certainly a disappointing finish.
The biggest questions for Michigan moving forward will be about Charles Matthews’ status. Will the junior forward return? It seems likely he will be back for the Big Ten Tournament, but we’ll having to wait and see.
Michigan will now enter the Big Ten Tournament as the three seed and will face Iowa or the winner of the Illinois and Northwestern game for the late game on Friday. The Wolverines will be trying to win the program’s third straight Big Ten Tournament.
#4 - Wisconsin Badgers (--)
The Badgers had two games this week and came up with significant wins in each. Wisconsin scored a huge win over Iowa at home on Friday night and followed that up with a road win against Ohio State on Sunday afternoon. Considering that the Buckeyes were desperately looking for a win to help their NCAA hopes, winning that matchup was certainly a notable achievement for the Badgers.
With the two wins, Wisconsin moved up to the four seed in the Big Ten Tournament and improved to 22-9 overall. The Badgers have been forgotten a bit with all the Big Ten title drama over the last week, but the team is still top 15 on KenPom and playing great basketball. In fact, Wisconsin will enter next week having won five of its last six games.
As the four seed, Wisconsin will get a double-bye and will face either Maryland or the winner of the Nebraska and Rutgers game on Friday afternoon. The Badgers will likely be looking at a rematch with Michigan State on Saturday if the team wins its first game on Friday. The Spartans won the only regular season meeting between the two.
#5 - Maryland Terrapins (+1)
The Terps entered last week coming off two straight disappointing performances. Maryland went on the road and floundered against Penn State and followed that up with a loss at home against Michigan on Sunday. However, Maryland bounced back in its only matchup this week on Friday at home against Minnesota. The win pushed the Terps to 22-9 overall and 13-7 in Big Ten play.
Perhaps no Big Ten team is more of a wildcard than Maryland entering the Big Ten Tournament. The Terps have repeatedly swung between excellent and mediocre over the course of this season. Maryland was able to beat teams like Purdue and Wisconsin, but also got embarrassed by others like Illinois and Penn State.
Given this inconsistency, it’s hard to get a read on the Terps as the regular season concludes. Maryland is undeniably a good team, but how great can the Terps be over the next two weeks? This team could easily make it to the second weekend of the NCAAs, but could just as easily take a first round exit. It’s that kind of squad.
Either way, Maryland enters the Big Ten Tournament as the five seed. The Terps will get the winner of the Nebraska and Rutgers game on Thursday afternoon. Wisconsin will await thereafter if the Terps avoid an upset. Maryland went 3-0 against the Huskers and Scarlet Knights during the regular season.
#6 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (+3)
The Gophers had one of the team’s toughest back-to-back stretches of the season last week and came out with mixed results. Minnesota pulled off a massive upset of Purdue on Tuesday night, but couldn’t deliver on Friday on the road against Maryland. The split left the Gophers at 19-12 overall and 9-11 in Big Ten play.
Minnesota has spent much of the last few months squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. And that shouldn’t have been extremely surprising given that the Gophers are currently 46th on KenPom and have seen mixed results for much of the year. A few good games, followed by a lackluster night or two. By any stretch, a classic bubble team.
However, last week’s win against Purdue was a big one. It very well might have pushed the Gophers on the right side of things heading into the Big Ten Tournament. It isn’t a comfortable situation, though.
The team’s 19-win mark is pretty impressive given its schedule, but a few mid-major bid thieves and conference tournament runs from dark horses could put the Gophers on the wrong side of things. That’s why performing well in Chicago will be vital.
Minnesota will enter the Big Ten Tournament as the seven seed and will face off against Penn State on Thursday. A win may lock up an at-large bid for the Gophers. A loss would really make Selection Sunday a stressful one for fans. If Minnesota beats Penn State, it will get Purdue on Friday evening.
#7 - Penn State Nittany Lions (+4)
The Nittany Lions continued the team’s hot play last week, beating Rutgers on the road on Wednesday and Illinois at home on Sunday. While Penn State only improved to 14-17 overall with the two wins, it has now won 7 of its last 10 games and five of its last six. Pretty impressive stats from an under .500 team playing in the best conference in the country.
Penn State will now enter the Big Ten Tournament as undeniably the most dangerous double-digit seed. The Nittany Lions have been playing at an absurdly high level for a team with no realistic shot at an at-large NCAA Tournament bid.
In fact, if you look at the advanced stats since Penn State beat Northwestern on February 4th, it’s jaw dropping. Per TRank, Penn State ranks eighth (!!!) nationally in team efficiency since beating the Wildcats for the team’s first Big Ten win. That’s above teams like Duke, Houston, Michigan State, and Tennessee. And that’s from the 10th seeded team in the Big Ten Tournament.
As mentioned, Penn State will enter the Big Ten Tournament as the 10 seed and will face Minnesota on Thursday. Minnesota beat Penn State in the only regular season matchup between the teams on January 19th. Should the Nittany Lions win, Penn State will face Purdue on Friday.
#8 - Indiana Hoosiers (--)
The Hoosiers are back, baby. Well, maybe or maybe not. Indiana entered last week having scored huge upsets over Wisconsin and Michigan State and followed up on that success with wins against Illinois and Rutgers. The wins pushed Indiana to 17-14 overall, 8-12 in Big Ten play, and firmly back into the at-large NCAA discussion.
As of Monday morning, ESPN had Indiana as the first team outside the field and I tend to agree. The Hoosiers don’t have enough to get in at the moment, barring something weird. However, Indiana will get a huge opportunity this week on Thursday against fellow bubble team Ohio State. A win there could very well push Indiana on the right side of things heading into Selection Sunday. This is a must win game. Should the Hoosiers win there, Indiana will face Michigan State on Friday, who it swept during the regular season.
#9 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-4)
The Scarlet Knights had a rough final week of the regular season, losing at home to Penn State on Wednesday and to Indiana on the road on Sunday. Still, Rutgers finished with a 14-16 overall record and 7-13 record in Big Ten play. It was literally a record-setting year for the program following it joining the conference.
Rutgers will now enter the Big Ten Tournament as the 12th seed and will face Nebraska on Wednesday evening. Rutgers won the only regular season meeting between the two on January 21st. Expect a fierce battle. Should Rutgers win, it would advance to play Maryland on Thursday. A win there would setup a matchup against Wisconsin on Friday afternoon.
#10 - Ohio State Buckeyes (-3)
The Buckeyes also had a rough final week of the regular season, losing on the road against Northwestern and in overtime against Wisconsin on Sunday. The losses dropped Ohio State to 18-13 overall and 8-12 in Big Ten play.
Like Indiana above, Ohio State sits firmly on the bubble entering the Big Ten Tournament. ESPN lists the Buckeyes as the last team in the field currently and it’s hard to disagree with that assessment. Ohio State only has 18 wins and doesn’t have the sheer number of high-end wins like Indiana.
The Buckeyes enter the Big Ten Tournament as the eight seed and will face Indiana on Thursday. This feels like an elimination game for the NCAA Tournament. Should Ohio State win, it will face Michigan State on Friday.
#11 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (+2)
The Huskers had mixed results this week. Nebraska lost by double-digits on the road against Michigan State on Tuesday, but followed that up with a win at home in overtime against Iowa. The split left Nebraska sitting at 16-15 overall and 6-14 in Big Ten play.
What’s really interesting to me about Nebraska is how down fans and the media have been about this team in recent weeks. The losses in late February and March look bad on first glance, but the team really hasn’t lost a shocking game since falling to Illinois on February 2nd. Penn State is absolutely red hot and losses on the road against teams like Michigan and Michigan State aren’t exactly crazy results.
Unfortunately, the slips in January and February have added up. ESPN doesn’t even have Nebraska in the first eight teams outside the field right now and that isn’t a contrarian opinion. Personally, I think there is an at-large shot for Nebraska, but it’s going to take a run to Saturday or Sunday, at least.
Nebraska will enter the Big Ten Tournament as the 13 seed and will face Rutgers on Wednesday evening. Should Nebraska win, it would advance to play Maryland on Thursday. A win there would setup a matchup against Wisconsin on Friday afternoon.
#12 - Iowa Hawkeyes (-2)
The Hawkeyes have utterly collapsed over the last few weeks. After reaching 20-5 overall on February 16th, Iowa has now lost five of its last six games, including matchups against underwhelming Nebraska and Rutgers teams. Iowa now sits at 21-10 overall and 10-10 in Big Ten play.
While some have argued that these struggles have put Iowa’s at-large NCAA hopes in jeopardy, I tend to disagree. I think Iowa has already secured a bid, barring some doomsday automatic qualifier scenario. The Hawkeyes went .500 in the toughest conference in the country and have 21 wins. That’s good enough to make the cut.
Iowa will now enter the Big Ten Tournament as the six seed and will face either Illinois or Northwestern on Thursday evening. Iowa went 3-0 against those teams in the regular season. If the Hawkeyes win on Thursday, the team will face off against Michigan on Friday evening. Iowa won the lone meeting between the two in dramatic fashion on February 1st.
#13 - Illinois Fighting Illini (-1)
The Illini struggled in the last week of the regular season, losing at home against Indiana on Thursday and following that up with a loss on the road against Penn State on Sunday. The losses dropped Illinois to 11-20 overall and 7-13 in Big Ten play.
Illinois will now enter the Big Ten Tournament as the 11 seed and will face Northwestern on Wednesday. Should Illinois win, it will face Iowa on Thursday with a potential matchup against Michigan waiting on Friday.
#14 - Northwestern Wildcats (--)
The Wildcats had a relatively good week of play, beating Ohio State at home on Wednesday and falling to Purdue at home on Saturday. The split pushed Northwestern to 13-18 overall and 4-16 in Big Ten play.
By any measure, it’s been a lost season for Northwestern. The team went 1-11 to finish the regular season and is nowhere near even NIT contention. The Wildcats will hope to defy the odds this week in the Big Ten Tournament as the 14 seed. Northwestern will get Illinois on Wednesday. Should Northwestern win, it will face Iowa on Thursday with a potential matchup against Michigan waiting on Friday.