Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Big Ten just had itself a rather crazy week of upsets and anomalies that’s left folks from Lincoln to New Brunswick trying to make heads or tails of the 2018-’19 season.
Crazy, I know!
And with only one week left before the conference’s haves, have nots, and Northwestern head to Chicago for the Big Ten Tournament, it’s fair to say that no one has any idea how the bracket will shake out, let alone which of the conference’s 14 teams will solidify it’s place in March Madness’ field of 68.
With that said, we’d be remise to not have some fun seeing how things in the Big Ten stack up as of March 3 with a special edition of BTP’s Power Rankings.
As always, please 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.
Also please note that for one week only the “I” in that last paragraph is me, Eric Leisure, who’s subbing in for an overseas Thomas Beindit, who I have little doubt is currently posted up in a foreign bar anxiously watching the end of Maryland-Michigan as I type this very sentence.
Big Ten Week 17 Power Rankings
#1 - Purdue Boilermakers (+1)
While the Big Ten has been remarkably chaotic and unpredictable, there’s one truth that’s remained widely agreed upon for at least a few weeks now — that Purdue has had the clearest path to a regular season conference championship.
And after outscoring Illinois and Ohio State a combined 159-107, the Boilermakers find itself with complete control over its Big Ten destiny.
A big reason for this is after two super subpar games, junior guard Carsen Edwards returned to form with 23 and 25 points against the Illini and Buckeyes, respectively. In addition to Edwards’ reemerged shooting stroke, center Matt Haarms has remained on fire since majorly trolling Indiana a few weeks ago, especially in Purdue’s win over Illinois where the sophomore shot a perfect 8-for-8 from the field on his way to a 21 point, 10 rebound double-double.
This week, coach Matt Painter will take his team on the road, where it’ll look to continue its Big Ten coronation in trips to Minnesota and Northwestern.
#2 - Michigan Wolverines (+1)
After falling at home to bitter rival Michigan State last Sunday, the Wolverines responded rather impressively with a road victory of an uberly talented Maryland team seven days later.
In that 69-62 win in College Park, Michigan again showed the offensive balance that’s established the Wolverines as a great team made up of good players. All five of John Beilein’s starters finished the game in double figures, headlined by Ignas Brazdeikis’ 21 points and double-doubles by Jon Teske (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Zavier Simpson (12 points, 10 assists).
The Wolverines will now turn it’s attention to its shortly-awaited rematch with the Spartans, as Michigan closes out its season with a trip to East Lansing on Saturday where the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament will more-than-likely hang in the balance.
#3 - Michigan State Spartans (-2)
If not for those pesky Indiana Hoosiers, Sparty would still find itself atop this week’s power rankings.
Alas, after the high that was it’s win over Michigan, Indiana quickly ended the Spartans euphoria with a 63-62 defeat of Tom Izzo and company.
With no other games played this week, there isn’t a ton of new perspective to gain about Michigan State, however, a small tip of the cap needs to be directed at forward Xavier Tillman. The sophomore has done an admirable job in an increased role following the injury to Nick Ward and while his emergence is a little later than expected, I’m not above self-promotion or saying I told you so.
The Spartans close out its regular season with two home games — a Tuesday night tip against Nebraska and the aforementioned rematch next weekend against the Wolverines.
#4 - Wisconsin Badgers (+2)
Man, nobody wanted this spot. Or, for that matter, the last double-bye at the Big Ten Tournament.
That said, someone needed to check in at No. 4 on our list, and Wisconsin at least avoid back-to-back debilitating losses, so it gets this feather in its cap.
After a really weird and, if I’m being frank, boring double overtime loss to Indiana, the Badgers just barely managed to sneak by the red-hot Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday in a 61-57 victory.
Ethan Happ played just 27 minutes for Wisconsin against Penn State, managing only 10 points, and his liability in late-game situations (ie. Hack a Happ) has to be troubling for coach Greg Gard moving forward.
The Badgers end the 2018-’19 campaign with a home game against Iowa and a road trip to Columbus, as it looks to fend off the Maryland Terrapins and lock up the last double-bye at next week’s Big Ten Tournament.
#5 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+3)
I feel you laughing right now. But hear me out.
Rutgers has an outside shot at an NCAA Tournament berth.
Still laughing? Damn. Well I’ll show my work regardless.
Following a 68-64 victory over Minnesota last Sunday, the Scarlet Knights avenged its miracle buzzer-beating loss to Iowa from a few weeks ago by taking it to the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.
With Saturday’s 86-72 win against Iowa, Rutgers now finds itself with a 14-14 overall record and 7-11 ledger in the Big Ten. And with its remaining two games coming against Penn State and Indiana, it’s more than possible that the Scarlet Knights head to Chicago two games over .500 with nine wins in conference play.
From there Steve Pikiell would be looking at, what, two wins to get Rutgers on the bubble?
Crazier things have happened and the advanced metrics look favorably on the Scarlet Knights. Plus, this is a much more talented team than the one that went on a run at last year’s tournament in New York, so no one should be all that shocked if Rutgers settles in for a long stay in the Windy City.
#6 - Maryland Terrapins (-2)
I don’t feel good about this. But when looking at the other contenders for the six spot (Iowa, Ohio State, Minnesota, Indiana) it made it a little easier to default Maryland to this ranking.
That said, it was a bad week for the Terrapins.
On Wednesday, Maryland was pretty much manhandled from start to finish by Penn State in a game the Terrapins never led, ultimately losing 78-61. Pretty much every single player struggled to get going in that game, including Anthony Cowan Jr., who despite scoring 15 points failed to hit a single three pointer.
Coach Turgeon’s team followed that up with a more inspired performance on Sunday afternoon, but still failed to pick up what would have been an important home win against Michigan in a 69-62 loss.
With just a home game against Minnesota remaining on its schedule, Maryland will need some help if it wants to find its way back into double-bye position for the Big Ten Tournament.
#7 - Ohio State Buckeyes (--)
That sound you hear is Ohio State’s bubble hardening as it continues to get itself more comfortably positioned among the suitors for the last few March Madness bids.
Even with suffering an absolute drubbing at the hands of Purdue, the Buckeyes managed a 20-point win over Iowa and currently sit 36th in the KemPom rankings while also securely in Joe Lunardi’s bracket on ESPN.
With games left against Northwestern and Wisconsin, Ohio State has an equal opportunity to pad it’s resume with another conference win, while also potentially picking up an important victory over a ranked foe.
#8 - Indiana Hoosiers (+5)
Somebody get Rick Grimes on the phone, we’ve got ourselves some zombies!
Seemingly left for dead after a truly abysmal 13 game stretch, the Hoosiers have new life after picking up back-to-back marquee wins.
We already talked about Indiana’s double overtime victory over Wisconsin (thanks to the least exciting game-winning shot you might ever see), but Indiana followed that up with an even more impressive/resume building win over Michigan State on Saturday afternoon.
Despite Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford going a combined 6-for-22 from the field, sophomore forward Justin Smith had arguably the best game of his Indiana career, scoring 24 points as he put IU and its fleeting postseason hopes on his back.
Indiana will end its season with a road game at Illinois before hosting Rutgers in Bloomington next Sunday. The Illini and Scarlet Knights, while talented, remain far from unmovable objects so Indiana looks to have a shot at the NCAA’s despite owning both a seven and five game losing streak this year.
#9 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (+1)
Minnesota isn’t exactly setting the world ablaze as it closes out the 2018-’19 season.
Sure, the Golden Gophers managed to pick up its eighth conference win in a road game at Northwestern this week, but is anyone really looking at that as much of an accomplishment?
To be fair, however, Amir Coffey was superb in that win over the Wildcats, scoring 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting while playing all 40 minutes for coach Pitino.
What’s troubling for Minnesota is it’ll see two of the Big Ten’s best to end the year, with Purdue coming to the Barn before heading to Maryland for its final regular season game. The glass half full among us will look at that two game gauntlet as a prime opportunity to pad the Gophers resume, while the pessimists will undoubtedly cite it as the death blow capable of popping Minnesota’s bubble.
#10 - Iowa Hawkeyes (-5)
What’s that? You’d like me to write more about Iowa? Fine.
This was a badddd week for the Hawkeyes. It’s one thing to lose handedly to both Ohio State and Rutgers. But it’s a whole other thing to have you coach suspended for saying words I will not repeat because my mom reads my columns.
Following its losses to the Buckeyes and Scarlet Knights, Iowa is almost assured to fall out of the AP Top 25. And while it should still maintain its spot in the NCAA Tournament, it would behoove Iowa to close strong in its final two games, which both happen to be on the road, against Wisconsin and Nebraska.
#11 - Penn State Nittany Lions (--)
With about five minutes left in it’s game against Wisconsin, I had officially talked myself into Penn State somehow finding a way to earn an NCAA Tournament berth this season.
Chalk it up to alumni bias or the fact I was a few Makers’s Mark’s deep at a bachelor party, but I was able to complete the mental gymnastics that saw the Nittany Lions close the year on a six game winning streak coupled with a solid run through the Big Ten field in Chicago.
Alas, I was quickly sobered up thanks to some freshmen mistakes that killed Penn State’s most recent upset bid, but one still can be impressed with how Pat Chambers and the Nittany Lions are closing out its season.
It would have been easy for most teams that started its conference slate the way Penn State did to play out the season just going through the motions, however, the Lions have never stopped grinding and can still avoid a Wednesday opening round game at the Big Ten Tournament.
To do so, however, Penn State will need to keep its foot on the gas, as it travels to New Jersey midweek before a noon tip next Sunday at home against Illinois.
#12 - Illinois Fighting Illini (-3)
It wasn’t so much anything Illinois did to drop itself in this week’s rankings, but more so what the Big Ten’s other bottom half teams did to improve its respective stock.
That said, the Illini continue to look like a unit that’ll be a potential thorn in someone’s side next week in Chicago.
As things stand right now, Illinois has a paper-thin margin for the final bye at the Big Ten Tournament, but with games against the red-hot Hoosiers and Nittany Lions to end its 2018-’19 regular season, Illini fans should at least be preparing for the eventuality that Illinois is taking part in a Wednesday contest next week.
#13 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (-1)
You gotta feel for Tim Miles and Nebraska.
After nearly pulling off what would have been a huge win over Purdue, the Cornhuskers ran into an angry Michigan team that absolutely blew the doors off Nebraska 82-53.
Senior James Palmer Jr. has struggled in his last few games, something you can forgive the talented guard for as he watches his Nebraska career come to a disappointing close.
The Cornhuskers can at least head into the Big Ten Tournament with a little momentum, should it find a way to knock off either Michigan State or Iowa in one or both of its remaining two games.
#14 - Northwestern Wildcats (--)
I could try and sum up the Wildcats recent run of play, but why do so when Northwestern alum and The Ringer’s Rodger Sherman did so just perfectly recently on Twitter:
(2017)— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) March 1, 2019
EVERY NORTHWESTERN FAN ALIVE: We just wanna make the NCAA Tournament once. That’s all we ask for
COLLEGE BASKETBALL GOD: and so it shall be
EVERY NORTHWESTERN FAN ALIVE: wait