Things are really starting to heat up across the country right now. With March coming this week, the pressure to build NCAA resumes continues to build. And even for the teams who have already earned their way in, earning a few more wins to get advantageous seeding is also a clear emphasis. Teams like Maryland also remain in play for one seeds. It’s all led to quite a bit of drama across the Big Ten as we head toward the end of the season.
So, with that, let’s jump into this week’s Power Rankings.
But before you do jump into the Power Rankings, a reminder about how my rankings are made. Once the season starts, my Power Rankings reflect actual gameplay. Who have you beaten, when did you do it, and how have you played otherwise? Those are the questions I focus on. The same can be said for losses. And given that these are Power Rankings, it’s a rolling scale. More recent results will be weighed more heavily.
Big Ten Week 16 Power Rankings
#1 - Maryland Terrapins (--)
The Terps went 1-1 in the team’s games this week, beating Northwestern at home on Tuesday and losing to Ohio State on the road on Sunday. The split left Maryland at 22-5 overall and 12-4 in Big Ten play. Despite the slip against the Buckeyes over the weekend, the team holds a two-game lead over the rest of the conference.
While some are going to overreact to Maryland’s loss to Ohio State on Sunday, it’s important to keep things in perspective. The Terps still have a legitimate shot at a one seed in the NCAA Tournament, are ranked 10th on KenPom. and have won nine of the team’s last 10 games. Maryland still has a great resume and one loss doesn’t change that. This is still the team to beat in the Big Ten moving forward.
Maryland will hope to get back on track this week with two really intriguing games. The Terps will face Minnesota on the road on Wednesday and at home against Michigan State on Saturday. Even a split here would do wonders for the team’s Big Ten title hopes. However, Maryland will likely need a sweep to maintain its hopes for a one seed.
#2 - Iowa Hawkeyes (+1)
The Hawkeyes only had one game last week, but had a good result in it, beating Ohio State at home on Thursday night. The win pushed Iowa to 19-8 overall and likely into the “safe” range for this year’s NCAA Tournament. Iowa has now won three of its last four games and seems to be sliding a bit under the radar. Don’t sleep too much on this group.
Unfortunately for Iowa fans, things are about to get really difficult. The Hawkeyes will face Michigan State on the road on Tuesday night and Penn State at home on Saturday. Iowa projects to be a solid underdog against the Spartans and a slim favorite against the Nittany Lions. The goal needs to be a split. And if so, Iowa should avoid some of the lowest seeding positions in the NCAA Tournament.
#3 - Michigan Wolverines (+4)
The Wolverines had a great week, beating Rutgers on the road on Wednesday and Purdue on the road on Saturday. The two wins pushed Michigan to 18-9 overall and 9-7 in Big Ten play. Michigan is arguably the hottest team in the Big Ten right now, having won five in a row and seven of the team’s last eight games. And undoubtedly, the return of Isaiah Livers from injury has played a key part in Michigan’s resurgence.
Michigan now sits in a really intriguing position moving forward. This is a team that’s probably a game or two away from locking up an NCAA bid, but has the chance to improve its position considerably if it can continue performing at this level. For perspective on how well Michigan’s been playing lately, look no further than the advanced numbers. Since losing to Ohio State in early February, Michigan’s been playing at an absurd level. In fact, TRank has Michigan as the nation’s most efficient team from February 5th through present. So yeah, anything is possible if the Wolverines are playing at that level moving forward.
Moving forward, Michigan will have two intriguing games on the docket with Wisconsin at home on Thursday and Ohio State on the road on Sunday. It will be interesting to see if the Wolverines can keep up that level of play.
#4 - Penn State Nittany Lions (-2)
The Nittany Lions had a rough performance this week, losing at home against Illinois on Tuesday night and on the road against Indiana on Sunday. The losses broke Penn State’s eight-game winning streak and dropped the team to 20-7 overall. Fortunately for Nittany Lion fans, Penn State still seems like a safe bet to make this year’s Big Dance.
Things will remain difficult this week, as Penn State will face Rutgers at home on Wednesday night and Iowa on the road on Saturday. Even a split wouldn’t be bad with that slate. It will also be crucial for the Nittany Lions to break the skid and get some positive momentum before the postseason.
#5 - Illinois Fighting Illini (--)
The Illini only had one game last week, but it was a big one. Illinois was able to go on the road and beat Penn State on Tuesday, snapping the team’s four-game losing streak. Ayo Dosunmu came up huge in the game as well after missing a game due to injury. The win pushed Illinois to 17-9 overall and 9-6 in Big Ten play.
Illinois now has a massive week on its docket. The Illini face Nebraska at home on Monday, Northwestern on the road on Thursday, and Indiana at home on Sunday. Illinois figures to be a favorite in all three games and likely needs to win at least two to secure an NCAA bid. And with games against Ohio State and Iowa thereafter, taking care of business here will be crucial. Otherwise, Illinois will be in a tough “must win” situation.
#6 - Ohio State Buckeyes (--)
The Buckeyes had a relatively good week, dropping on the road against Iowa on Thursday and beating Maryland at home on Sunday afternoon. After the mixed results, Ohio State now sits at 18-9 overall and 8-8 in Big Ten play. Ohio State now sits in great position after a horrendous January and that’s welcome news for fans.
This week, Ohio State will get two highly winnable games with Nebraska on the road on Thursday and Michigan at home on Sunday. The Buckeyes are another Big Ten team that’s probably just a win or two away from locking up an NCAA bid and potentially much more.
#7 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-3)
The Scarlet Knights had a tough week, losing at home against Michigan on Wednesday night and on the road against Wisconsin on Sunday. The losses dropped Rutgers to 18-10 overall and to 9-8 in Big Ten play. After a 16-5 start to the season, Rutgers has now lost five of the team’s last seven games.
There’s no disputing Rutgers is in a slump right now. You can’t lose five of seven games and say everything’s going well. But with that said, it’s important to look at the overall picture. Nobody expected Rutgers to be in this position when the season started and the Scarlet Knights are likely just a win or two away from the NCAAs. Yes, time is running out to get those wins, but don’t rule it out just yet.
This week, Rutgers only has one game, which will come on the road against Penn State on Wednesday. There will be plenty of pressure on both sides in that matchup.
#8 - Wisconsin Badgers (+2)
The Badgers had a really nice performance last week, beating Purdue at home on Tuesday night and Rutgers at home on Sunday. The two wins pushed Wisconsin to 17-10 overall and 10-6 in Big Ten play. Wisconsin has now won four straight and five of six.
Wisconsin will get two major challenges this week with Michigan on the road on Thursday and Minnesota at home on Sunday. Two wins this week would likely push the Badgers into the NCAA Tournament field for the second straight season.
#9 - Michigan State Spartans (-1)
The Spartans only had one game last week and did well in it, beating Nebraska on the road on Thursday night. The win pushed Michigan State to 18-9 overall. Michigan State will now prepare for Iowa at home on Tuesday night and Maryland on the road on Saturday.
#10 - Indiana Hoosiers (+2)
The Hoosiers were an absolute mess entering last week. Indiana had lost five of its last six games and were blown off the floor by Michigan. Many were starting to question Archie Miller and where things might be headed. But fortunately for Hoosier fans, Indiana rebounded nicely this week, beating Minnesota on the road on Wednesday and Penn State at home on Sunday. With the wins, Indiana now sits at 18-9 overall and 8-8 in Big Ten play.
And while Indiana’s advanced numbers still aren’t other worldly, the team has built a decent NCAA resume. The Hoosiers have wins over teams like Florida State, Iowa, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, and UConn. Indiana also has more than a reasonable chance to add a few more wins before Selection Sunday, as KenPom projects the Hoosiers to finish the regular season with a 20-11 overall record.
Indiana will now face a really tough week with arch-rival Purdue on the road on Thursday and Illinois on the road on Sunday. Even a split with that slate would be huge. The good news is things should get easier for the Hoosiers after the next two games.
#11 - Purdue Boilermakers (-2)
Perhaps no Big Ten team had a more disappointing week than the Boilermakers. The team lost on the road against Wisconsin on Tuesday and at home against Michigan on Saturday. The losses dropped Purdue to 14-14 overall and to 7-10 in league play. The team has also lost four in a row and five of its last eight games.
While nothing is ever guaranteed in college basketball, Saturday’s loss felt like a death blow for Purdue’s at-large NCAA hopes. We don’t know what the Committee will require on Selection Sunday, but 18 or 19 wins seems like a reasonable cutoff for Big Ten teams this season. And with only three regular season games remaining, Purdue is now looking at a maximum of 17 regular season wins.
More simply stated, Purdue is now looking at a scenario where it needs a productive Big Ten Tournament to even have a shot of making the field, and that assumes a perfect, or nearly perfect close to the regular season. And considering Purdue still has to play on the road against Iowa, that seems like more than a bold assumption. My guess is Purdue enters the Big Ten Tournament needing multiple wins to have any realistic NCAA hopes.
Purdue fans will hope that improbable run starts this week against arch-rival Indiana at home on Thursday night. There’s little debating it’s a must win for the Boilermakers.
#12 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (-1)
The Gophers had a mixed week, dropping at home to Indiana on Wednesday and beating Northwestern on the road on Sunday. As a result, Minnesota now sits at 13-13 overall and 7-9 in Big Ten play. The team will hope to build off Sunday’s win this week against Maryland at home on Wednesday and Wisconsin on the road on Northwestern on Sunday.
#13 - Northwestern Wildcats (--)
The Wildcats dropped two more games last week, falling on the road to Maryland on Tuesday and at home against Minnesota on Sunday. The losses dropped Northwestern to 6-20 overall and 1-15 overall. Northwestern will hope to rebound this week against Illinois at home on Thursday night and Nebraska on the road on Sunday.
#14 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (--)
The Huskers dropped the team’s sole game last week, falling at home against Michigan State on Thursday night. Nebraska will hope to get back on track this week with Illinois on the road on Monday, Ohio State at home on Thursday, and Northwestern at home on Sunday. This figures to be the team’s best chance at getting a regular season win for the remainder of the season.