We’ve finally made it. After months of drama and projections, we’ve finally reached the final week of the regular season. Congratulations to all of you who made it and kept your sanity. Things have been particularly wild this year and the Big Ten is as deep as ever. And all that makes for what should be a fantastic final seven days of action.
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 17 Power Rankings
#1 - Maryland Terrapins (--)
The Terps split the team’s games this week, beating Minnesota on the road on Wednesday and dropping to Michigan State at home on Saturday. The mixed results left Maryland sitting at 23-6 overall and 13-5 in Big Ten play heading into the final week of the regular season. The Terps need just one win to grab this year’s Big Ten regular season title.
Many have been critical of Maryland following the team’s loss to the Spartans on Saturday, but it’s important to keep things in perspective. The Terps are still a great team, ranked in the top 10 nationally on KenPom, and have all the pieces to go deep in March. One or two losses in recent weeks doesn’t change that. Doubt this team at your own peril.
The main story for the Terps this week will be whether the program can earn its first ever Big Ten regular season crown. Maryland gets Rutgers on the road on Tuesday and Michigan at home on Sunday. The Terps need at least one win to guarantee a share of the title and two wins to guarantee an outright crown. Maryland is viewed as a minor underdog on the road against the Scarlet Knights and a decent favorite against Michigan. As such, fans should be hoping for some history this week.
#2 - Wisconsin Badgers (+6)
The Badgers skyrocketed up the Power Rankings this week after notching two more impressive wins. Wisconsin beat Michigan on the road on Thursday and Minnesota at home on Sunday. The team has now won six straight and seven of its last eight games. Four of those wins have come against top 25 KenPom opponents.
While the advanced stats and “eye test” still don’t like the Badgers that much, Wisconsin just keeps winning. The doubters continue to be silenced. After an underwhelming start to the season, Wisconsin now seems destined for a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament and a genuinely solid seed in the NCAA Tournament. The only question will be whether the Badgers can do some damage in the NCAAs. We will have to wait and see their bracket, but it’s hard to doubt them after the last few months.
Moving forward, Wisconsin will get Northwestern at home on Wednesday and Indiana on the road on Saturday. Both of these games seem pretty winnable on paper, especially in light of how the Badgers have played recently.
#3 - Ohio State Buckeyes (+3)
The Buckeyes had a great week of action, beating Nebraska on the road on Thursday night and arch-rival Michigan at home on Sunday afternoon. The wins pushed Ohio State to 20-9 overall and 10-8 in league play. The Buckeyes have also won five of the team’s last six games.
With a 10-8 Big Ten record, Ohio State sits in an interesting position heading into the final week of regular season play. The Buckeyes could move up into one of the better seeds for the Big Ten Tournament, but could also fall quite significantly as well. As of Monday morning, there’s a three-team tie for second with 12-6 records and a two-team tie for 10th with 8-10 records. That’s how narrow the divide is right now. Fans will hope Ohio State can benefit from the tight standings with a great final week.
Ohio State will begin its efforts this week on Thursday at home against Illinois and on Sunday on the road against Michigan State. A split seems the most likely, but the Buckeyes have been playing great basketball lately. We’ll have to see what happens.
#4 - Michigan State Spartans (+5)
The Spartans were in free fall a few weeks ago, but are now amid a three-game winning streak. And two of those wins came last week, as Michigan State beat Iowa at home on Tuesday and Maryland on the road on Saturday. The latter might have been the team’s best win of the season.
Since falling at Michigan in early February, Michigan State seems to have figured things out and finally looks like the team that was ranked atop the polls heading into the season. The Spartans are 4-1 since then with the only loss coming in the final seconds against Maryland on February 15th. The team has also risen all the way to 7th nationally on KenPom.
Although, on second thought, that rise probably isn’t that shocking when you consider the calendar recently turned to March. Tom Izzo seems to have done it again.
Michigan State will close up the regular season with two more difficult games. The team will face Penn State on the road on Tuesday and Ohio State at home on Sunday. Two wins would give Michigan State a shot at the Big Ten title and lock up a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament.
#5 - Iowa Hawkeyes (-3)
The Hawkeyes also had mixed results this week, falling on the road against Michigan State on Tuesday and beating Penn State at home on Saturday. As a result, Iowa now sits at 20-9 overall and 11-7 in Big Ten play.
Fortunately for Iowa fans, the team’s win over Penn State on Saturday removed any doubts with regard to the Big Dance. The Hawkeyes are in the field and fans can now just worry about seeding for the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. Iowa does have a shot at a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament if it finishes well this week. However, it’s going to be tough with Purdue at home on Tuesday and Illinois on the road on Sunday.
#6 - Illinois Fighting Illini (-1)
Last week, I wrote about how the Illini had a huge opportunity on the slate. Illinois was the only team in the league with three games during the week and all looked winnable. Fortunately for Illini fans, that’s exactly what Illinois did. The team beat Nebraska at home on Monday, Northwestern on the road on Thursday, and Indiana at home on Sunday. The wins pushed Illinois to 20-9 overall, to 12-6 in Big Ten play, and into the NCAA field. Illinois only dropped this week because the teams directly behind it put together fantastic performances.
Before we move on to what’s ahead for the Illini, let’s at least take a moment to recognize how far Illinois has come. The program is now set to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013. This has been one of the roughest stretches for Illinois in modern history and fans have seemingly made it through to the other side. And things aren’t done yet, with two regular season games remaining and a wide open Big Ten Tournament.
This week, Illinois will get Ohio State on the road on Thursday and Iowa at home on Sunday. The Illini will be clear underdogs in the first game and favorites in the latter. A split might be enough to get the team a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament.
#7 - Michigan Wolverines (-4)
The Wolverines had a pretty rough week, falling at home against Wisconsin on Thursday night and on the road against arch-rival Ohio State on Sunday afternoon. The losses dropped Michigan to 18-11 overall. Michigan’s overall resume and metrics remain strong, but many were hoping for a bit more after what the team accomplished in early February.
Michigan is now locked out of a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament, but still needs to do some work to avoid playing on Wednesday. The Wolverines will face Nebraska at home on Thursday and Maryland on the road on Sunday. A split seems like a likely outcome.
#8 - Penn State Nittany Lions (-4)
The Nittany Lions went 1-1 in the team’s games this week, beating Rutgers at home on Wednesday and falling on the road against Iowa on Saturday. Penn State now sits at 21-8 overall and 11-7 in Big Ten play following those results. The last few weeks have been particularly rough, with the team losing three of its last four games.
Penn State will close out things with a huge opportunity on the slate. The team will face Michigan State at home on Tuesday night and Northwestern on the road on Saturday. Both games are certainly winnable and a sweep would vault the Nittany Lions up the conference standings, likely into a double-bye.
#9 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-2)
The Scarlet Knights only had one game last week and fell short in it on the road against Penn State on Wednesday. The loss dropped Rutgers to 18-11 overall and to 9-9 in Big Ten play. More importantly, it left the team sitting at 18 wins, which is a dangerous bubble position for this year’s NCAA Tournament. Rutgers likely needs 19 or 20 wins to feel comfortable heading into Selection Sunday.
Rutgers will hope to get that elusive 19th win this week with Maryland at home on Tuesday and Purdue on the road on Saturday. Even scoring one win against that slate looks tough, but it’s likely going to be necessary if this team wants to make the Big Dance. Buckle up.
#10 - Purdue Boilermakers (+1)
The Boilermakers only had one game this week, but it featured a win that was certainly enjoyed by fans. Purdue hosted Indiana at home on Thursday night and was able to score a win over its arch-rival, improving to 15-14 overall and to 8-10 in Big Ten play.
Purdue remains on the outside of most bracketology projections and getting the wins necessary to make it on Selection Sunday seems like a tall task at this point. The good news is Purdue has two great opportunities to score quality wins this week with Iowa on the road on Tuesday and Rutgers at home on Saturday. Wins those and the discussion might change some.
#11 - Indiana Hoosiers (+1)
The Hoosiers had a rough week, falling on the road against Purdue on Thursday and on the road against Illinois on Sunday. The losses dropped Indiana to 18-11 overall and 8-10 in Big Ten play. Indiana is just 3-7 over its last 10 games and is now firmly on the NCAA bubble. It’s likely going to take at least one more win to make the field on Selection Sunday.
Indiana fans will hope the team can remove any NCAA doubts this week with Minnesota at home on Wednesday and Wisconsin at home on Saturday. The Hoosiers are currently favored in both games.
#12 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (--)
The Gophers dropped two more games last week, falling at home to Maryland on Wednesday and on the road against Wisconsin on Sunday. Despite having a lot of hope in mid-January, Minnesota has really struggled to close out games in recent weeks. The Gophers are now just 13-15 and likely need to win the Big Ten Tournament to make any postseason. Minnesota will hope to help its cause this week with Indiana on the road on Wednesday and Nebraska at home on Sunday.
#13 - Northwestern Wildcats (--)
The Wildcats split the team’s games this week, falling at home against Illinois on Thursday and beat Nebraska in overtime on the road on Sunday. Northwestern now sits at 7-21 overall and 2-16 in Big Ten play. The team will return to action this week against Wisconsin on the road on Wednesday and Penn State at home on Saturday.
#14 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (--)
The Huskers dropped both of the team’s games this week, losing at home to Ohio State on Thursday and in overtime to Northwestern at home on Sunday. The losses dropped Nebraska to 7-22 overall and 2-16 in Big Ten play. Nebraska will hope to get some momentum going this week heading into the Big Ten Tournament with Michigan on the road on Thursday and Minnesota on the road on Sunday.