What a ride it’s been this season. After months of action, the 2019-’20 college basketball regular season wrapped up on Sunday night with a handful of fantastic games. The weekend’s action most notably included Maryland, Michigan State, and Wisconsin earning shares of this year’s Big Ten regular season title. A major accomplishment for all involved.
But as fun as the season has been, it’s not over just yet. We still have the postseason, which begins with the Big Ten Tournament later this week. And as such, the conference’s positioning looks even more intriguing at the moment.
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 18 Power Rankings
#1 - Wisconsin Badgers (+1)
The Badgers had a wonderful week of action on the court, beating Northwestern at home on Wednesday night and Indiana on the road on Saturday afternoon. With Maryland’s loss to Rutgers on Tuesday night, Wisconsin was suddenly left in position to grab a share of the Big Ten regular season title. Fortunately for Badger fans, the team got the job done. It was a huge moment for Greg Gard and the fanbase after a rough start to the season.
It’s hard to undersell how well Wisconsin is playing right now. The Badgers are absolutely red hot and have been fantastic over the last month or so. Despite playing a rigorous slate, Wisconsin has won eight in a row and nine of the team’s last 10 games. And again, it’s not like Wisconsin is just racking up wins against bad teams. Eight of those victories came against teams ranked 40th or better on KenPom, including some on the road.
Wisconsin will now enter the Big Ten Tournament as a one seed and with a great opportunity to continue its momentum moving forward. On paper, the “top” half of the bracket looks significantly easier, which is where the Badgers landed.
The B1G tourney field is set. pic.twitter.com/pV0b4p0nxl— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) March 9, 2020
Fans will hope that can lead to some great results. The team will face either Michigan or Rutgers on Friday afternoon in Indianapolis and then would project to face Illinois on Saturday.
#2 - Michigan State Spartans (+2)
The Spartans also had a great week. Michigan State had two challenging games on the docket, but came out on top in both. The team went on the road and beat Penn State on Tuesday night and followed that up with a win over a red hot Ohio State team at home on Sunday afternoon. The wins gave the Spartans a share of this year’s Big Ten regular season title and sent star guard Cassius Winston out with another ring.
Like Wisconsin, I really can’t understate what Michigan State has accomplished over the last few weeks. The Spartans have won five in a row and six of the team’s last seven games. And most notably, five (!!!) of those wins came against top 30 opponents on KenPom, including wins over Illinois, Maryland, and Penn State on the road. There aren’t many teams out there with three road wins like that during an entire season and the Spartans accomplished that in a few weeks.
Michigan State will now enter the Big Ten Tournament as the 2nd seeded team and will open up play on Friday against either Ohio State or Purdue. With a win there, the Spartans would likely face Maryland on Friday. Michigan State would likely be favored in both games.
#3 - Maryland Terrapins (-2)
After the Terps knocked off Northwestern at home in mid-February, the Big Ten title not only looked likely, but it seemed like a near certainty. Maryland was in command of the league standings and had a relatively manageable slate moving forward. The team would have to win some games, of course, but everything was there for the taking.
Unfortunately for Maryland fans, things ended up being a lot more stressful than they might have hoped for after the team’s great start. The Terps lost three of the team’s next four games, while others around the league like Michigan State and Wisconsin hit their stride. As a result, Maryland entered last week with the Big Ten title on the line. The team would need to win one of its two final games to win at least a share of the conference crown.
And while things didn’t go as planned on Tuesday on the road against Rutgers, they did on Sunday at home against Michigan. The split left Maryland sitting 24-7 overall and 14-6 in Big Ten play. But more importantly, it earned the Terps the program’s first ever Big Ten regular season title. A huge accomplishment for Mark Turgeon and his squad.
Maryland will now enter the Big Ten Tournament as the three seed and will face Indiana, Nebraska, or Penn State in its opener on Friday. If the Terps win there, the team would likely face Michigan State on Saturday.
#4 - Ohio State Buckeyes (-1)
The Buckeyes had mixed results this week, beating Illinois at home on Thursday, but losing on the road against Michigan State on Sunday afternoon. The split left Ohio State sitting at 21-10 overall and 11-9 in Big Ten play. Ohio State has played like a top 10 team for significant portions of the season, but has also had some big missteps as well. It’s anyone’s guess as to which team is going to show up next week in Indy.
Thanks to the split, Ohio State will be the seven seed heading into this week’s Big Ten Tournament and will open up its postseason on Thursday against 10th seeded Purdue. Should the Buckeyes win that game, the team will then face off against Michigan State again on Friday. Maryland is the other higher seed on that side of the bracket. Simply put, it’s going to be a tall task to make it to Saturday and beyond.
#5 - Illinois Fighting Illini (+1)
The Illini entered last week with a fringe shot at the Big Ten title and more realistic shot at a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament. The former didn’t happen, but the latter did. Illinois lost on the road against Ohio State on Thursday, but followed it up with a nice win at home against a ranked Iowa squad. The team finished the regular season at 21-10 overall as a result.
As noted above, Illinois will get the coveted double-bye thanks to its victory over the Hawkeyes on Sunday and will enter the Big Ten Tournament as a four seed. Illinois will open things up on Friday by facing Iowa, Minnesota, or Northwestern. During the regular season, Illinois went 4-1 against those teams, so it seems likely the Illini can find a way to Saturday in this year’s conference tournament.
#6 - Iowa Hawkeyes (-1)
The Hawkeyes had a really tough week, losing at home against Purdue on Tuesday and on the road against Illinois on Saturday. The two losses dropped Iowa to 20-11 overall and to 11-9 in Big Ten play. Despite starting the season at 15-5 overall, the team went 5-6 over its final 11 games of the regular season. Not something you like to see from a squad hoping to make some noise in March.
But for better or worse, Iowa will now move on to the Big Ten Tournament. The Hawkeyes will enter as a five seed and will face the winner of the Minnesota and Northwestern game on Thursday afternoon. Should the team win, it will face off against Illinois again on Friday afternoon. Wisconsin is the other higher seeded team on Iowa’s side of the bracket. The good news is Iowa’s going to the NCAAs next week, regardless of what it does in Indy.
#7 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+2)
The Scarlet Knights had quite a week. After losing three straight games heading into last week, fans were starting to get restless. Rutgers seemed on the edge of securing an NCAA Tournament bid, but couldn’t get that last win to lock things up. Fortunately for fans, Rutgers upset Maryland at home on Tuesday and followed it up with a road win against Purdue on Saturday, removing any doubt about the team’s postseason hopes.
Rutgers will now enter the Big Ten Tournament as an eight seed and securely in the Big Dance. Everything from here on out is gravy. The Scarlet Knights will face Michigan for the third time this season on Thursday. Should Rutgers get the win, it will advance and play Wisconsin on Friday afternoon. Illinois is the other higher seeded team on Rutgers’ side of the bracket.
#8 - Michigan Wolverines (-1)
The Wolverines had a decent week, with a win at home against Nebraska on Thursday night and a loss to Maryland on the road on Sunday afternoon. The split left Michigan sitting at 19-12 overall and 10-10 in league play. Despite what seems like relatively underwhelming overall marks, Michigan remains in great shape to make the NCAAs thanks to a ridiculously tough schedule and some fantastic wins.
Michigan will now prepare to enter the Big Ten Tournament as a nine seed and will open up things on Thursday against Rutgers. It will be the third time the teams have faced off this season. Should Michigan get the win, it will advance and play Wisconsin on Friday afternoon. Illinois is the other higher seeded team on Michigan’s side of the bracket. Wolverine fans will be hoping Michigan can make its fourth straight trip to the Big Ten Tournament final this year.
#9 - Purdue Boilermakers (+1)
The Boilermakers had a decent week by most standards, but a tough one given the team’s desperate NCAA situation. Purdue went on the road and beat a ranked Iowa team on Tuesday night, but fell at home to Rutgers in overtime on Saturday. Purdue now sits at 16-15 overall and 9-11 in Big Ten play as a result.
This week figures to be a pressure filled one for Purdue fans. The team still has an outside shot at an NCAA at-large bid, but probably needs two more wins to even get in the discussion, and three more to feel any confidence. And given Purdue will enter the Big Ten Tournament as a 10 seed and face Ohio State on Thursday, that’s not going to be an easy task. After all, even if Purdue beats the Buckeyes, it then has to face off against Michigan State on Friday and likely Maryland on Saturday. Odds are, Purdue’s going to end up going to the NIT when all’s said and done. But we’ll have to wait and see.
#10 - Penn State Nittany Lions (-2)
The Nittany Lions had a particularly tough week, losing at home to Michigan State on Tuesday and on the road against a struggling Northwestern squad on Saturday. The losses dropped Penn State to 21-10 overall and 11-9 in Big Ten play. Penn State is an underwhelming 1-5 over its last six games heading into the postseason.
This week, Penn State will head to the Big Ten Tournament and hope to get things turned around as the six seed in the field. The Nittany Lions will open up things on Thursday against the winner of the Indiana and Nebraska game. A win there and the team will move on to face Maryland on Friday. Michigan State is the other higher seeded team on Penn State’s side of the bracket.
#11 - Indiana Hoosiers (--)
The Hoosiers also had a mixed week, beating Minnesota at home on Wednesday and falling to Wisconsin at home on Saturday. The split left Indiana sitting at 19-12 overall and 9-11 in Big Ten play. Indiana is widely viewed as a team squarely on the NCAA bubble heading into the Big Ten Tournament. It’s likely going to take at least one win to feel good about the team’s hopes of making the Big Dance.
Fortunately for Hoosier fans, getting at least one win seems like a reasonable task. Due to the team’s underwhelming conference record, Indiana will enter Indy as the 11th seeded team and will face Nebraska on Wednesday evening. Indiana should be a solid favorite in that game. The Hoosiers would then face Penn State on Thursday with a win and Maryland on Friday if Indiana beat the Nittany Lions.
#12 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (--)
The Gophers went 1-1 in the team’s games this week, falling on the road against Indiana on Wednesday and beating Nebraska at home on Sunday. Minnesota will now enter the postseason with a 14-16 overall record.
The Gophers will open up things on Wednesday in the Big Ten Tournament against Northwestern in the early game. Should Minnesota win, it will move on to face Iowa on Thursday. A win there and the team would then face Illinois on Friday. Wisconsin is the other highest seeded team on Minnesota’s side of the bracket. Minnesota would likely need to make it to Friday to even have a shot at an NIT bid.
#13 - Northwestern Wildcats (--)
The Wildcats had solid week of play. Northwestern fell on the road against Wisconsin on Wednesday, but rebounded with a huge upset over Penn State at home on Saturday. It was the team’s first win over somebody other than Nebraska in Big Ten play and the team’s only win over a top 40 team so far this season.
Northwestern will now prepare to enter the Big Ten Tournament as the 13th seed and will face Minnesota on Wednesday. Should Northwestern win, it will move on to face Iowa on Thursday. A win there and the team would face Illinois on Friday. Wisconsin is the other highest seeded team on Northwestern’s side of the bracket. Northwestern’s only hope at extending its season beyond next week would be winning the Big Ten Tournament.
#14 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (--)
The Huskers had a rough week, getting blown out on the road against Michigan on Thursday and on the road against Minnesota on Sunday. The two losses dropped Nebraska to 7-24 overall. Nebraska will hope to get back on track next week in the Big Ten Tournament. The Huskers will open up things against Indiana on Wednesday. With a win, Indiana would then face Penn State on Thursday with a win and Maryland on Friday if Nebraska beat the Nittany Lions.