Later, Tom Crean threatened to blow up the moon unless he was paid a ransom of one... MILLION dollars. - USA TODAY Sports
Who's here? Hoosiers, that's who!
Time for another hoops power rankings update. The good news: we're nearing the halfway point of the conference season and I think things are starting to settle down and teams are beginning to find their appropriate slots in the B1G pecking order. The bad news: there's still a lot of upheaval in these power rankings compared to last week (including the third-straight week I've changed the team at the top of the rankings). Let's just call it course correction. (As always, the full rankings are available at The B1G Time.)
1) INDIANA (18-2 overall, 6-1 B1G) (LAST WEEK: 3rd)
LAST WEEK: W, 72-49 vs. Penn State; W, 75-70 vs. Michigan State
THIS WEEK: Wednesday at Purdue; Saturday vs. Michigan
Indiana can thank that impressive win over Michigan State on Sunday for their move into the top spot on these rankings. At the moment, that looks like one of the very best wins of the season for anyone in B1G play. Indiana also demolished Penn State last week (despite a 2-point day from Cody Zeller), but they don't really get any points for that. Their stay at the top could be short-lived, though, if they can't defend their homecourt against Michigan on Saturday night.
2) MICHIGAN (19-1, 6-1) (LAST WEEK: 1st)
LAST WEEK: W, 68-53 vs. Purdue; W, 74-60 at Illinois
THIS WEEK: Wednesday vs. Northwestern; Saturday at Indiana
Why did Michigan drop out of the #1 spot? It wasn't for anything that they did -- they won both of their games last week by 14-15 points and looked the part of an impressive, dominant team. Unfortunately, at the moment their B1G resume is a little weak. Their best win was a road win over Minnesota, but that's lost some luster since Minnesota dropped two games last week (including a rather dubious stumble at Northwestern). Given Minnesota's struggles in league play, Michigan's best win at the moment might be... Purdue. Still, they'll have plenty of opportunities to boost their standing here -- they still have two games apiece with Indiana and Michigan State and another game each with Ohio State and Wisconsin.
3) MICHIGAN STATE (17-4, 6-2) (LAST WEEK: 4th)
LAST WEEK: W, 49-47 at Wisconsin; L, 75-70 at Indiana
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Illinois
Sparty was a few plays away from going 2-0 in their pair of tough road games last week (at Wisconsin, at Indiana)... but they were also a few plays away from going 0-2 in those games. A 1-1 result was probably a fair result, then. This week should be a good chance for them to regroup and get ready for the second half of league play -- their only game on the slate is a home date with Illinois.
4) OHIO STATE (15-4, 5-2) (LAST WEEK: 5th)
LAST WEEK: W, 72-63 vs. Iowa; W, 65-51 at Penn State
THIS WEEK: Tuesday vs. Wisconsin; Saturday at Nebraska
OSU rebounded from their narrow loss to Sparty ten days ago with a pair of wins over teams currently hanging out near the bottom of the league standings (one of them, Penn State, is unlikely to move from there; hopefully the other one channels the spirit of George Jefferson and does a little movin' on up). OSU tried to blow the game against Iowa, but they built a big enough lead (and Iowa decided to shoot free throws so abysmally) that they hung on for the win. A win over Penn State is... a win over Penn State. At this point, the goal of every Big Ten team is probably to not be the one team that loses to Penn State. There's a big game between two of the Big Ten's best "second tier" teams tonight (OSU v. Wisconsin) and then the Buckeyes get to face the peril of a trip to the home of Nebrasketball on Saturday.
5) WISCONSIN (14-6, 5-2) (LAST WEEK: 2nd)
LAST WEEK: L, 49-47 vs. Michigan State; W, 45-44 vs. Minnesota
THIS WEEK: Tuesday at Ohio State; Sunday at Illinois
Two games where neither team cracked 50 points. Bo Ryan might still have an erection after last week's epic display of Badgerball. When they weren't laying waste to the aesthetics of the game, Wisconsin was, well, winning... and almost-winning. Wisconsin nearly beat Michigan State despite shooting just 30% from the field and 39% from the free throw line (7/18); they did beat Minnesota despite shooting just 37% from the field and 50% from the line (4/8). No, I don't want know how they did it. Let's just move on. Looking at these box scores is making me ill.
6) PURDUE (11-9, 4-3) (LAST WEEK: 8th)
LAST WEEK: L, 68-53 at Michigan; W, 65-62 (OT) vs. Iowa
THIS WEEK: Wednesday vs. Indiana; Saturday at Northwestern
Purdue nearly went 0-2 after blowing an 11-point second half lead at home against Iowa, but they were better than Iowa in the final minute of regulation and overtime, giving them a split for the week and keeping their league record above .500. Purdue's off to a better start in league play than might have been expected from their 7-6 non-conference record, but that also has something to do with scheduling: those four wins have come against Penn State (terrible), Nebraska (less terrible, but still bad), Iowa (bottom half of the B1G), and Illinois (underwhelming). They've also been drilled by Michigan State and Michigan and lost by 10 to Ohio State. That 7-6 non-conference record is going to make it hard for them to get to the postseason (though Iowa did sneak into the NIT with a .500-ish record last year, so you never know), but Wednesday offers a chance at a big, big win over in-state rivals Indiana. That upset alone might make their season, postseason be damned. (If they could get it. Which they probably won't. But still.) Saturday's game at jNW is vital if OMHR wants to continue keeping their heads above water in the league.
7) NORTHWESTERN (12-9, 3-5) (LAST WEEK: 9th)
LAST WEEK: W, 55-48 vs. Minnesota; L, 64-49 at Nebraska
THIS WEEK: Wednesday at Michigan; Saturday vs. Purdue
Speak of the devil... our favorite purple-clad friends started generating a little dark (dark dark) horse NCAA chatter after knocking off Minnesota last week. That ended after they got pasted by 15 at the epicenter of Nebrasketball. WELP. This week brings a road trip to Ann Arbor (#Pray4jNW) and a home date with Purdue that's big for those teams vying to be in that 6-8 range in the B1G.
8) MINNESOTA (15-5, 3-4) (LAST WEEK: 6th)
LAST WEEK: L, 55-48 at Northwestern; L, 45-44 at Wisconsin
THIS WEEK: Tuesday vs. Nebraska; Sunday vs. Iowa
What the hell, Minnesota? What. The. Hell. I gave you a pass for losing to Indiana and Michigan. But losing to Northwestern on that Grimace court? Iowa won by 20 there! Iowa! And trust me, we have issues. Minnesota's failboat kept on swimming down the river toward NITopia on Saturday with a last-second loss to Wisconsin in a game so ugly it should have been
taken out back and shot sent to a farm upstate to run around and play. (How ugly was that game? Only two starters for either team shot 50% or better-- Trevor Mbakwe (3/6) and Traeveon Jackson (4/7) -- and only four players total shot better than 50%. Gah.) This week is the proverbial "make it or break it" week for the Gophers: a pair of home games against Nebraska and Iowa is the definition of "must-sweep."
9) ILLINOIS (15-6, 2-6) (LAST WEEK: 10th)
LAST WEEK: W, 71-51 at Nebraska; L, 74-60 at Michigan
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Michigan State; Sunday vs. Wisconsin
On the plus side, Illinois did pick up the biggest win of any Big Ten team at Lincoln this year. On the minus side, it's still just a win over Nebraska and they got trounced by Michigan in their other game last week. This week looks rough for Illinois, too, with a road trip to East Lansing and a home game with Wisconsin on deck. They could really use a split to keep from sinking into the utter dross of the Big Ten.
10) IOWA (13-7, 2-5) (LAST WEEK: 7th)
LAST WEEK: L, 72-63 at Ohio State; L, 65-62 (OT) at Purdue
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Penn State; Sunday at Minnesota
Iowa might be leading the league in "almost got 'em"s this year, but that doesn't really do much for them in the standings (or in the quest for postseason basketball). Purdue was a winnable road game (especially after Iowa stormed back to take a 3-point lead late), but they fell apart down the stretch and in overtime. Late-game free-throw shooting was been a particular bugaboo; if Iowa can't get that fixed, it's going to be hard for them to win any close games this year. On the bright side, this week does offer some bounce-back potential for Iowa: there's a very winnable home game with Penn State followed by a road game against a reeling Minnesota team. There should be more than a hint of desperation in the air for that game, with both teams looking to turn their seasons around.
11) NEBRASKA (11-10, 2-6) (LAST WEEK: 11th)
LAST WEEK: L, 71-51 vs. Illinois; W, 64-49 vs. Northwestern
THIS WEEK: Tuesday at Minnesota; Saturday at Ohio State
Another week, another win? Whoa, slow down, Nebrasketball! This is getting dizzying! Nebraska had a pair of home games against the Big Ten's contingent from the Land of Lincoln; Illinois blitzed them by 20, but Nebraska picked up its second conference win of the season in a 15-point win over Northwestern. Hell, if they keep this up they might be able to escape the 11-spot in these rankings, a feat I would have thought impossible a few weeks ago.
12) PENN STATE (8-12, 0-8) (LAST WEEK: 12th)
LAST WEEK: L, 72-49 at Indiana; L, 65-51 vs. Ohio State
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Iowa
You know, if the Big Ten used cumulative scoring for anything, Penn State could argue that they outscored Wisconsin last week (100 to 92). So they've got that going for them. Beyond that... uh... I got nothin'. Penn State is still on pace to be the first team to go 0-18 in Big Ten play. (I can't find the last team to go winless in conference games before the league expanded to an 18-game conference schedule, either.) A part of me still thinks they'll trip up someone and get a win (please not Iowa, please not Iowa, please not Iowa), but it's hard to objectively to find a win on their remaining schedule. Chin up, PSU bros. At least you've got grappleball.