Let's start off with the standings (via KenPom) and go from there.
Goodness. Okay. Now that that's out of the way, here's where we're at.
Last week's game of the week
North Carolina 82, Ohio State 74
The Buckeyes' last chance to prove their worth before heading into the Big Ten slate was a fine one: UNC, earlier losers to Iowa, on an effectively neutral court in Chicago. Instead, OSU was utterly exposed on the interior as the Tar Heels controlled the game; the final margin doesn't indicate the dominance UNC exerted throughout the contest. We're not exactly pegging OSU to the NIT after this one—it's just one game—but man, the best team the Buckeyes beat outside the Big Ten was a super mediocre Marquette. That will hurt in March.
Maryland 73, Oklahoma State 64
If you had any doubts whether Maryland is a net benefit to the Big Ten basketball scene, Mark Turgeon's trip to Stillwater to knock off the Cowboys firmly established the Terps as a serious NCAA contender. The Terrapins also beat Iowa State in Kansas City, so if you're looking for a best non-conference resume from the Big Ten, you just might have to look to College Park out there in Maryland.
Texas Southern 71, Michigan State 64 (OT)
We can grouse about Iowa laying yet another egg against UNI, but among the myriad mystifying B1G upsets, Texas Southern over Michigan State at the Breslin might be the worst conference loss of the year—and there are plenty of candidates. The Texas Southern, uh... no, I know their nickname, it's the, uh... shhh, let me get this... the... the Snakes? Gorillas? Macaronis and Cheese? No, I guess it wouldn't be that. Oh god, they're just the Tigers. Anyway, the Tigers (BORING YOU SHOULD BE THE SNAKES) waltzed into the Breslin Center at 1-8 and promptly took the Spartans to OT, then dominated them there as MSU's inability to find a go-to scorer was exposed down the stretch. Branden Dawson's wrist injury hurts Michigan State, to be sure, but... we're talking about a team that just lost by 40 to Gonzaga. This loss is brutal.
The one team that doesn't need any help reinforcing its NCAA bona fides is Wisconsin, and yet the Badgers have the best shot at a sexy win this week by visiting a surprisingly dangerous California Golden Bears team tonight. This is essentially a 1-seed vs. 8/9-seed tourney game, but in a hostile environment, and y'know... 1-seeds don't always win those games. If the Badgers can bring the ruckus in Berkeley, though, they'll start laying the foundation of a more ironclad 1-seed case.
Less Important Things
Minnesota Golden Gophers: vs. Furman, vs. UNC-Wilmington
In a Big Ten that's been fraught with wholly objectionable non-con losses, a steady diet of wins like what Minnesota offers is awfully enticing. But really, Minnesota keeps loading up the Ws against cupcakes. If you think better of the Gophers than you did a week ago after even more cupcakes, you're probably not doing this right.
Movin' on up!
Maryland firmly established its place in the NCAA Tournament conversation by notching that win over OSU in Stillwater (a capital-G Great win) and can add to the legend by dispatching mid-major stalwart Oakland and coasting into the Big Ten slate at 11-1 with one game left (so c'mon, 12-1).
Movin' on out!
Lord, we're pessimistic about Iowa around here after the ISU and UNI games, but those are two awfully talented teams the Hawkeyes lost to. No, the team in real freefall is Michigan, who had been in the Top 20 of the KenPom rankings as recently as the eve of the NJIT disaster and now finds itself at No. 75 in those same rankings. The RPI situation is even worse, with Michigan sitting at No. 127... right behind Purdue and Rutgers. Looks like they're making a Beilein right to the CBI!
This week's game of the week
Saturday: Indiana vs. Georgetown at Madison Square Garden, New York
Indiana's been something of an enigma under Tom Crean (remember being blown away by that hire?) and this team's no different, holding wins over SMU, Butler and Pitt in non-con play but losing to Louisville by 20 (fine) and Eastern Washington at Assembly Hall (NOT FINE). The Hoosiers get Georgetown in the Big Apple to finish off the non-conference slate, and for a team that's right on Joe Lunardi's cusp and firmly in the gray area of KenPom rankings for at-large teams at No. 43, a neutral-site win here would be massive. This should be a relatively high-scoring affair, as both defenses are somewhat lacking, and with serious tourney resume credibility at stake this should be one hell of a fight.