Big Ten Standings
Last week's game of the week
Indiana 89, Maryland 70
Indiana took a tack hammer to the notion that Maryland is Wisconsin's equal in the Big Ten race, and instead posited a new idea: the Terps aren't even on Indiana's. The Hoosiers scored an absurd 1.39 points per possession in the win, including 51 points after the half to blow the game open. Yogi Ferrell won't hit 7-of-8 threes every single game, of course—that would be either a record or horrible cheating—and it's fair to assume Indiana's 15-for-22 performance from behind the arc was itself an anomaly. But make no mistake; these guys can shoot the lights out (Indiana makes 41% of its threes, including a B1G-leading 39.6% in conference play) and if the Hoosier defense is even adequate, Indiana's in good shape.
As before, we're going off Jerry Palm's Monday Bracketology and shunning Joe Lunardi's Thursday entries.
(11) Michigan State (PLAY-IN)
(12) Ohio State (PLAY-IN)
There's a pretty big gap halfway between the Big Ten's six entrants, suggesting distinct tiers, but the bottom three teams all face only three fellow more tournament teams between now and the end of the regular season, while Wisconsin and Maryland both have four and Indiana has five on their schedules. So don't be surprised if this gap softens considerably by six weeks from now.
Nebraska 79, Michigan State 77
Don't look now, but Nebraska's 4-3 in Big Ten play once again after being left for dead thanks to a miserable non-conference performance. The Huskers had to weather a massive attack by the Spartan offense down the stretch, but they came away with the solid home win and now can at least reset their sights on better goals than, like, the CBI. The euphoria probably won't last, though; Nebraska's schedule is brutal down the stretch and finishing at .500 or better is still hardly a guarantee, even as the Huskers currently sit at 12-7 with 11 regular-season games left on the docket. But hey—Tim Miles can coach, and his guys are getting healthier. Maybe there's another surge left in Nebraska.
Wisconsin 82, Iowa 50
It would be ridiculous to think Iowa was going to roll up to Madison and win, especially with Frank Kaminsky healthy. But good lord, Iowa didn't look like it belonged on the same court as the Badgers. It was just one game, yes, absolutely, and the Hawkeyes looked at least competent at Purdue later in the week. But as single-game performances from last week go, it didn't get worse than what Iowa put forth.
Iowa: vs. Wisconsin
It's a pretty light week for Big Ten play, all things considered, so we'll go for Iowa's shot at redemption on Saturday here. This would still be an upset, of course, and if Iowa drops it that's okay. The spoils of a Hawkeye win are just so high that this is a game the entire Big Ten should be keeping an eye on. Aaron White's status is obviously worth keeping an eye on, but with the week to rest and indications being that he only ("only") suffered a stinger, it's fair to assume he's going against Wisconsin until further notice. If Iowa wins this game (30% chance, according to KenPom) its tourney status rockets up, and the Big Ten opens right back up. Wisconsin comes out on top, and... well, not a whole lot changes for Iowa, right? A Badger win here is what's supposed to happen, after all.
Less Important Things
Michigan State: at Rutgers, vs. Michigan
Rutgers probably won't be pulling two massive home upsets in quick succession this year, on account of Rutgers is terrible, and Michigan is playing on fumes and heart without Caris Levert. Well, that's honorable of the Wolverines, but both teams are the type that Tom Izzo usually picks his teeth with as the season progresses.
Movin' on up!
Disregard the decisive loss to Ohio State—the Buckeyes were long past due for one of those—Indiana is a legit member of the Top 25 until further notice, and while we don't think the Hoosiers can make a serious run at the Badgers, boy, that 2-seed's pretty ripe for the taking, isn't it?
Movin' on out!
Michigan State has suffered from the same problems as Ohio State for most of the season—the talent's there, so is the coaching, so is the respect from KenPom—but bracket position is all about the wins, the wins, the wins, and MSU's loss at Nebraska only reinforced some damaging assumptions about this team's ability to win big games. Yes, the 20-point win over Indiana sure looks a lot better, but the lone roadie (um, at Iowa) has lost its luster, and the next opportunity for another road win over a tournament team won't come until March, when trips to Wisconsin and Indiana loom. I continue to not believe Sparty could miss the tournament, but I also get why Palm and others are unimpressed.
This week's game of the week
Thursday, January 29: Maryland at Ohio State
Ohio State's either going to have to progress toward the mean in terms of its resume matching its level of play, or we're going to have to reset that OSU benchmark substantially lower. Maryland's a quality opponent, and its guards are going to give the Buckeye backcourt its biggest challenge since the UNC game in December, if not the entire season. Maryland could stand to bounce back after the thumping Indiana gave it, to say nothing of the outright escape act it had to pull at Northwestern on Sunday. Melo Trimble vs. DeAngelo Russell is going to be a sublimely entertaining matchup, and whichever team gets more from its dynamic guard will probably come home with a W on Thursday night.