Big Ten Standings
Last week's game of the week
Thursday, January 29: Ohio State 80, Maryland 56
Those two wins over the Buckeyes look a whole lot better nowadays, don't they? Ohio State firmly reinserted itself into the NCAA tourney talk by beating the living daylights out of Maryland, moving to 17-5 (6-3) in the process. D'Angelo Russell isn't just making his case for Big Ten Freshman of the Year, he's the only one making a charge at Frank Kaminsky for B1G Player of the Year. Sorry, Melo Trimble (who is still very good!), but perhaps the inside track on the B1G POY trophy next season will be a nice consolation prize for Trimble.
Via Jerry Palm of CBS Sports...
(7) Ohio State
(11) Michigan State
No Big Ten teams on either edge of the bubble from Palm this week, though MSU's status remains tenuous. Hard to think of another B1G team that could have a gripe about being left out; Purdue's still hampered by some bad, bad non-con losses, and Illinois needs to put together a run in B1G play before we even entertain that idea.
Michigan State 76, Michigan 66 (OT)
Michigan's without Caris Levert for the year and Derrick Walton's not coming back any time soon, but the Wolverines put together a gritty, skin-of-their-teeth performance to hang with Sparty in East Lansing. Didn't matter. The Spartans shut Michigan out in OT and took home a win that (while not a huge resume builder) the team can build on for the rest of the year. When you take an opponent's best shot and win anyway? Nice validation for what your program does and stands for.
Purdue 83, Indiana 67
Indiana was a legitimate contender to the Big Ten throne just one week ago. Now? Let's, uh... can we delete me saying any of that? It's only fair. Indiana's still "in," but its defensive shortcomings are on stark display. The Hoosiers won't be on the wrong side of the bubble unless the next few weeks go wholly sideways, but
Purdue: vs. Ohio State, at Minnesota
If this Boilermaker upswing is real, they've got to prove it this week with two tough challenges. Ohio State has righted the ship and is 6-1 against Big Ten teams who are not Iowa (heh), and Minnesota is awfully dangerous, even at 3-7. Purdue has to win at least one of these games to even maintain its stature, and two wins gets the Boilermakers right onto the bubble. Go 0-2, though, and it'll take some further convincing to even get the NIT's doors open.
Less Important Things
Nebraska: vs. Northwestern, at Penn State
This is basically it for Tim Miles' guys; a pair of Ws here and the Huskers are back on the right side of .500 and still having postseason discussions. And any tourney-quality team would pick these two wins up. Apres ça, la deluge, though, as the easiest game left on Nebraska's schedule after this week is probably a visit from Iowa. Yeah. If Nebraska looks good this week, hurrah, but come March it won't mean much.
Movin' on up!
Two weeks ago, Purdue was effectively DOA on the bubble, and a loss at Illinois on January 21 did nothing to change that trajectory. Since then, the Boilermakers have ripped off three straight wins, including the aforementioned win over Indiana and a road win at Northwestern in the past week, and Purdue's mix of size and athleticism will continue to confound B1G opponents for the foreseeable future. Purdue's still not in the bracket mix, but if the wins keep piling up Purdue's stock will rise accordingly.
Movin' on out!
Nebraska's grasp on the bubble was always tenuous at best, but after the Huskers beat Michigan State last week, Nebraska was sitting at a relatively comfortable 4-3 in B1G play with an opportunity to establish itself against better opponents with two road tests at Michigan and Minnesota. Classic opportunity for Best Coach In The World (if you ask Nebraska) Tim Miles to make his charge, no? But lord, lord, lord, the Huskers were a wreck this week, losing both games by double digits and failing to crack even 45 points (or 0.80 ppp) in the process. Nebraska's Big Ten record now sits at 4-5 with a horrifically back-ended schedule awaiting, its KenPom ranking has freefallen well out of the top 100, and its NIT status is effectively DOA. But hey, Miles still tweets at halftime.
This week's game of the week
Sunday, 2:15 p.m., BTN: Maryland at Iowa
Maryland's got some work to do to stay ahead of the rather large pack gunning for second place in the Big Ten, and this is the type of game that can separate the Terps from that pack. Iowa's bigs are its strength, but Maryland's plenty long across the board as well, and it's been the teams with potent guard scoring (OSU, Indiana, Illinois) that have given the Terps fits in B1G play. So Iowa's in for a serious challenge here, but the spoils are vast; getting a win against the toughest opponent left on the regular season schedule shifts Iowa's trajectory way up, and it looks mighty nice to the committee. It's going to take a better effort than what Iowa put forth against Wisconsin, though, and another one of the familiar second-half swoons would probably be too much to overcome. Let's see if Iowa's up to it.