Big Ten Standings
Last week's game of the week
Purdue 67, Indiana 63 at Assembly Hall, Bloomington, IN
Purdue's Big Ten record has been a bit of a surprise over the last couple months, but the knock on the Boilermakers was always "well, where are the resume wins?" This was a big one. Indiana's been on the periphery of the the Top 25 all year, to say nothing of trying to outpace Purdue for a higher B1G seed, so Purdue needed this win if it was going to be taken seriously as a tourney contender.
Iowa fans should take special heed to where Purdue did the most damage: on the interior. Centers AJ Hammonds and Isaac Haas combined for 32 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks and two steals in just 40 minutes of play; the two were 11-17 from the field (including an astonishing 8-9 for Hammonds) and 10-11 from the line. Why, if only Iowa had a pair of big men that could overwhelm Indiana's diminutive front line!
Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm both have updated brackets out today, so we'll list each seed by the team from here on out.
ESPN's seeds come first, because Worldwide Leader and all.
Wisconsin: (2, 2)
Indiana: (8, 7)
Michigan State: (7, 9)
Ohio State: (8, 8)
Iowa: (10, 8)
Purdue: (11, 11)
Illinois: (11*, 10)
* = Play-In Game
There's a whole lot of bubble nervousness going on there, right? It's late February and the Big Ten has... two locks. Two. Obviously the B1G will welcome more than two teams into the tournament, but a lock is a team that can lose the rest of its games and still get in. There's an absolute wrench fight going on in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten, and it's not clear that everyone's going to survive it. Purdue in particular has no easy games left, Iowa might see its trip to Indiana next week turn into a referendum on its season (for better or worse), and Michigan State's easiest remaining foe is a still-dangerous Minnesota squad. There's a lot of flux here.
Michigan State 60, Illinois 53
Sparty went into a hostile environment and survived a late charge by the Illini to pick up a badly needed road victory against a quality opponent. This one was virtually 50-50 on KenPom coming into the game, and Michigan State's penchant for missed free throws loomed, just waiting to unravel another late lead. Instead, MSU hit 17 of 20 FTs in Champaign, never letting Illinois closer than three points late (although a silly turnover gave Kendrick Nunn a shot to tie in the last minute; he obviously missed). There's really no such thing as a "must-win" in February, but this was a greatly beneficial win for Michigan State, who still somehow finds itself tied for second in the B1G despite a tense, error-filled last few weeks.
Michigan 64, Ohio State 57
Ohio State got blitzed early and often by John Beilein's guys, who led by as many as 18 in the first half and 17 with just under 13 minutes left to play. A 14-0 Buckeye run got this game back to respectability, but Ohio State couldn't sustain the pressure and Michigan closed out the win in front of a delirious Crisler Center crowd. For OSU, this one hurts; Michigan's been getting hamblasted left and right and there's no question who the better team is on paper. The loss doesn't take OSU out of any tourney projections, but it does bring some unwanted uncertainty into the proceedings.
Wisconsin: at Maryland, vs. Michigan State
Finally, something resembling a challenge for Bucky! Wisconsin's schedule is insanely backloaded (I haven't looked at everyone else, but you'll probably see them here next week too) and if anyone's going to keep something insane like "Wisconsin goes 17-1 with the only loss being to last-place Rutgers" from happening, it's probably one of these two squads. Maryland's got the firepower to keep pace with Wisconsin and the gumption to not get rattled by a spree of early Badger buckets. Michigan State is, well, Michigan State, because Tom Izzo is Tom Izzo. These two opponents almost certainly won't catch Wisconsin in the standings (it's a three-game deficit with four games to play) but if Wisconsin drops both, all of a sudden things get terribly interesting. Alternatively, if Wisconsin sweeps here, Bo Ryan's absolutely free to question what more his guys need to do to earn a 1-seed from the NCAA committee.
Less Important Things
Ohio State: vs. Nebraska, vs. Purdue
Hosting Nebraska is essentially a guaranteed win; the Huskers are 0-7 on the road in Big Ten play, and last week's loss at Maryland was the first time Nebraska even kept things within single digits. Purdue is a tougher challenge, to be sure, but this one's at Columbus as well and OSU has been a beast at Value City; only Iowa (haaaaa) has won there this year.
Movin' on up!
Purdue's been on the wrong side of the bubble for most of the year, but damn it if the Boilermakers aren't tied for second in the Big Ten and two games ahead of Indiana, OSU and Iowa in the loss column. Things get brutal down the stretch but taking even one win out of the [@OSU, @MSU, vs. Illinois] finish to the season should be enough to keep Purdue's boat afloat.
Movin' on out!
As mentioned earlier, Ohio State's perch is a little more perilous now than the Buckeye faithful would like; OSU's an eight-seed in most major projections and probably won't get out of that 7-to-10 seed range that usually means instant death in the second round unless it beats Wisconsin in Columbus to end the season. That's possible—plausible even—but barring a gigantic B1G tourney run, it's just about the Buckeyes' only way to avoid being shark chum on the first weekend of the tournament.
This week's game of the week
Tuesday, 6:00 p.m., ESPN: Wisconsin at Maryland
As if it could be anything else. We're awfully close to Game of the Year status here, although these titles aren't generally to be given out before the game itself actually happens. Wisconsin can all but wrap up a conference title by winning in College Park, while Maryland can start lobbying for a 2-seed in the tourney with a victory here. A loss wouldn't be particularly damaging to either team, so there's no reason for anybody to play scared here; it's just time to unleash some fireworks and put on a show.