Big Ten Standings
Last week's game of the week
Maryland 59, Wisconsin 53
Wisconsin's almost certainly going to win the Big Ten, thanks to its victory Sunday over Michigan State, but it's still not a sure thing thanks to this victory by the Terps. Dez Wells was a force of nature, dropping 26 points and getting to the bucket at will, and Melo Trimble chipped in 16. The next Big Ten win clinches the conference title for the Badgers, but even if Maryland ends up a 2 seed it's been a wholly welcome addition to the Big Ten.
We'll use four sources here: Joe Lunardi at ESPN.com, Jerry Palm at CBSSports.com, Brad Evans at Yahoo Sports and Chris Dobbertean at BloggingTheBracket.com. We'll order the teams by average seed, then listed the individual seeds by prognosticator in that above order.
Wisconsin: 2.0 (2/2/2/2)
Maryland: 3.0 (3/3/3/3)
Ohio State: 7.5 (7/8/7/8)
Indiana: 8.0 (10/7/8/7)
Michigan State: 8.25 (7/8/8/10)
Iowa: 8.25 (8/7/10/8)
Purdue: 10.25 (11*/10/9/11)
Illinois: Not Great Bob (OUT/11/OUT/11*)
There's three distinct tiers—four if you want to separate Wisconsin and Maryland, which I guess is fair. After those two is an absolute mess of 8-9 fodder from the B1G, and none of those four teams are projected outside of the 7-to-10 seed window. We finish with Purdue and Illinois, who should be very nervous right about now, and who will probably Thunderdome each other in their regular season finale on Saturday.
There's still a lot of jostling to be done before Selection Sunday; next week features five (!!!) games between teams on this list, and only Maryland avoids the rest of the pack. And then there's, y'know, the Big Ten Tournament. That said, we're just about 30 games into the season, and most (if not all) of these teams have three or four games left. So what you're seeing here, barring a truly torrid March, is more or less what you'll get when it's seeding time.
Ohio State 65, Purdue 61
The Buckeyes looked lifeless in the first half and like a team whose flaws—youth, post presence, depth—outweighed its outstanding athleticism and shotmaking ability. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, that did not persist, and the Columbus faithful willed the Buckeyes to a second-half comeback as super freshman D'Angelo Russell caught fire down the stretch. Purdue struggles with efficiency, especially in its backcourt, and that struggle was laid bare as Ohio State mounted its comeback and eventually solidified its win—and its place in the tournament.
Northwestern 72, Indiana 65
Yes, Northwestern was riding a hot streak and beating some quality foes, but this is also the same Northwestern that got absolutely worked by Illinois later in the week (and, y'know, lost 10 straight Big Ten games earlier in the season). Indiana's tourney resume is strong enough that this isn't knocking the Hoosiers out, but now they'll have some work to do in order to avoid an 8-9 game.
Wisconsin: at Minnesota, at Ohio State
This'll probably be a coronation for the Badgers, who need only one win (or a Maryland loss) to claim their Big Ten throne. More than that, it's an opportunity to make one last push for a 1-seed, and considering Kentucky's likely lurking at the other end of the region (it's a matter of geography and seeding) if Wisconsin's a 2-seed, the difference between 1 and 2 is enormous for the Badgers. They get longtime rival Minnesota, but it's in the Barn where the Gophers have been an awfully difficult opponent. After that, it's a trip to Value City Arena to face OSU, and Wisconsin has only won in Columbus twice since 2005. If Wisconsin's reclaiming its spot among the truly elite of college basketball this year, this is the crucial week for doing it.
Less Important Things
Maryland: at Rutgers, at Nebraska
Maryland looks safe as a 3-seed, and road or no, these are games 3-seeds win. It's almost a bummer for the Terrapins to finish the regular season on a note like this; yeah, two more wins are nice, but they don't bolster the resume in any meaningful way, and if the Terps trip up they're probably dropping to a 4.
Movin' on up!
We'll give a nod to Iowa here for effectively erasing any bubble talk with four straight wins in conference play and sewing up the team's best Big Ten record since [REDACTED] was on the sidelines. No, the competition wasn't great, but this was a situation where a good, tourney-quality team takes care of business and Iowa did just that.
Tuesday's game at Indiana should be a great barometer for the Hawkeyes' tourney readiness: Assembly Hall will be rocking, and putative tourney team Indiana will be a slight favorite—but only slight. If Iowa so much as holds its own and doesn't get run out of the building, it'll be ready for what the first round of the NCAA tourney holds in store. And lord, if the Hawkeyes win it, they just might sneak out of 8-9 territory.
Movin' on out!
A week ago, Michigan State was comfortably in the tourney picture and free to focus on locking up the top-four double-bye spot in the Big Ten standings. Sparty has since dropped two straight games, including a bizarre home loss to Minnesota, and this week's slate of Purdue and Indiana is no gimme. One win probably gets Michigan State in, but this is still a situation where MSU's tourney status is up in the air in March.
This week's game of the week
Sunday, 3:30 p.m., ESPN: Wisconsin at Ohio State
Ohio State would love to put an exclamation point on its tourney resume with the prototypical "signature win," and if Wisconsin already has its regular season championship locked up beforehand (the next Wisconsin win or Maryland loss does it), perhaps the Badgers don't give the game their usual superlative effort. Perhaps. Or, as mentioned above, perhaps the allure of a 1-seed elicits the Badgers' best ball yet. Either way, there's plenty at stake for at least one (and probably both) of these teams as we celebrate the last day of the regular season with a great, great matchup.