This is March. There is no time for for silly introductions. To the rankings...
Wildcats (13-19, 4-16)
Cornhuskers (18-16, 6-14)
Fighting Illini (12-21, 7-13)
Scarlet Knights (14-17, 7-13)
T-14: Penn State
Nittany Lions (14-18, 7-13)
Hoosiers (17-15, 8-12)
Y’all are dead to me. There is no path to The National Championship for you. Well, maybe A national championship, but not the big one. I’m taking away the first part of your nickname until the beginning of next season.
8. Iowa Hawkeyes (22-11, 10-10)
Next up: Cincinnati Bearcats - AAC Tournament Champions (28-6, 14-4)
Iowa enters the tournament about as cold as any team in the whole country. They’ll need to turn it around, fast. If they play like they did against Illinois, they can probably stick with anyone in the country. The problem is not every team is Illinois.
Threat level: At least the women’s team comes on at 1:00 CDT if the game is a blowout
7. Ohio State Buckeyes (19-14, 8-12)
Next up: Iowa State Cyclones - Big XII Tournament Champions (23-11, 9-9)
Kaleb Wesson is going to need to stay out of foul trouble if OSU hopes to beat the Cyclones. They’ve lost 7 of their last 10 games but their win over Iowa couple weeks ago slides them ahead in the power rankings.
An aside... I remember exactly where I was when I saw Aaron Craft draw that beautiful charge and sink that icy three to beat Iowa State: at the Charlotte YMCA watching from a treadmill. Do you remember where you were?
Threat level: Way too reliant on somebody who’s had 4+ fouls in 14 of his 30 games
6. Minnesota Golden Gophers (21-13, 9-11)
Next up: Louisville Cardinals - ACC At Large (20-13, 10-8)
Is Minnesota playing legitimately good basketball or are they just a great matchup against Purdue? They seem to have rebounded from a five-losses-in-six-games stretch with four wins in six and Amir Coffey playing like he’s hopped up on a Dinkytown hipster cafe’s latte. He’s averaged 24 points in the last six games.
Threat level: Does Zion Williamson still have Louisville’s heart raised above his head Temple of Doom-style?
5. Purdue Boilermakers (23-9, 16-4)
Next up: Old Dominion Monarchs - C-USA Conference & Tournament Champions (26-8, 13-5)
As an objective fan, Purdue’s reliance on Carsen Edwards is intoxicating. As a Purdue alum, it’s also intoxicating, but sometimes it’s just a little too high of proof. Some of his box scores are downright horrifying (4/17 & 7/31 at Minnesota, 8/27 at Maryland, 3/16 at Michigan State). I get it, shooters shoot, but not every shot needs to be Malort.
Conference USA did something very interesting this year, which set the final four games of each team’s schedule based on their performance in the first 14, round robin-style, to ensure the best played the best at the end of the season. It’s the type of thing I’d love to see the Big Ten employ.
Threat level: Finding the right balance between too many Carsen Edwards shots and not enough
4. Maryland Terrapins (22-10, 13-7)
Next up: TO BE DETERMINED
I totally forgot Maryland lost to Nebraska. Two losses to Michigan over the last month shade their recent record of 5-4.
Threat level: Unsure of their opponent at this writing
3. Wisconsin Badgers (23-10, 14-6)
Next up: Oregon Ducks - Pac-12 Tournament Champions (23-12, 10-8)
I’m not going to miss Ethan Happ but it I won’t allow his domination of Iowa to make me believe he isn’t just KenPom’s basketball robot designed to break my brain. How the heck can someone miss 53.5% of his free throws and still be considered the best player by any algorithm?!?
Threat level: Somehow they’re going to end up in the Elite 8
2. Michigan State Spartans (28-6, 16-4)
Next up: Bradley Braves - MVC Tournament Champions (20-14, 9-9)
Michigan State is the Big Ten Regular Season and Tournament Champions but sit second, behind a team they beat thrice earlier this season! Unfortunately, they wouldn’t face Michigan before Duke, which means they have not as good a chance as the Wolverines as advancing.
Threat level: They’ve already played each potential opponent in the second round
1. Michigan Wolverines (28-6, 15-5)
Next up: Jordan Hansen’s Montana Grizzlies - Big Sky Conference & Tournament Champions (26-8, 16-4)
Here’s the thing: Michigan doesn’t have to play Michigan State any more this season. Their path to the Elite 8 is so much easier than any other 2 seed. I’m only this confident because I am a tertiary Michigan fan who morphs into the biggest homer this time of year since my brother went there and it’s fun to cheer for a team on the second weekend of the Tournament.
Threat level: Bandwagon fan is way too confident