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Big Ten Tournament: Conference power rankings

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There’s been some major movement between spots 3 and 7...

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Illinois
Illinois’ win over Iowa catapulted it into the top three spots this week.
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten regular season has reached its conclusion, and what a weird year it’s been. I don’t expect that to change this week in the Big Ten Tournament. There will probably be some team with no business advancing making it all the way to the semifinals or championship. That’s just how it’s been this year.

Tournament action tips off today beginning with Northwestern and Minnesota at 5 p.m. followed by Nebraska and Indiana at 7:25.

Before those games begin, though, let’s take a look at where the teams stand heading into the Big Ten Tournament.

No. 14 — Nebraska

7-24, 2-18 in the Big Ten, no change from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Two more losses for Nebraska coming at the hands of Michigan and Minnesota. Oh, and two Nebraska football players joined the basketball team???

Reason for the ranking: Football players joining the basketball team should tell you all you need to know about Nebraska this season.

No. 13 — Northwestern

8-22, 3-17 in the Big Ten, no change from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Northwestern beat Penn State. So, yeah. That happened.

Reason for the ranking: Northwestern would have moved up in the power rankings with this sort of a win, but it dug itself into such a deep hole earlier. There is no climbing out of this one.

No. 12 — Minnesota

14-16, 8-12 in the Big Ten, no change from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Minnesota won its final game of the regular season, beating Nebraska 107-75.

Reason for the ranking: A win over Nebraska doesn’t account for much these days.

No. 11 — Indiana

19-12, 9-11 in the Big Ten, no change from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Indiana lost to Wisconsin 60-56 on March 7.

Reason for the ranking: Indiana, which needed to string together some wins to strengthen its resume, but instead it lost three of its last four games. All have been winnable.

No. 10 — Purdue

16-15, 9-11 in the Big Ten, no change from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Purdue lost to Rutgers 71-68 on March 7.

Reason for the ranking: Purdue almost snagged the win, which would have capped off an impressive three-game stretch to end the regular season... but it didn’t.

No. 9 — Michigan

19-12, 10-10 in the Big Ten, no change from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Michigan beat Nebraska on March 5 and lost to Maryland on Sunday.

Reason for the ranking: Michigan still belongs in the bottom half of the conference. The opportunity to make a run was there for the taking, with games against Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Maryland making up three of its final four outings of the year. Michigan lost all three of those.

No. 8 — Rutgers

20-11, 11-9 in the Big Ten, no change from last week’s rankings

What’s new? After an impressive win over Maryland, Rutgers followed up with a victory over Purdue to close the regular season.

Reason for the ranking: Rutgers finally strung two solid games back-to-back for the first time since January. Its opening game of the Big Ten Tournament (Thursday vs. Michigan) will determine if this is an adequate placement in the rankings.

No. 7 — Penn State

21-10, 11-9 in the Big Ten, -3 spots from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Penn State’s recent losing skid amounted to three games to end the regular season. The Nittany Lions fell to Northwestern on March 7.

Reason for the ranking: Any team that loses to Northwestern deserves to fall in the power rankings. Plus, Penn State just hasn’t looked like the potential powerhouse since it took down Michigan State on Feb. 4. Don’t get me wrong, the Nittany Lions are a talented group. But they’re sliding at the wrong time.

No. 6 — Ohio State

21-10, 11-9 in the Big Ten, +1 spot from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Since last week’s rankings, Ohio State beat Illinois and lost to Michigan State.

Reason for the ranking: The Buckeyes won four of their last five games of the regular season. Three of those victories came against ranked opponents. A solid run in the Big Ten Tournament will put the Buckeyes in the top-5 for the next power rankings.

No. 5 — Iowa

20-11, 11-9 in the Big Ten, -2 spots from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Iowa’s comeback bid against Illinois fell short earlier this week on Sunday.

Reason for the ranking: Iowa’s lost three of its last four (albeit to a pair of ranked opponents), but this isn’t the direction Fran McCaffery would have liked. Luckily for the Hawkeyes, they have a pretty favorable draw in the Big Ten Tournament. They’ve beaten every team on their half of the bracket at least once this season.

No. 4 — Wisconsin

21-10, 14-6 in the Big Ten, +2 spots from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Wisconsin took down Indiana in Assembly Hall to win its eighth straight game.

Reason for the ranking: Wisconsin is a good team, don’t get me wrong. But the Badgers are not up there with Michgian State and Maryland. Out of those eight wins, victories came against Nebraska, Purdue, Minnesota, Northwestern, and Indiana — five teams in the bottom half of the conference. Winning eight games in a row in the Big Ten isn’t something to scoff at by any means. But it’s not as if Wisconsin is taking down Michigan State each week.

No. 3 — Illinois

21-10, 13-7 in the Big Ten, +2 spot from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Illinois lost to Ohio State on March 5 but went on to beat Iowa on Sunday.

Reason for the ranking: The win over Iowa was huge for Illinois. Not only did it secure the double-bye for the Big Ten Tournament, but it gives the Illini great momentum heading into the postseason. Illinois wound up winning five of its last six games of the regular season.

No. 2 — Maryland

24-7, 14-6 in the Big Ten, no change from last week’s rankings

What’s new? After a questionable loss to Rutgers, Maryland responded with a convincing win over Michigan on Sunday.

Reason for the ranking: Maryland looked like its usual self in the win over Michigan. Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith are going to be a problem this postseason.

No. 1 — Michigan State

22-9, 14-6 in the Big Ten, no change from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Michigan State beat Ohio State by 11 on Sunday’s regular-season finale.

Reason for the ranking: Michigan State is getting hot at the perfect time. This is a Spartan team you don’t want to face. Four straight wins over top-25 opponents to finish the season is a statement.