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Big Ten basketball power rankings: There’s a new No. 1 in town

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Is the Fran Fade in affect? Is MSU heating up at the right time? What is going on?

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Iowa
Joe Wieskamp and the Iowa Hawkeyes found themselves on the wrong end of a tough loss to Purdue Tuesday.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Chaos is officially upon us and the Big Ten Tournament has yet to begin. With only a few days left of regular-season hoops, the race for conference supremacy remains tight.

The top seven teams in the Big Ten standings remain separated by only two losses. In other words, come conference tournament time, there’s going to be little disparity between, let’s say, the No. 2 and No. 6 seed.

I’m so here for it.

Here’s a look at which teams had the biggest rises and falls in this week’s rankings:

Biggest jump: Ohio State, Rutgers, Purdue, Iowa, Michigan State (+1 spot)

Biggest fall: Michigan (-2 spots)

And now, on to the rankings.

No. 14 — Nebraska

7-22, 2-16 in the Big Ten, no change from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Nebraska was blown out by Ohio State on Feb. 27 and then lost to fellow cellar-dweller Northwestern on Sunday.

Reason for the ranking: Nebraska’s home loss to one of the conference’s worst teams hereby solidifies itself as the Big Ten’s dumpster fire. Not that it wasn’t already the front-runner.

No. 13 — Northwestern

7-22, 2-17 in the Big Ten, no change from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Northwestern finally won its second Big Ten game of the season, and it only took 13 games after the first victory. Then, just a mere three days after this milestone, the Wildcats lost to Wisconsin in Madison.

Reason for the ranking: Northwestern isn’t going anywhere. But the win over Nebraska locked it into the No. 13 spot from here on out. So, I guess that’s something?

No. 12 — Minnesota

13-16, 7-12 in the Big Ten, no change from last week

What’s new? Minnesota lost to Wisconsin on Sunday and then lost again Wednesday, this time to Indiana.

Reason for the ranking: It’s as if Richard Pitino doesn’t realize he’s coaching for his life. Or maybe he does? This team would be with the likes of Northwestern had it not been for Daniel Oturu’s stellar season.

No. 11 — Indiana

19-11, 9-10 in the Big Ten, -1 spot from last week

What’s new? Indiana snapped out of its two-game funk with a win over Minnesota on Wednesday. But before that, the Hoosiers lost to Illinois and Purdue both on the road.

Reason for the ranking: Archie Miller’s is interesting. Indiana beats Iowa and Penn State in Assembly Hall, then just games later falls in a pair of road games. The Hoosiers have talent, but it’s hard to assess at the moment.

No. 10 — Purdue

16-14, 9-10, +1 spot from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Well, Matt Painter proved he officially has Fran McCaffery’s number. Purdue beat Iowa 77-68 on Tuesday, one game removed from its win over Indiana.

Reason for the ranking: Much like Indiana, Purdue is confusing. The Boilermakers don’t have the star power as they’ve had in years past, but I just have a feeling this team might make some noise in the conference tournament. And that’s not just because it beat Iowa in Carver. Painter is one of the conference’s best coaches, and if his team clicks, it’s one of the deadliest in the conference. But that’s a big if.

No. 9 — Michigan

18-11, 9-9 in the Big Ten, -2 spots from last week

What’s new? Michigan lost back-to-back games to Wisconsin and Ohio State this past week.

Reason for the ranking: Man oh man, it looked as though the Wolverines had finally put things together with wins over Michigan State and Rutgers. But then these two losses happened.

No. 8 — Rutgers

19-11, 10-9 in the Big Ten, +1 spot from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Rutgers became the latest team to knock off Maryland, taking down the Terrapins on Tuesday. It was a resilient win for the program following a one-point loss to Penn State on Feb. 26.

Reason for the ranking: Listen, I get that Michigan beat Rutgers recently. But the win over Maryland is good enough for a one-spot jump.

No. 7 — Ohio State

20-9, 10-8, +1 spot from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Ohio State beat Nebraska and Michigan since last week’s rankings were revealed. Both wins came by an average of 17.5 points.

Reason for the ranking: The Buckeyes are beginning to get into a stride, and that’s not a great sign for the teams above them. Ohio State is doing all it can to crack into the Big Ten’s top six standings. With games against Illinois and Michigan State remaining, the opportunity is there.

No. 6 — Wisconsin

20-10, 13-6 in the Big Ten, no change from last week’s rankings

What’s new? The Badgers took down Michigan on Feb. 27, Minnesota on Sunday, and Northwestern on Wednesday. Don’t look now, but Wisconsin has won its last seven games.

Reason for the ranking: I will use this space for a confession: I do not like the brand of basketball Wisconsin utilizes. But it’s working. For now, at least. It’s not pretty, but the Badgers are in a great position.

No. 5 — Illinois

20-9, 12-6 in the Big Ten, no change from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Illinois took down Northwestern on Feb. 27 and Indiana on Sunday. Neither of those wins are anything to brag about, but the Illini are slowly creeping back up into the top of the conference standings.

Reason for the ranking: Beating Northwestern isn’t good for any movement (unless, of course, you’re Nebraska). Illinois gets a pair of ranked tests to end the regular season in Ohio State and Iowa. Two wins would give the Illini some serious momentum heading into the Big Ten Tournament.

No. 4 — Penn State

21-9, 11-8 in the Big Ten, -1 spot from last week’s rankings

What’s new? The Nittany Lions have lost their last two games, dropping contests against Iowa and Michigan State. Penn State had a 19-point lead against the Spartans and blew it. How, well, I’m not sure.

Reason for the ranking: Penn State just could not finish against Michigan State, and the loss to Iowa doesn’t do it any good in this week’s power rankings.

No. 3 — Iowa

20-10, 11-8 in the Big Ten, +1 spot from last week’s rankings

What’s new: Iowa beat Penn State by 11 on Feb. 29 before losing to Purdue on Tuesday. While the deficit against the Boilermakers reached into double-digits, it never felt as though the Hawkeyes were out of the game. The offense just never found a groove.

Reason for the ranking: Listen, the sky is not falling after that loss to Purdue. Iowa is still one of the Big Ten’s top teams. The Fran Fade is NOT a thing this year, contrary to what some believe. In the last four games, Iowa has wins over two top-25 teams. And the Hawkeyes still have the conference’s best player in Luka Garza. The Big Ten is a gauntlet.

No. 2 — Maryland

23-7, 13-6 in the Big Ten, -1 spot from last week’s rankings

What’s new? Maryland had a nice cushion atop the Big Ten (well, as nice as any cushion can be in the country’s toughest conference) before losing its last two games. Maryland lost to Michigan State on Feb. 29 and Rutgers on Tuesday.

Reason for the ranking: Maryland has now lost three of its last four games. Those losses have come to some of the conference’s better teams, but still.

No. 1 — Michigan State

21-9, 13-6, +1 spot from last week’s rankings

What’s new? The Spartans have won their last four games, three of which coming to some of the conference’s best teams. In the last week, Michigan State beat Maryland and Penn State.

Reason for the ranking: Tom Izzo’s team is heating up with three straight top-25 wins. That three-game losing streak at the start of February seems like all but a distant memory at this point. Spin zone: The Spartans dug themselves into a 19-point lead against the Nittany Lions just to make things interesting.