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Big Ten Men’s Basketball Power Rankings: NCAA Tournament Edition

Illinois finished the conference tournament not only as the hottest team in the Big Ten, but possibly in the nation. Can their fellow conference mates outperform them in the weeks to come?

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Illinois vs Iowa Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

1. Illinois (23-6, 16-4)

Illinois is playing as well as any team in college basketball these days. The Illini crushed Rutgers in their opening game in the Big Ten Tournament, repeatedly dunked on Iowa during the semifinals, and gutted out a tough win over Ohio State to take home the championship. Illinois is now the #1 seed on the Midwest region of the NCAA Tournament and will take on Drexel in the round of 64 with an eye on winning the first tournament championship in program history.

(Last Week: 1)

2. Michigan (23-6, 16-4)

Michigan defeated Maryland in Friday’s Big Ten Tournament game, but not without some adversity as head coach Juwan Howard was kicked out of the game for arguing with Terps coach Mark Turgeon and star senior Isaiah Livers suffered a foot injury which will keep him out of the NCAA Tournament game. Michigan’s narrow loss to Ohio State in the semifinals was not enough to knock them off the #1 seed line, but it’s unclear how far this team can advance in the tournament with Livers on the bench. Michigan’s next game will come against the winner of the play-in game between Mt. St. Mary’s and Texas Southern.

(Last Week: 2)

3. Iowa (21-8, 14-6)

The Hawkeyes may have fallen in the semifinals against the eventual tournament champions in Illinois, but Iowa fans should be very encouraged by their team’s victory over Wisconsin in the quarterfinals. Iowa managed to pull out a win despite shooting only 2-20 from beyond the arc, leaning on another strong game from Luka Garza in the post and a truly impressive display of team defense in the second half to eek out the 62-57 victory. The Hawkeyes likely would not have won a game like this earlier in the year, and it’s good to know the team doesn’t need to be lighting it up from three to be able to put away a quality opponent. The #2 seed Hawkeyes will take on Grand Canyon in their first NCAA Tournament game this Saturday.

(Last Week: 3)

4. Ohio State (21-9, 12-8)

The Buckeyes may have stumbled into the Big Ten Tournament on a losing streak, but they certainly found their footing over the course of their stay in Indianapolis. Ohio State survived three consecutive scares to beat Minnesota, Purdue, and Michigan before narrowly losing to the Fighting Illini in a tightly contested overtime game in the championship round. The Buckeyes may have missed out on raising a banner, but they did secure a #2 seed and remind the rest of the country why they were considered such a dangerous team for much of 2021. Ohio State will take on Oral Roberts in their opening game of the NCAA Tournament.

(Last Week: 5)

5. Purdue (18-9, 13-6)

The Boilers were nearly run out of the gym in their opening game against Ohio State, but managed to claw their way back into the contest and force the Buckeyes into overtime. Purdue missed out on a spot in the semi-finals of the conference tournament but received a nice consolation prize in a #4 seed and a very viable path to the Sweet 16. Purdue starts its tournament run against #13 seed North Texas this week.

(Last Week: 4)

6. Wisconsin (17-12, 10-10)

Wisconsin managed to defeat Penn State in its opening game in the Big Ten Tournament on a heady veteran play by guard Brad Davison but was unable to capitalize on Iowa’s cold shooting night and secure a berth to the semi-finals. Wisconsin’s 8/9 matchup against North Carolina will feature an intriguing battle between talented post players as the Badgers’ Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter square off against the Tarheels’ gigantic trio of Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks, and Day’Ron Sharpe.

(Last Week: 7)

7. Rutgers (15-11, 10-10)

Rutgers knocked Indiana out of the conference tournament on Thursday, locking down on defense and holding the Hoosiers to only 18 points in the second half. However, the Scarlet Knights were absolutely blitzed by Illinois on Friday 90-68, begging the question of whether they have chance to advance when paired against one of the top seeds of the NCAA Tournament. Rutgers will face off against the #7 seeded Clemon Tigers with an eye on a potential matchup with #2 seed Houston in the round of 32.

(Last Week: 8)

8. Maryland (16-13, 9-11)

The Terps bounced Michigan State from the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday, giving Maryland its second double-digit victory over the Spartans in a two-week timespan. While Maryland eventually fell to Michigan in the tournament’s quarterfinals, they certainly didn’t go down without a fight, as evidenced by the fiery exchange which occurred between head coach Mark Turgeon and his counterpart on the opposing sideline. #10 seed Maryland will square off against #7 seed Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament, which should provide a fascinating matchup between Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Darryl Morsell and the Huskies’ superstar scorer James Bouknight.

(Last Week: 9)

9. Michigan State (15-12, 9-11)

Michigan State was riding high coming into the Big Ten Tournament after defeating their in-state rival only a few days beforehand, but Tom Izzo’s squad failed to continue the momentum in their 68-57 loss to Maryland on Thursday. The Spartans will square off against fellow #11 seed UCLA in this Thursday’s play-in game for the right to play a BYU team in the round of 64 that was arguably seeded a few slots above what their season long performance would otherwise dictate.

(Last Week: 6)

10. Penn State

Penn State managed to knock Nebraska out of the conference tournament and narrowly missed doing the same to Wisconsin. The Nittany Lions will miss out on the NCAA Tournament, but do have the distinction of being the second highest rated team in KenPom’s rankings to miss being invited to the field of 68. Penn State fans can also look forward to the start of the Micah Shrewsberry era in Happy Valley as the longtime college and NBA assistant coach prepares to assume stewardship of a program that still has plenty of talent on its roster.

(Last Week: 11)

11. Minnesota (14-15, 6-14)

Give the Gophers some credit: they definitely showed up to play in the Big Ten Tournament despite having been left for dead by most pundits. Minnesota ended Northwestern’s season before falling against eventual runner-up Ohio State in a game that was far closer than most analysts expected. Richard Pitino is out at Minnesota after the Gophers’ late season collapse, but don’t be shocked if the 38-year-old has already been named the new head coach at New Mexico by the time this article is published.

(Last Week: 13)

12. Indiana (12-15, 7-12)

The entire NCAA Tournament is taking place in Indianapolis, and the Hoosiers are stuck sitting at home watching it. How did a team with a player as talented as Trayce Jackson-Davis end up being this bad? Much of the blame lies at the feet of the newly unemployed Archie Miller, a coach who found great success at the mid-major level, but never found his footing in Bloomington. Hopefully Hoosier fans can focus on their head coaching search as a way to take their mind off the tournament festivities.

(Last Week: 10)

13. Northwestern (9-15, 6-13)

The Wildcats lost a borderline unwatchable 51-46 game to Minnesota which ended their season, but all hope is not lost in Evanston. Northwestern was one of the youngest teams in the conference this season and returns basically all its production from last year while also welcoming a talented recruiting class led by four-star signee Casey Simmons. Maybe next year’s squad can play more like the team that beat Ohio State back in December and less like the team that lost thirteen consecutive games.

(Last Week: 12)

14. Nebraska (7-20, 3-16)

Fred Hoiberg hasn’t won many games in his two seasons at Nebraska, but he certainly has proven that he can recruit. With a top 25 recruiting class coming to campus next year which includes five-star prospect Bryce McGowens, Hoiberg will be expected to dramatically improve upon his 5-34 conference record lest his seat risk becoming very hot very quickly.

(Last Week: 14)