1. Illinois (20-6, 16-4)
Could the Illini have asked for a better week on the hardwood? The Illinois victory over Michigan, which occurred without the services of their top player Ayo Dosunmu, was as stunning as it was decisive. Then on Saturday, Dosunmu returned to the court, protective Zoro mask and all, to help lift his team over Ohio State with some late-game heroics in the waning minutes of the contest. If Illinois can carry this level play into the NCAA Tournament, they may be the most dangerous team in the country. They will play the winner of the Rutgers/Indiana game on Friday.
(Last Week: 2)
2. Michigan (19-3, 14-3)
Michigan managed to clinch a regular season Big Ten title with a win over Michigan State, an impressive feat for a second-year head coach in Juwan Howard who was forced to navigate a prolonged shutdown of all basketball operations in the middle of Big Ten play. However, it’s hard not to be concerned by the Wolverines’ epic defeat at the hands of the Ayo-less Illini or their lethargic loss to Michigan State on Sunday, which likely propelled their rival into the NCAA Tournament. Michigan fans are hoping these games were natural letdowns after weeks of excellent play and not indicative of a new trend. The Wolverines will play the winner of the Michigan State/Maryland game on Friday.
(Last Week: 1)
3. Iowa (20-7, 14-6)
The Hawkeyes dropped 102 points on their rival Nebraska and earned the kind of gutty win over Wisconsin on Sunday that you expect from a veteran-laden team. However, this good news was overshadowed by the injury to Joe Wieskamp’s ankle midway through the first half of Sunday’s game. Unless the junior swingman receives an unconditional green light from the team doctors, head coach Fran McCaffery must now weigh prospect of playing Wieskamp to compete for a Big Ten Tournament title against the real risks of reinjuring him before the NCAA Tournament. Iowa’s first matchup in the Big Ten Tournament will either be against Wisconsin or the winner of Wednesday’s Nebraska/Penn State game.
(Last Week: 3)
4. Purdue (18-8, 13-6)
The Boilermakers are now winners of five straight games having dispatched of #25 Wisconsin and in-state rival Indiana last week. Purdue has been buoyed by the play of reserve big man Zach Edey, a 7’4” freshman center who dropped 20+ points in both of his last two games. Between Edey and Trevion Williams, the Boilermakers have the size and skill in the frontcourt to cause headaches for any team they face in the Big Ten Tournament. First up for the Boilers: a Friday matchup against either Ohio State or the winner of the Minnesota/Northwestern game.
(Last Week: 4)
5. Ohio State (18-8, 12-8)
The Buckeyes gave a valiant effort against the Illini, seemingly responding well to their nearly week-long break by pushing the presumptive #1 seed to its limit. However, Ayo Dosunmu came through in the clutch, and Ohio State has now lost four straight games heading into the Big Ten Tournament. Fortunately, they should have a relatively easy matchup on Thursday when they take on the winner of Wednesday’s Minnesota/Northwestern matchup.
(Last Week: 5)
6. Michigan State (15-11, 9-11)
With so many of the Big Ten’s middle pack seemingly floundering towards the end of the season, the Spartans may finally be hitting their stride. Needing to do more work last week to punch their NCAA Tournament ticket, Michigan State managed to dispatch of Indiana 64-58 and split with the 2nd-ranked Michigan Wolverines thanks to a dynamic performance from sophomore guard Rocket Watts. The Spartans will square off against Maryland on Thursday morning, a team that easily defeated them less than two weeks ago.
(Last Week: 9)
7. Wisconsin (16-11, 10-10)
The ending to Sunday’s Iowa-Wisconsin game was a perfect parallel to Wisconsin’s Big Ten season: full of promise and excitement, but ultimately unsatisfying in the end. Greg Gard may not like that Brad Davison was on the wrong end of a controversial foul call near the end of the game, but after four years of Davison’s…let’s say “questionable” on-court antics, both the team and the player can reasonably be said to have made their own bed. The Badgers will try to snap their three-game losing streak against the winner of the Penn State/Nebraska game with an eye on a potential revenge spot against the Hawkeyes on Friday.
(Last Week: 7)
8. Rutgers (14-10, 10-10)
Rutgers started off its week about as poorly as any team in the Big Ten could with a 21-point loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers. However, Jacob Young came up big in the Scarlet Knights’ overtime victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday which likely secured them a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Their next game will come on Thursday’s 7 vs. 10 matchup against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament as Rutgers tries to secure a season sweep of the Hoosiers.
(Last Week: 8)
9. Maryland (15-12, 9-11)
Maryland’s five-game winning streak came to an end with consecutive losses against Big Ten bottom feeders in Northwestern and Penn State, and it’s reasonable to ask whether the Terrapins expended all their energy playing their way back into the NCAA Tournament field. Thursday morning’s game should be a good test of whether Maryland still has any magic left when it takes on Michigan State, a team it defeated by nearly 20 points on February 28.
(Last Week: 6)
10. Indiana (12-14, 7-12)
Stick a fork in em—the Hoosiers are done. Unless Archie Miller’s squad can win the Big Ten Tournament (a longshot given their current five-game losing streak), Indiana will have squandered all of the hype it earned after completing a season sweep of the Iowa Hawkeyes. If they are going to make a Cinderella run, it has to start against Rutgers on Thursday evening.
(Last Week: 10)
11. Penn State (10-13, 7-12)
The Nittany Lions went on a nice run last week, going 2-0 against Minnesota and Maryland. Penn State has been dialed in defensively over the past few games but did surrender 83 points in a recent win over the Nebraska. The Nittany Lions will look to continue their strong defensive play as they try to win their season series against the Huskers on Wednesday night.
(Last Week: 12)
12. Northwestern (9-14, 6-13)
Is there a streakier team in the conference than Northwestern? The Wildcats surprised everyone by winning three straight games to start conference play, then proceeded to lose thirteen consecutive contests before ending the regular season with three more W’s, including wins last week over Maryland and Nebraska. Northwestern will kick off the Big Ten Tournament with an opening matchup against Minnesota, a team that should be counting its blessings that the season is almost over so it can’t challenge Northwestern for the longest losing streak in conference play.
(Last Week: 13)
13. Minnesota (13-14, 6-14)
You have to give the Gophers credit: they are really quite adept at finding new ways to lose games. The team that knocked off Michigan, Iowa, Purdue, Ohio State, and Michigan State is now set to miss the NCAA Tournament after going winless on the road and falling in their last seven games. Gopher fans, who are growing understandably frustrated with would-be wunderkind Richard Pitino, may secretly be rooting for the Wildcats to put this team out of its misery.
(Last Week: 11)
14. Nebraska (7-19, 3-16)
The universe tends to unfold as it should. Nebraska may have stepped outside its unenviable role as the Big Ten’s doormat with its shocking upset over Rutgers, but it fell right back into place when it lost 102-64 to Iowa and 79-78 to fellow bottom-dweller Northwestern. The Huskers will be looking to create some positive momentum heading into next season by upsetting Penn State in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday.
(Last Week: 14)