Ranking the Games: Plenty of good ones fill final week's schedule
The final 14 games of the Big Ten regular-season are here. In other words, it’s time to put-up-or-shut-up with the postseason around the corner.
Here’s my ranking of the week’s final games.
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1. Wisconsin at Ohio State, Sunday. The Badgers already may have the outright Big Ten title sewn up by the time this game tips. But Wisconsin still is holding out hope for a No. 1 seed. To earn a top NCAA spot, it must win-out. The Buckeyes rarely lose at home. In fact, Thad Matt is 13-0 in March at home. Iowa is the lone team to win in Columbus this season.
2. Purdue at Michigan State, Wednesday – BTN (watch on BTN2Go). The Spartans are coming off one of their most listless efforts of the season, showing little fire and desire in a loss at Wisconsin on Sunday. That was preceded by a confounding home loss to Minnesota in which the defense flopped. Where’s the Spartan pride?
3. Michigan State at Indiana, Saturday. Both teams will be looking to finish the regular season on an up note. Remember what happened the first time these teams met this year? The Spartans won 70-50 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. Indiana will have revenge on its mind.
4. Iowa at Indiana, Tuesday. The Hawkeyes have excelled on the road. In fact, they already are guaranteed their first winning Big Ten road mark since 1986-87. Iowa has won at Penn State, at Ohio State, at Minnesota, at Michigan and at Nebraska. The Hawkeyes also won at North Carolina. That said, Iowa has lost six of its last eight at Assembly Hall, which is always a tough place to play.
5. Wisconsin at Minnesota, Thursday. If the Badgers are going to clinch the outright Big Ten title prior to the weekend, they will have to do it on the home court of their despised rival. This is perfect. Wish I was courtside. The Gophers are coming off a huge overtime road win at Michigan State. The Barn will be rocking.
6. Illinois at Purdue, Saturday – BTN (watch on BTN2Go). If the Boilermakers lose at Michigan State on Wednesday, this becomes a very big game. A Purdue win would basically punch its Big Dance ticket. A loss, and the Boilers will have work to do in the Big Ten tourney. Illinois also is playing for its NCAA life.
7. Maryland at Nebraska, Sunday – BTN (watch on BTN2Go). The Terrapins figure to author another chapter in the Huskers’ season of misery. That’s six losses in a row for Nebraska, if you are keeping count.
8. Nebraska at Illinois, Wednesday – BTN (watch on BTN2Go). The Fighting Illini sit squarely on the bubble. Every win is cherished and a necessity for a team that has fought through as much as any in the Big Ten. John Groce’s club must dispatch a reeling Cornhuskers squad.
9. Northwestern at Iowa, Saturday – BTN (watch on BTN2Go). No doubt, the Hawkeyes will be thinking “payback” after the Wildcats unceremoniously dumped Iowa in overtime back on Feb. 15. Since then, Iowa has ripped off four victories in succession. I sense a Hawkeye blowout coming.
10. Ohio State at Penn State, Wednesday – BTN (watch on BTN2Go). The Buckeyes are standing on solid NCAA tourney ground. But a loss in State College could hurt their seed. How much tough luck have the Nittany Lions had? Penn State has lost 10 Big Ten games by single digits.
11. Penn State at Minnesota, Sunday – BTN (watch on BTN2Go). The Golden Gophers aren’t making the NCAA tourney, but they could make another postseason event. Minnesota won the NIT last year.
12. Michigan at Northwestern, Tuesday – BTN (watch on BTN2Go). The Wolverines can finish .500 in the Big Ten with a win here and vs. Rutgers on Saturday. That would be quite the feat, considering injuries to stars Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. and all of the close losses.
13. Maryland at Rutgers, Tuesday – BTN (watch on BTN2Go). The Terrapins—the Big Ten’s second-best squad–have won five in a row; the Scarlet Knights—the Big Ten’s worst team–have lost 12 in a row.
14. Rutgers at Michigan, Saturday – BTN (watch on BTN2Go). These teams entered the week with a combined Big Ten record of 9-23, with Michigan owning seven of those victories.
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
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