Jon Crispin, BTN men's basketball analyst, February 29, 2016
After yet another crazy week of Big Ten play, certain teams have proven that they belong at the top while others have given us more to question.
The havoc that ensues in conference play every year is a reminder of how lucky we are to see high-level competitive basketball every week in the Big Ten. It?s as if the regular season is like the NCAA tournament. Anyone can beat anyone, upsets will occur, and certain teams will emerge as the Cinderella of the season.
Here is my latest Big Ten Power Rankings, presented by ArcelorMittal, entering the final week of the season.
1. Michigan State (24-5, 11-5). I?d take this team over the field in all of college basketball. They are back to form and look more and more like the Spartans that were No. 1 in the nation earlier this season.
Last week: 1
2. Indiana (23-6, 13-3). I just have to say, I have always stuck by this team and still believe they are going to finish strong. In a college hoops world where matchups are everything, this is the toughest team in the country to match up with because of their style of play and their personnel.
Last week: 2
3. Wisconsin (19-10, 11-5). Yup, and the Badgers deserve to be here. Greg Gard has done a terrific job with this team. They have beaten three top 10 teams (two of which were on the road), they?ve won 10 out of their last 11, and, based on tiebreakers, they are second in the conference at the moment. Nuff said!
Last week: 5
4. Purdue (22-7, 10-6). Beating Maryland and being the last team to beat Michigan State is a reminder that this team still has a push in them. Guard play will be the most important thing for the Boilermakers going forward. Getting Dakota Mathias to play the way he did against Maryland certainly helps.
Last week: 6
5. Maryland (23-6, 11-5). The Terps look as elite as it gets in college basketball, but we have yet to see them consistently deliver. I refuse to count them out as teams with this kind of personnel can simply turn the switch and dominate with their length, skill and depth. Hang in there, Terp fans.
Last week: 4
6. Iowa (20-8, 11-5). 11-5 in conference play doesn?t sound bad, but losing four of the last five certainly does. The Hawkeyes have to get their swagger?their mojo back. They were better when they were the underdog with something to prove. Wins over Indiana and Michigan to close it out would certainly help.
Last week: 3
7. Michigan (20-10, 10-7). The Wolverines are a tough matchup. They space it out well and have numerous playmakers. I know they are currently a bubble team, but I?d like to see them in the NCAA tournament because I think they?d be dangerous against an opponent who has never seen them.
Last week: 7
8. Ohio State (19-11, 11-6). Having to close out the season with Michigan State (twice) and Iowa is an opportunity, not a curse. The Buckeyes lost the first game to Michigan State and upset then-No. 8 Iowa. Now, the Buckeyes get five days to prepare for the season-ending test at surging Michigan State. Win, and Ohio State will bolster its NCAA resume and register another 20-win season.
Last week: 8
9. Northwestern (18-11, 6-10). I wish we could have seen this team at full-strength all year. I?m sure Chris Collins would have liked that as well. Losing Vic Law for the season certainly hurt and so did the temporary loss of Alex Olah mid-season. No doubt this program is on the rise.
Last week: 11
10. Penn State (15-14, 6-10). The level of competitiveness of this team makes them dangerous to face. With victories over Indiana and Iowa, the Nittany Lions are showing why no one wants to play this team in the Big Ten tournament. I can see them upsetting someone who needs a win in Indy.
Last week: 10
11. Nebraska (14-15, 6-10). Just as Glynn Watson Jr. and Tai Webster are proving to be consistent third and fourth options behind Andrew White III and Shavon Shields, the latter misses a few games due to a concussion. The Huskers are one big away from being a middle-of-the-pack (6 or 7) Big Ten team.
Last week: 9
12. Illinois (13-16, 5-11). I was mocked for saying that the Illini would be a top 25 team if they were at full strength, but I stand by it. The pieces are there, and emerging players like Maverick Morgan, D.J. Williams and Jalen Coleman-Lands have developed well around the stability of Malcolm Hill.
Last week: 12
13. Minnesota (8-20, 2-14). Richard Pitino has had to make some difficult but necessary decisions recently, however it is all with the goal of doing what is right to maintain and build culture and accountability going forward. The Gophers have competed well in recent weeks but will ultimately benefit greatly from an off-season and the addition of a stellar recruiting class.
Last week: 13
14. Rutgers (6-23, 0-16). The Scarlet Knights have dealt with injuries to the front line, and anyone in this conference can attest to how difficult that is in the Big Ten. Eddie Jordan?s young bunch has competed, at times, but have simply been out-matched.
Last week: 14