The Big Ten regular season is over, and the seeds are set. Many teams surprised for different reasons, with Wisconsin, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Iowa performing well below expectations before the season, while Nebraska, Ohio State, and yes, Penn State, performed above expectations.
Michigan State, the overwhelming favorite to win the Big Ten regular season title did so, but needed a ton of help in the process, as they lost two Big Ten games to other teams in the top four.* Nebraska won 13 conference games for the first time in school history, Purdue went on a 19-game win streak before losing back to back games to essentially take them out of competition for a regular season title, Ohio State started 9-0 in Big Ten play before losing, twice, to Penn State, and Michigan achieved a top-four standing with defense, instead of offense.
Oh yeah, and Post-Trimble Maryland is terrible. We know that now.**
1) Michigan State Spartans: 1-seed
Previously: W vs Illinois 81-61, W at Wisconsin 68-63
Michigan State clinched the outright Big Ten regular season title with a win at Wisconsin on Sunday, finishing the season on a 12-game winning streak.
Up Next: Maryland OR Wisconsin (Friday)
2) Michigan Wolverines: 5-seed
Previously: W at Penn State 72-63, W at Maryland 85-61
The wolverines are peaking at the right time, and get a chance to avenge one of their few losses on Friday when they face Nebraska. That is, of course, if they don’t become the victim of the annual “Wednesday team that will make it to Friday before running out of gas” tradition.
Up Next: Illinois OR Iowa (Thursday)
3) Ohio State Buckeyes: 2-seed
Previously: W vs Rutgers 79-52, W at Indiana 80-78 (2OT)
The Buckeyes washed the bitter taste of losing back-to-back games by winning their last two, at home against Rutgers and on the road at Indiana. The Hoosiers didn’t make it easy on Ohio State, who needed two overtimes to finally topple Indiana. Their reward? A good chance to face the only team to beat them more than once this season.
Up Next: Northwestern OR Penn State (Friday)
4) Purdue Boilermakers: 3-seed
Previously: W at Illinois 93-86, W vs Minnesota 84-60
Purdue is back to their winning ways, but not before receiving a scare from Illinois. With Vincent Edwards back from injury, the Boilermakers should make some noise in New York.
Up Next: Indiana OR Rutgers OR Minnesota (Friday)
5) Nebraska Cornhuskers: 4-seed
Previously: W vs Indiana 66-57, W vs Penn State 76-64
Nebraska is the only Big Ten team to have gone undefeated at home in conference play. They’ve also won 13 conference games for the first time in school history. The only thing holding the Huskers back at the moment is their weak schedule, as losses to St. John’s, UCF, and Illinois outside of PBA severely hinder their profile. They also only have one quadrant 1 win, by virtue of Michigan sneaking into the top 30 RPI teams. For as good as Nebraska is at home, they seem to be equally mediocre away from home. That spells trouble for a team that still needs to prove they can win a game outside of PBA against top competition.
Up Next: Michigan OR Illinois OR Iowa (Friday)
6) Penn State Nittany Lions: 7-seed
Previously: L vs No. 15 Michigan 63-72, L at Nebraska 64-76
The loss of Mike Watkins left a void on the Nittany Lions’ roster, who limps to New York on a three-game losing streak (the first of the season). Pinnacle Bank Arena continued to be a house of horrors for the Lions, who have not been able to finish a game closer than 12 points since the arena opened.
Up Next: Northwestern (Thursday)
7) Indiana Hoosiers: 6-seed
Previously: L at Nebraska 57-66, L vs No. 13 Ohio State 78-80 (2OT)
Like Penn State, Indiana also limped to the finish line, losing at Nebraska and Ohio State. The Hoosiers gave the Buckeyes everything they could handle, but a banked shot at the end elevated Ohio State for the win. How lucky!
Up Next: Minnesota OR Rutgers (Thursday)
8) Maryland Terrapins: 8-seed
Previously: W at Northwestern 71-64, L vs No. 15 Michigan 61-85
Maryland got their second road victory of the season in Big Ten play, but couldn’t turn that momentum into a win against Michigan at home. In fact, the Terrapins were down 30 at some point in the second half. Ouch. The silver lining for Maryland is that Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter, and Bruno Fernando will all likely return, and Justin Jackson will also come back from injury next season. Combine that with their good recruiting class, and the Terps should be back to their winning ways next season.
Up Next: Wisconsin (Thursday)
9) Northwestern Wildcats: 10-seed
Previously: L vs Maryland 64-71, L vs Wisconsin 64-70, L at Iowa 70-77
Northwestern has to be the most disappointing team of the season. The Wildcats went from NCAA tournament participant last season to missing the postseason altogether in the span of one year. What’s worse is that they had four of those five starters on this team. There are extraneous circumstances to consider, like playing their home games at Allstate Arena, but still, this kind of collapse should have never been possible. Yet here we are.
Up Next: Penn State (Thursday)
10) Wisconsin Badgers: 9-seed
Previously: W vs Minnesota 73-63 (OT), W at Northwestern 70-64, L vs No. 2 Michigan State 63-68
The Badgers almost did it. They almost took down Michigan State to force three-way tie for first in the league. They came up short though, and their season is mercifully over barring a miracle in New York. Like Northwestern, it has to be disappointing to see how the season turned out. Unlike Northwestern, they weren’t expected to compete for the top of the conference to begin with.
Up Next: Maryland (Thursday)
11) Illinois Fighting Illini: 13-seed
Previously: L at No. 2 Michigan State 61-81, L vs No. 8 Purdue 86-93, W at Rutgers 75-62
Illinois finished on a high note by beating Rutgers, and at least being competitive against Purdue and Michgian State for a half. The Illini did show signs of improvement down the stretch, the hope being a breakout season next year.
Up Next: Iowa (Wednesday)
12) Rutgers Scarlet Knights: 14-seed
Previously: L at No. 15 Ohio State 52-79, L vs Illinois 62-75
Offense was the beginning and the end of all of Rugers’s problems this season. The Scarlet Knights were unable to consistently put up points on the board, relying on their relentless defense to do the job for them. As the season progressed, that defense was not enough to stop the better teams in the conference (or anybody in particular, really).
Up Next: Minnesota (Wednesday)
13) Iowa Hawkeyes: 12-seed
Previously: L at Minnesota 82-86, W vs Northwestern 77-70
Iowa finished on a good note, beating Northwestern on Senior Night to send, uh, Dom Uhl out with a bang. The win gives the Hawkeyes the 12 seed, which gives them another date with Illinois in what should be a highly entertaining first round game. I’d like to say the returning experience will be valuable for Iowa, but that’s what this year was supposed to be.
Up Next: Illinois (Wednesday)
14) Minnesota Golden Gophers: 11-seed
Previously: L at Wisconsin 63-73 (OT), W vs Iowa 86-82, L at No. 8 Purdue 60-84
If any team could give Northwestern a run for its money in the disappointment department, it’s Minnesota. They started the season as a top 15 team, going as high as 11 before the wheels fell off. Unlike Northwestern, however, the Gophers have legitimate reasons for their struggles, as injuries and that one thing decimated their roster to the point where Jordan Murphy was the only starter to not miss any time this season. Like some other teams on this list, the future is bright for the Gophers. How bright, though, will remain to be seen.
Up Next: Rutgers (Wednesday)
*Tiebreakers only count for seeding, so Ohio State and Purdue both finished second, Michigan and Nebraska both finished fourth, and Penn Sate and Indiana both finished sixth.
**Here’s another example of how injuries can derail a season.
- Recent performance
- Overall body of work
- Season expectations