Last week was chalkier than we’re used to in the Big Ten, with only Maryland, Iowa and Penn State winning games where they were clear underdogs. Everything else went exactly as you would have expected. Home teams won their games, the top half of the conference beat the bottom half of the conference, and separation is starting to be pretty clear as we hit the home stretch.
Starting this week, this piece will serve as both the rankings piece and my rooting interest piece (in other words, which teams play Maryland and how do I want them to beat the Terrapins).
1) Maryland Terrapins (—)
They nearly gave the game to Nebraska, but they redeemed themselves by being the second team to win at Michigan State this season. There are some tricky games left in their schedule, namely another date with the Spartans, road games at Ohio State and Rutgers, and a visit from resurgent Michigan to end the regular season. Let’s hope our typical Maryland shows up at some point, and they lose two of those games. How about both Michigan and Ohio State? Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State? Every remaining game? Take your pick Terrapins!
2) Penn State Nittany Lions (—)
Like the team above them, the Nittany Lions just keep winning. No game on the remaining schedule is unwinnable, but a lot of them can be losable. The landmines start on Tuesday, as the Penn State hosts Illinois.
3) Iowa Hawkeyes (—)
The Hawkeyes played two road games this week, and split the pair. They couldn’t stop Indiana’s hot shooting, but they were able to win with defense against Minnesota.
4) Wisconsin Badgers (+1)
Wisconsin is quietly putting together a nice Big Ten season. They’re this close to having locked up a tournament bid at this point. In their sole game last week, they played close with Nebraska for a little over a half, then exploded from three to put the game away.
5) Michigan Wolverines (+3)
Michigan is a different team with Isaiah Livers in. They were the first team to blow out Northwestern in a very long time, and they followed that up by blowing out Indiana at home. These aren’t incredible feats by any stretch of the imagination, but just a few weeks ago the Wolverines were struggling to score, let alone put teams away. Michigan may be alive still.
6) Ohio State Buckeyes (+3)
Another team that is coming back to life, Ohio State used its two home games last week to hand Rutgers another road loss and put Purdue in desperation mode. They can test their newly found efficiency against Iowa and Maryland, the two teams on the slate this week. It would be ideal if they could at least split those two, by winning their home game preferably.
7) Michigan State Spartans (—)
From preseason number one to unranked. There have been a lot of distractions for the Spartans this season, and the biggest one was the tragedy that befell Cassius Winston and his family. It’s hard to say the distractions are the reason we’re not seeing the kind of team Michigan State tends to be at this time of the season, but it’s definitely weird to see the Spartans struggle this much. To add insult to injury, they had the Maryland game until Rocket Watts left Anthony Cowan wide open three straight times...
8) Illinois Fighting Illini (-4)
Illinois is hurting at the moment, having lost four straight, while losing Ayo Dosunmu in the process. Luckily Ayo’s injury isn’t severe, and he should be able to come back sooner or later. Here’s to a speedy recovery and an appearance on Monday against Nebraska!
9) Purdue Boilermakers (-3)
It was not a good week for Purdue, who now has to be in desperation mode after going 0-fer last week. The Boilermakers can’t really afford many more losses, and games against Wisconsin (Tuesday) and Michigan (Saturday) make the task of winning much harder in the coming week.
10) Minnesota Golden Gophers (—)
The Golden Gophers might be running out of chances to make the NCAA Tournament. They pretty much can afford one more loss, and they still have games against Maryland (home), Wisconsin (road), a pair against Indiana, and a Northwestern/Nebraska split. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that they only lose one more down the stretch, but it won’t be easy. And if they do pull off the feat, let’s hope the loss is to Wisconsin or some other road game.
11) Rutgers Scarlet Knights (—)
Rutgers was yet again able to win at home and unable to win on the road. It’s going to be funny seeing a tournament team with exactly one win away from home, that win coming against arguably the worst team in the Big Ten. With their last two home games coming against Michigan and Maryland, it’s going to be much more difficult to keep winning at home. At the same time, their remaining road games come against Wisconsin, Penn State, and Purdue. How unfortunate would it be if Rutgers lost their last five games...
...well they can lose four of five if they beat Maryland.
12) Indiana Hoosiers (—)
There are murmurs about Archie Miller’s days being numbered at Indiana. That’s not good for a team looking to stay alive in the tournament race. Indiana doesn’t play Maryland anymore so I don’t care what they do. They do play Penn State, so let’s hope for another loss there.
13) Northwestern Wildcats (—)
The bottom fell out for the Wildcats this week, maybe due to so many heartbreakers in a row. Maybe they get back to their ways and keep it close with the Terrapins, or maybe they’ll actually hold a lead this time around! Endless possibilities!
14) Nebraska Cornhuskers (—)
Injuries may start to derail the little bit of hope Nebraska had this season. It’s officially “prepare for next year” time in Lincoln.