Maryland lost to Ohio State on the road, and Penn State went winless for the week. Those losses loosened the stranglehold the two teams had on first and second place, respectively, allowing for teams like Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois to inch just a little bit closer to the desired spots in the conference standings. On the other end, teams fighting for an NCAA tournament bid may have seen their lights go out this week, as both Purdue and Minnesota took losses they could not afford this week. Both will need a spotless run to end the regular season to even have a prayer.
This is the time of the season where item number 3 on my criteria for rankings comes into play, so don’t expect the giant drops/rises of the early conference season. Here are my criteria, as a reminder:
- Recent results. If you win your games, you will be ranked higher. Simple, right?
- Opponents. Winning is cool and all, but who those wins come against matter too.
- Body of work. As to avoid large swings from week to week, what the team has done so far this season also counts.
1) Maryland Terrapins (—)
The Terrapins probably had more trouble with Northwestern than they would have liked, but the Wildcats have been handing out heart attacks all season long. What matters is that they went to Columbus and lost to Ohio State, thus opening up things for the teams behind them, who now sits two games behind the Terps collectively, instead of three.
2) Iowa Hawkeyes (+1)
They only played once this week, but they soundly beat Ohio State to stay in the hunt for a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament, and potentially a 2-seed if things play out favorably down the stretch.
3) Penn State Nittany Lions (-1)
Losing to Illinois at home was not ideal, but playing without Myreon Jones for that long was going to catch up to them at some point. They had a chance against Indiana, going up six in the second half, but ultimately shooting went cold and the Hoosiers were able to survive. That means they need to 1) get Myreon back pronto, and 2) lose no more than two games down the stretch if they want to keep their double-bye hopes alive.
The regular season title may very well be outside of their grasp, but who knows, maybe Maryland falters in the next two weeks while Penn State soars.
4) Michigan Wolverines (+1)
Michigan just keeps on winning. The Wolverines were the first team to win at the RAC this season, and they followed that up by winning at Purdue, a place that has not been easy for opponents over the years, even if it’s been ever so slightly easier this season.
5) Wisconsin Badgers (-1)
Wisconsin has successfully done that thing they’ve been so famous for under Greg Gard, where they look dead in the water early in the non-conference and conference season, then they win a bunch of games in the middle, and by the end of the regular season they’re fighting for a favorable spot in the Big Ten tournament. At 10-6 in conference play, the Badgers are in a X-way tie for third place. This seemed nearly impossible back in December.
6) Illinois Fighting Illini (+2)
The Fighting Illini got their star player back, and got a win they absolutely needed on the road against Penn State. Nebraska didn’t make things easy, but that’s what the Huskers have been good for this season. Now they face a stretch that includes Indiana at home, and Northwestern on the road. Illinois could shoot up the standings by the time it’s all said and done. They do finish with Ohio State and Iowa, so those won’t be easy.
7) Ohio State Buckeyes (-1)
The Buckeyes could not keep pace with Iowa on Thursday, but handled Maryland at home to stay in the race for the middle of the conference. The Buckeyes, with eight losses, still play Michigan, Michigan State, and Illinois, with only the Spartans being a road game, Nebraska being the other. The Buckeyes are looking good for a solid top half finish if they can play well down the stretch, and can have a BIG say in who gets the double bye.
8) Michigan State Spartans (-1)
Michigan State soundly beat Nebraska in their lone game this week, and I’m sure the Spartans will take it. Michigan State has lost four of their last six, and winning the conference, at this point, is nothing but a pipe dream barring pandemonium in the last two weeks of conference play. March can’t come soon enough for the Spartans.
9) Indiana Hoosiers (+3)
Indiana got a crucial road win against Minnesota, and an even bigger home win against Penn State. The rest of their season is manageable, but not easy, as they have no games left against the Nebraska/Northwestern tandem. They do face Wisconsin and Minnesota at home, however.
10) Minnesota Golden Gophers (—)
Minnesota’s NCAA tournament hopes died when they gave the game away to Iowa, then followed it up by getting worked against Indiana. They can still finish strong, and can pick up great wins against Maryland and Wisconsin, but they can’t lose anymore or they’ll need to win the Big Ten tournament to get in.
11) Rutgers Scarlet Knights (—)
What happens when you finally lose at home and can’t win on the road? You end up staring at a losing streak to end the regular season. The carriage has turned back into a pumpkin for the Knights, and their home magic might need to be more magicky against a Maryland team that just keeps winning.
12) Purdue Boilermakers (-3)
That record-setting game against Iowa seems like such a long time ago. Since that game, they’ve lost four of five, two of those at home, and three of them by double digits. Barring some sort of miracle, it’s looking like an NIT season for the Boilermakers.
13) Northwestern Wildcats (—)
Oh Northwestern. You keep giving teams scares, but continue to come just short. At least the Wildcats have another game against Nebraska left, a team they already beat.
14) Nebraska Cornhuskers (—)
Nebraska status continues to be “wait till next year”. It will continue to be this until their season is mercifully over in a couple of weeks.