Big Ten Power Rankings: February 23

  • 02/23/2015 1:22 pm in

The Inside the Hall Big Ten Power Rankings are back for another week, as Wisconsin is now just a game away from clinching at least a share of the Big Ten title, while three other teams — Purdue, Maryland and Michigan State — have separated themselves by a two-game margin in the top four of the Big Ten standings.

Here’s a look at where each team stands following the eighth week of play in 2015: 

14. Rutgers (10-18, 2-13, PPP: .87, PPP Allowed: 1.07) (Last week: 14) … The Scarlet Knights’ pitiful slide toward the bottom of the Big Ten standings took another step in that direction this past week with two 30-point losses. The first, an 81-47 defeat, came on the road at Iowa, who was coming off two losses of their own. The second was an 84-54 home loss to Indiana on Sunday, the fifth straight game they were limited to less than a point per possession. After Sunday’s loss, Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan was asked whether his team still has fight. It does, he suggested, but he said his team simply isn’t “good enough” yet to compete in this league. (Next up: Feb. 26 at Purdue)

13. Penn State (15-13, 3-12, PPP: .95, PPP Allowed: 1.01) (Last week: 12) Another season has gone to the wayside for the Nittany Lions. There was a glimmer of hope after beating Nebraska on Feb. 7, but since then they have turned in three of their four-worst offensive outputs of the season — two of them coming in the past week — all of them losses. In fact, Saturday’s 60-39 defeat at Northwestern, in which they recorded just .68 PPP, was the third worst offensive effort the Nittany Lions have had in Pat Chambers’s entire four years in State College. (Next up: Feb. 28 vs. Iowa)

12. Nebraska (13-14, 5-10, PPP: .94, PPP Allowed: 1.04) (Last week: 11) Where the Cornhuskers’ free fall stops, not many people know at this point. The Cornhuskers’ 28-point loss, at home, to Iowa on Sunday was a boiling point. That’s because after the game, Tim Miles banned his players from the locker room and lounge indefinitely for showing a lack of fight against the Hawkeyes. And with seven losses now in their past eight games, dreams of a return NCAA tournament appearance this season are long a thing of the past. (Next up: Feb. 26 at Ohio State)

11. Northwestern (13-14, 4-10, PPP: 1.00, PPP Allowed: 1.09) (Last week: 13) Believe it or not, the Wildcats are on their first three-game Big Ten winning streak since the 2011-2012 season. Last Sunday’s overtime upset win over Iowa sparked the Wildcats to two other conference wins this past week, including one at Minnesota and another against Penn State on Saturday. And perhaps even more notable, their 21-point margin of victory against the Nittany Lions was Northwestern’s largest against a Big Ten opponent since it beat Indiana, 75-53 — on Feb. 25, 2009. (Next up: Feb. 25 vs. Indiana; Feb. 28 at Illinois)

10. Minnesota (16-12, 5-10, PPP: 1.03, PPP Allowed: 1.06) (Last week: 9) The Golden Gophers’ struggles have once again resumed, as a three-game winning streak has now been replaced by a current three-game losing streak, including two losses this past week to Northwestern and Wisconsin. The one that stands out, though, is that loss to the Wildcats at home. The Golden Gophers allowed the league’s 12th place team and third worst turnover rate offense to go 15-of-32 from behind the arc  with 18 assists to just 10 turnovers. (Next up: Feb. 26 at Michigan State)

9. Michigan (14-13, 7-8, PPP: 1.01, PPP Allowed: 1.07) (Last week: 10) An NCAA tournament bid is out of reach at this point, but the Wolverines continue to fight and found their first win in their past six games on Sunday with a 64-57 victory over rivals Ohio State. They started the game scorching hot — leading 33-11 more than halfway through the first half — but when the Buckeyes stormed back and even cut Michigan’s lead to just four with 4:44 to go, Spike Albrecht (16 points) converted at the other end with a layup. And the Buckeyes would not get that close again — sealing Michigan’s first win in the month of February. (Next up: Feb. 28 at Maryland)

8. Illinois (17-10, 7-7, PPP: .99, PPP Allowed: 1.03) (Last week: 8) … The Fighting Illini had a week to prepare for Michigan State, but it didn’t come easy for John Groce’s side on Sunday. After a turbulent week in which Aaron Cosby was dismissed from the program, the Fighting Illini could never really gain traction against the Spartans, as a total 46 fouls called slowed the game down. But the Fighting Illini’s shooting effort (30.8 eFG%) further exemplified their struggles — their 15-of-52 rate (2-of-16 on 3s) from the field led to their worst effective field goal percentage in a game in more than eight years (a 26.7 eFG% in a 62-44 loss against Ohio State on Jan. 6, 2007).  (Next up: Feb. 25 at Iowa; Feb. 28 vs. Northwestern)

7. Iowa (17-10, 8-6, PPP: 1.13, PPP Allowed: 1.03) (Last week: 7) The backend of the Hawkeyes schedule always appeared to be favorable. It was just a matter of them taking advantage of it in a season in which the Hawkeyes have defeated the likes of North Carolina, Ohio State and Maryland but also have lost to Minnesota and Northwestern. Well, this past week against Rutgers and Nebraska, the Hawkeyes produced a 34-point win against the Scarlet Knights and a 28-point win against the Cornhuskers in Lincoln. That is called taking care of business. (Next up: Feb. 25 vs. Illinois; Feb. 28 at Penn State)

6. Indiana (19-9, 9-6, PPP: 1.11, PPP Allowed: 1.10) (Last week: 5) The Hoosiers once again were not able to stop Purdue’s inside force on Thursday in just their second loss in Assembly Hall this season. But they answered with a convincing 30-point drubbing of Rutgers in Piscataway — the first team to beat Rutgers by that many points in the Louis Brown Athletic Center since Villanova won there in January 2005, 94-61. It also was just Indiana’s fifth road win since the start of the 2013-2014 season. (Next up: Feb. 25 at Northwestern)

5. Ohio State (19-8, 8-6, PPP: 1.08, PPP Allowed: .99) (Last week: 2) … As of late, the Buckeyes have cooled off — most recently falling behind by 22 points in the first half at Michigan on Sunday and eventually losing, 64-57. Even more troubling — they had more than a week to prepare for the Wolverines. After winning five of their past six, the Buckeyes have now lost two straight games. They are still in great shape for an NCAA tournament bid, however, entering March on a losing skid is not what they would want to do heading into Thursday’s game against Nebraska. (Next up: Feb. 26 vs. Nebraska; March 1 vs. Purdue) 

4. Michigan State (19-8, 10-4, PPP: 1.09, PPP Allowed: .97) (Last week: 6) … After two strong performances on the road this past week, the Spartans find themselves one step closer to securing a double-bye for the Big Ten Tournament in three weeks. The first win this past week came on the road against rivals Michigan on Tuesday, holding a wire-to-wire lead against the Wolverines that ballooned to 19 points as early as 14 minutes in. The second came on Sunday night at Illinois, as a stout Spartans defense allowed less than a 30-percent field goal rate and just a 25 percent offensive rebound rate in a seven-point win in Champaign. And with it, the Spartans have just their second four-game winning streak of the season. (Next up: Feb. 26 vs. Minnesota; March 1 at Wisconsin)

3. Maryland (22-5, 10-4, PPP: 1.00, PPP Allowed: .98) (Last week: 4) … Once again, the Terrapins didn’t make life easy for themselves in their lone game this past week against Nebraska. But once again, Mark Turgeon’s team found a way to win in a 69-65 escape of the Cornhuskers. On multiple occasions in that game, the Terps had a lead of seven or eight points, only for the Cornhuskers to storm right back. They even got within three with less than 30 seconds to go after Maryland led by eight with 2:09 remaining, only for Dez Wells to get a steal on the following possession to seal the game. That means Maryland is now 12-1 in games decided by 10 points or less this season. The Terps just find ways to win. (Next up: Feb. 24 vs. Wisconsin; Feb. 28 vs. Michigan)

2. Purdue (18-9, 10-4, PPP: 1.05, PPP Allowed: .98) (Last week: 3) … They had just one game to make a statement this past week — against in-state rival Indiana. And for the first time since the 2010-2011 season, the Boilermakers came out of Assembly Hall with a win, a 67-63 victory over the Hoosiers. In that game, the Boilermakers did what they have done best all season — score inside and get to the free throw line — as 57 of their 67 points came either in the paint or at the line. Heading into their final four games of the regular season, as the Boilermakers fight for their NCAA tournament lives, they have already secured their first over-.500 season in Big Ten play since the 2011-2012 season. (Next up: Feb. 26 vs. Rutgers; March 1 at Ohio State)

1. Wisconsin (25-2, 13-1, PPP: 1.21, PPP Allowed: 1.01) (Last week: 1)  The Badgers continue to march on, picking up their ninth and tenth straight wins this past week over Penn State and Minnesota. They are just one game away from sealing at least a share of the Big Ten title and two from clinching the honor outright — as they have maintained a three-game lead over the field for weeks. But their closing schedule won’t be easy — with three games on the road (Maryland, Minnesota and Ohio State) and just one at home, against second-place Michigan State. (Next up: Feb. 24 at Maryland; March 1 vs. Michigan State)

(Photo Credit: Eric Francis/Getty Images North America)

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