Big Ten Power Rankings: February 29
The Inside the Hall Big Ten Power Rankings are back following the ninth week of conference play and Indiana has clinched at least a share of the regular season league crown. Here’s a look at where each team stands after the ninth week of Big Ten play (Note: Points per possession numbers in parenthesis are for conference games only):
14. Rutgers (6-23, 0-16, .90 points per possession, 1.21 points per possession allowed) … Can Eddie Jordan survive this season? I don’t see how. Rutgers last hope for a win (realistically – it isn’t beating Michigan State) is at home against Minnesota.
13. Minnesota (8-20, 2-14, .97 points per possession, 1.09 points per possession allowed) … Minnesota beat Rutgers and lost to Illinois. Sounds about right. Rough season for Richard Pitino and company, whose team plays Wisconsin at home and at Rutgers to close the season.
12. Illinois (13-16, 5-11, .98 points per possession, 1.07 points per possession allowed) … The Fighting Illini played well for a half against Indiana before getting demolished and came back to beat a shorthanded Minnesota. Road games at Maryland and Penn State to close the season for John Groce’s club.
11. Nebraska (14-15, 6-10, 1.08 points per possession, 1.07 points per possession allowed) … Nebraska has had a rough go recently, losing each of its last two games by three points or less to Ohio State and Penn State. The Cornhuskers will close out the regular season against Purdue and Northwestern.
10. Northwestern (18-11, 6-10, 1.03 points per possession, 1.07 points per possession allowed) … After beating up on Rutgers, Northwestern has a chance to finish the season with 20 wins, which would be quite an accomplishment. It is certainly possible, with Nebraska and Penn State remaining on the slate. An NIT berth could be in the future.
9. Penn State (15-14, 6-10, .96 points per possession, 1.09 points per possession allowed) … The Nittany Lions had their three-game winning streak snapped by Michigan State, but there’s absolutely no shame in that. Two home games are left for Pat Chambers and his team against Northwestern and Illinois. Chambers missed most of the Michigan State game after getting ejected in the first half.
8. Michigan (20-10, 10-7, 1.09 points per possession, 1.08 points per possession allowed) … This is now where the line is drawn between the top and bottom of the conference. Michigan, once a team that appeared a lock for the big dance, will have to earn its way in with either a win over Iowa or two wins in the Big Ten tournament to feel safe. The Wolverines have a better resume than Ohio State, but the Buckeyes have been playing better ball lately, so Michigan takes the eighth spot. U-M is squarely on the bubble.
7. Ohio State (19-11, 11-6, 1.02 points per possession, 1.01 points per possession allowed) … The Buckeyes picked up a tournament chance saving win against Iowa in Columbus Sunday, but are still on the wrong side of the bubble. It will likely take a road win over Michigan State to push them back into the conversation, otherwise the early season losses will kill their chances. It’s teams like Ohio State and Michigan that could provide an upset somewhere along the way in the conference tournament.
6. Iowa (20-8, 11-5, 1.11 points per possession, 1.02 points per possession allowed) … This is where it got tough. Iowa is a team I’ve had in the top three of these rankings all season, but to say the Hawkeyes have hit a rough patch would be generous. They’ve lost four out of five, including their last three games, and two of those losses came to Penn State and Ohio State. Iowa picked a bad time to have a slide. Iowa needs a wins this week against Indiana or Michigan if it wants a chance to share the league title.
5. Maryland (23-6, 11-5, 1.06 points per possession, .99 points per possession allowed) … Like Iowa, Maryland has struggled mightily of late, losing three out of four. The Terps have all this talent, but just haven’t been able to get it together. They look like a team that could get bounced in the first round or run to the Final Four. They get Illinois and a road trip to Assembly Hall to finish the season.
4. Purdue (22-7, 10-6, 1.11 points per possession, 1.03 points per possession allowed) … Purdue has basically just done what its supposed to do: defend home court and lose to good teams on the road. Beating Maryland was impressive and puts them here in the four spot. There’s just something special about playing at home for Indiana teams, as IU and Purdue are a combined 32-1 at its home arenas this season. Nebraska and Wisconsin are the final two regular season games for the Boilermakers.
3. Wisconsin (19-10, 11-5, 1.07 points per possession, 1 point per possession allowed) … The Badgers are still playing really well and are back to their winning ways after beating Iowa on the road and then Michigan at home. No team wants to play Wisconsin right now as the Badgers are rolling under Greg Gard. Wisconsin has won 10 of its last 11 game and closes at Minnesota and Purdue.
2. Indiana (23-6, 13-3, 1.15 points per possession, 1 point per possession allowed) … Indiana clinched at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title Sunday without even having to play. The Hoosiers are playing great basketball and dismantled Illinois without Robert Johnson. IU looks like a top 10-12 team to me and appears to be under-appreciated in bracket projections. I see the Hoosiers as a 3 or 4 seed, but obviously the two enormous games left against Iowa and Maryland will go a long way in determining that. If IU wins either of those games, it will win the conference outright and may be able to take the top spot away from Michigan State in these rankings.
1. Michigan State (24-5, 11-5, 1.17 points per possession, .99 points per possession allowed) … I know, I know, Indiana is 13-3 and Michigan State is 11-5 in conference play. But I think Michigan State is the best team in the country. There’s not a single team I’d take over the Spartans right now. These rankings are based mostly on what team I think is playing the best basketball of late and that’s MSU. Tom Izzo’s squad has the ultimate trump card over every other team too in that it beat Kansas earlier in the year – not to mention it did beat IU. Denzel Valentine would probably be my pick for national player of the year. It’d be fun to see a rematch of the Spartans and Hoosiers in the Big Ten tournament. The Spartans should continue their winning ways this week with games against Rutgers and Ohio State.
Filed to: Big Ten Power Rankings