Howe: Big Ten Hoops Power Rankings 2-18
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Another week, another chance for separation atop the Big Ten. The six best teams continue putting distance between themselves and the rest of the conference.
Iowa and Wisconsin are tied for fifth place. They’re three games clear of sixth-place Minnesota in the loss column with roughly a quarter of the league season to play.
Maryland sits a half game ahead of the Hawkeyes and Badgers. Those three teams are looking to join Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue in the Big Ten’s final regular season Top 4, a group that receives a double bye in next month’s conference tournament.
Here’s a look at my Big Ten Power rankings as we move toward the end of February (will update rankings when AP and Coaches’ polls are released on Monday):
1. Michigan State (21-5, 12-3, No. 10 AP, No. 11 Coaches) – The Spartans move back into the top spot after enjoying the best week in the Big Ten. They picked up a strong win at Wisconsin and finished up with a home victory against Ohio State. They’ve rebounded nicely from a three-game skid with a trio of triumphs, but they’ll likely be without valuable big man Nick Ward (broken hand) for the rest of the regular season.
We’ll get the game we’ve been waiting for, finally, Sunday, when MSU plays at Michigan. First, it plays host to Rutgers on Tuesday. It sits seventh in the national NET rankings. It’s fourth in the Ken Pom and Sagarin ratings.
2. Purdue (17-6, 10-2, No. 15, No. 13) – The Boilermakers saw their eight-game winning streak snapped at Maryland last week. They bounced back with a home victory against Penn State on Saturday.
Purdue appears to have the easiest path to the title. It has no more remaining games with any of the other teams currently in the league’s top six. It plays at rival Indiana on Tuesday before a trip to Nebraska on Saturday. It begins the week 12th in the NET, 10th in Ken Pom and 9th in Sagarin.
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3. Michigan (22-2 overall, 11-2 Big Ten, No. 7, No. 7) – The Wolverines suffered a bad loss last week when they fell at last-place Penn State. They bounced back with a home win against Maryland on Saturday but that setback in State College could end up costing them a championship.
Michigan travels to Minnesota on Thursday before returning home on Sunday for a showdown with rival Michigan State. It begins the week 8th in the NET and Sagarin, and 6th in Ken Pom.
4. Maryland (19-7, 10-5, No. 24, No. 25) – The Terps picked up a key win this week, ending Purdue’s eight-game winning streak. They finished a difficult week with a loss at Michigan on Saturday, not a bad or unexpected setback.
Maryland travels to Iowa on Tuesday for a critical game in pursuit of the aforementioned double bye in the conference tournament. It plays host to Ohio State on Saturday. It’s 25th in the NET, 19th in Ken Pom and 23rd in Sagarin.
5. Wisconsin (17-8, 9-5, No. 22, No. 23) – The Badgers were presented with an opportunity to move up in the standings. Instead, they lost their lone game of the week, a disappointing home defeat to Michigan State.
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Wisconsin faces a manageable but potentially tricky week with a home game against surging Illinois on Monday and then a trip to Northwestern on Saturday. It’s 15th in NET, 11th in Ken Pom, and 17th in the Sagarin.
6. Iowa (20-5, 9-5, No. 21, No. 19) – The Hawkeyes escaped defeat with a game-winning, last-second three-pointer for a second weekend in a row. They knocked off Rutgers, 71-69, on the road Saturday courtesy of a banked trey from the corner by freshman Joe Wieskamp in their lone contest of the week.
Iowa plays host to Maryland on Tuesday and Indiana on Friday. It’s 28th in the NET, 25th in Ken Pom, and 31st in Sagarin.
7. Minnesota (17-9, 7-8, NR, NR) – The Golden Gophers lost a controversial, one-point game at Nebraska before stomping Indiana at home last week.
Minnesota can make some noise this week when it plays host to Michigan Thursday before heading to Rutgers on Sunday. It’s 51st in the NET, 46th in Ken Pom and 48th in Sagarin.
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8. Illinois (10-15, 6-8, NR, NR) – I considered putting the Illini in this tier a week ago. Them they went out and earned it with a win at Ohio State in their lone game last week. It gave them a four-game winning streak, tied with Iowa for the longest current run in the league.
Illinois has a chance to make more noise this week with a game at Wisconsin on Monday and a home contest with Penn State on Saturday. It’s 80th in NET, 66th in Ken Pom and 62nd in Sagarin.
9. Ohio State (16-9, 6-8, NR, NR) – The Buckeyes lost a pair of games last week, falling at home to Illinois before wearing down at Michigan State on Sunday. They had won their previous three games.
Ohio State plays host to Northwestern on Wednesday before heading to Maryland on Saturday. It’s 44th in Net, 39th in Ken Pom and 36th in Sagarin.
10. Nebraska (15-11, 5-10, NR, NR) – The Huskers halted a seven-game losing streak with home wins against Minnesota and Northwestern last week. They’re 39th in NET, and 33rd in Ken Pom and Sagarin.
11. Indiana (13-12, 4-10, NR, NR) – The Hoosiers dropped their lone contest of the week, being blown out at Minnesota. They’ve dropped three in a row. They’re 55th in NET, 47th in Ken Pom and 44th in Sagarin.
12. Rutgers (12-13, 5-10, NR, NR) – The Knights won at Northwestern before losing on a last-second three-pointer against Iowa last week. They’re 111th in NET, 85th in Ken Pom and 91st in Sagarin.
13. Northwestern (12-13, 3-11, NR, NR) – The reeling Wildcats lost at home to Rutgers and at Nebraska last week. They’re 77th in NET, and 69th in Ken Pom, and 68th in Sagarin.
14. Penn State (9-16, 2-12, NR, NR) – The Nittany Lions pulled off an upset of first-place Michigan and then fell at Purdue. Maybe they should be ahead of Northwestern. But, really, who cares? They’re 70th in NET, 68th in Ken Pom and 66th in Sagarin.