Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings: Indiana Claims Share of Conference Title But Michigan State Still on Top

By Tim Shoemaker on February 29, 2016 at 10:10 am
Tom Crean, Big Ten champion.

I sat and stared at the Big Ten standings for roughly 30 minutes Sunday night trying to figure out how I was going to rank these teams. The bottom of the league has been pretty disappointing all season, but the Big Ten, at the top, has been next to impossible to figure out all year long.

Indiana and Tom Crean [probably] cut the nets down at Assembly Hall on Sunday night following Ohio State's victory over Iowa, which gave the Hoosiers at least a share of the conference crown. With that said, I still don't have Indiana as my No. 1 team this week in the Most Prestigious Power Rankings on the Internet because I still believe Michigan State is the top team in this conference. After that, though? That's where I had the most trouble ranking these teams.

After much debate, however, I came up with a list that I'm still not sure how I feel about. But anyway, wait no further, and check out the third-to-last edition of the Big Ten weekly power rankings. There's only a week left to go in the regular-season, folks.

1. Michigan State (24-5, 11-5)

Last week: 81-62 win at Ohio State; 88-57 win vs. Penn State

This week: Wednesday at Rutgers; Saturday vs. Ohio State

While several of the Big Ten's top teams seem to be trending the wrong way, Michigan State is going in the right direction as the calendar turns to March. What a surprise.

The Spartans are winners of four straight and eight-of-nine overall and appear to have cemented themselves as the Big Ten's best option to get a team to the Final Four. Denzel Valentine, in my opinion, has solidified himself as the Big Ten Player of the Year and should be National Player of the Year, as well.

2. Indiana (23-6, 13-3)

Last week: 74-47 win at Illinois

This week: Tuesday at Iowa; Sunday vs. Maryland

The Hoosiers claimed a share of the Big Ten title and also moved up to No. 2 this week pretty much by default. 

I've said all along I like Indiana's team and think it could be a potential Final Four contender because it does posses the ability to score at a really, really high level. But I still need the Hoosiers to beat somebody good away from Assembly Hall for me to be totally sold. 

That said, nobody else seemed like it wanted to claim the Big Ten title and credit to Indiana for having a great year in the league. The Hoosiers can clinch the conference outright with a win over Iowa or Maryland this week.

3. Wisconsin (19-10, 11-5)

Last week: 67-59 win at Iowa; 68-57 win vs. Michigan

This week: Wednesday at Minnesota; Sunday at Purdue

I struggled for quite a bit trying to figure out who to put at No. 3, but I landed on Wisconsin because Maryland and Iowa simply aren't playing well enough right now to be ranked this high. 

The Badgers' overall body of work certainly isn't as impressive as the next few teams listed below them, but as winners of 10 of their last 11 games, Wisconsin deserves to be this high in our rankings. The Badgers are playing better than anybody in the Big Ten not named Michigan State right now.

4. Purdue (22-7, 10-6)

Last week: 83-79 win vs. Maryland

This week: Tuesday at Nebraska; Sunday vs. Wisconsin

I put Purdue at No. 4 here simply because I didn't believe Maryland or Iowa deserved to be in the Top 4 ranked on performance over the last few weeks. With that said, the Boilers' victory over Maryland on Saturday was big.

I don't see Purdue as a real threat for a deep NCAA tournament run, but the Boilers are one of seven teams currently battling here for a double-bye in the Big Ten tourney.

5. Maryland (23-6, 11-5)

Last week: 83-79 loss at Purdue

This week: Thursday vs. Illinois; Sunday at Indiana

I officially don't know what's going on with Maryland. I've been high on the Terps all season despite the fact they haven't really earned any sort of high praise, but I'm starting to think they just kind of are what they are at this point.

It feels like Maryland has the highest ceiling of any team in the Big Ten with all of the talent, but the Terps haven't played at that level nearly enough this year. Maryland has lost three of four heading into Thursday's game with Illinois. Then, the Terps must go to Assembly Hall where Indiana is yet to lose all season. It's possible Maryland doesn't get a top-four seed in the Big Ten tournament.

6. Iowa (20-8, 11-5)

Last week: 67-59 loss vs. Wisconsin; 68-64 loss at Ohio State

This week: Tuesday vs. Indiana; Saturday at Michigan

Perhaps even more puzzling than Maryland is Iowa, which has lost three-straight games and four-of-five contests overall. The Hawkeyes were, at once, 10-1 in the Big Ten and ranked as high as No. 3 in the country before this free fall here over the last few weeks.

It's no guarantee Iowa gets another win in the regular-season, either, as it still has to host Indiana on Tuesday then travel to Ann Arbor for a game against a desperate Michigan team to close out the year.

7. Ohio State (19-11, 11-6)

Last week: 81-62 loss vs. Michigan State; 68-64 win vs. Iowa

This week: Saturday at Michigan State

After a disappointing performance Tuesday against Michigan State, Ohio State's response Sunday in a win over Iowa was quite impressive. 

The Buckeyes' NCAA tournament hopes are hanging on by a thread, but they've put themselves in a position where if they score an upset victory over the Spartans on Saturday things get awfully interesting.

8. Michigan (20-10, 10-7)

Last week: 72-63 win vs. Northwestern; 68-57 loss at Wisconsin

This week: Saturday vs. Iowa

Michigan is doing its best to play itself right out of the NCAA tournament field. The Wolverines missed yet another opportunity for a marquee win Sunday with a loss at Wisconsin.

A victory in the regular-season finale over Iowa would likely seal a tourney bid for Michigan, but if the Wolverines can't find a way to get it done they may need an upset or two in the Big Ten tournament to feel safe on Selection Sunday.

9. Penn State (15-14, 6-10)

Last week: 56-55 win vs. Nebraska; 88-57 loss at Michigan State

This week: Thursday vs. Northwestern; Sunday vs. Illinois

The Nittany Lions were blasted by Michigan State on Sunday, but I think Penn State has solidified itself as the best of the Big Ten's bottom tier. 

With victories over both Indiana and Iowa this season, a relatively young roster and a highly-ranked recruiting class coming into next season, Penn State has a bit to build on going forward.

10. Northwestern (18-11, 6-10)

Last week: 72-63 loss at Michigan; 98-59 win vs. Rutgers

This week: Thursday at Penn State; Sunday vs. Nebraska

Northwestern, like Penn State and Nebraska, is fighting to stay out of that 11th spot in the league standings which would cause it to play on Wednesday in the Big Ten tournament.

It just so happens those two schools are the final two opponents for the Wildcats. Northwestern wins both of those, it'll be opening up the conference tournament Thursday.

11. Nebraska (14-15, 6-10)

Last week: 56-55 loss at Penn State

This week: Tuesday vs. Purdue; Sunday at Northwestern

After winning four-straight games back in mid-January, Nebraska is 2-7 in its last nine games. The Huskers are fading and fading fast.

Nebraska has a bit of work to do in the last week of the season if it wants to avoid playing on Wednesday in the Big Ten tournament.

12. Illinois (13-16, 5-11)

Last week: 74-47 loss vs. Indiana; 84-71 win vs. Minnesota

This week: Thursday at Maryland; Sunday at Penn State

Illinois knocked off Minnesota on Sunday, but the Illini appear headed for a Wednesday game in the league tournament unless they can pull out a pair of wins this week — one of those games is at Maryland.

It has been a long season in Champaign.

13. Minnesota (8-20, 2-14)

Last week: 83-61 win vs. Rutgers; 84-71 loss at Illinois

This week: Wednesday vs. Wisconsin; Saturday at Rutgers

Minnesota had its two-game winning streak (!!) snapped Sunday with that loss to the Illini. The Gophers have a chance to upset one of the Big Ten's hottest teams in Wisconsin on Wednesday before traveling to Rutgers on Saturday where they will likely have the opportunity to close out the Scarlet Knights' winless season in the conference.

14. Rutgers (6-23, 0-16)

Last week: 83-61 loss at Minnesota; 98-59 loss at Northwestern

This week: Wednesday vs. Michigan State; Saturday vs. Minnesota

Rutgers lost its two games this week by a combined 61 points. I'm told that's not great.

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