Big Ten men’s basketball power rankings, 2/18
1. Michigan State (21-5, 12-3)
It’s the Spartans, Purdue, Michigan and everyone else right now in the race for the top of the league. Michigan State gets the No. 1 nod for now thanks to three straight wins. But with star forward Nick Ward out for the foreseeable future with a hairline fracture in his left (shooting) hand, things are looking a little dicey in East Lansing.
Up next: vs. Rutgers Wednesday; at Michigan Sunday
2. Purdue (18-7, 11-3 Big Ten)
Say this about the Boilermakers: when they lose, they really lose. Purdue’s last two defeats have been by 18 at Michigan State and by 14 at Maryland. But, those are the only losses for Matt Painter’s squad since mid-December. When Carsen Edwards’ supporting cast is going good, this probably becomes the best team in the conference.
Up next: at Indiana Tuesday; at Nebraska Saturday
3. Michigan (23-3, 12-3)
Michigan is just good enough on offense, and that might be good enough. The Wolverines are a middle-of-the-pack team nationally in field goal percentage, but they’re a top-40 team in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and they don’t turn it over, ranking second nationally in turnover percentage. That’ll win you games in March, no matter how ugly they may look.
Up next: at Minnesota Thursday; vs. Michigan State Sunday
4. Wisconsin (18-8, 10-5)
The Badgers aren’t totally out of the Big Ten race, with a decent chance of being favored in each of their final six games, including Monday night’s contest against Illinois. But Wisconsin will likely have to win all of them to have a chance at an unlikely regular-season league championship.
Up next: at Northwestern Saturday; at Indiana Feb. 26
5. Iowa (20-5, 9-5)
The Hawkeyes are flying by the seat of their pants, hitting a ridiculous buzzer beater against Rutgers just six days after hitting a ridiculous buzzer beater against Northwestern. Iowa trailed the Wildcats by 15 with 4:30 left, and by 11 with two minutes left before Jordan Bohannon hit a three at the buzzer. At Rutgers, it was Joe Wieskamp somehow banking in a three from the corner to beat Rutgers by two. Big one Tuesday against Maryland.
Up next: vs. Maryland Tuesday; vs. Indiana Friday
6. Maryland (19-7, 10-5)
Despite being 3-4 in their last seven games, the Terps are in a good spot with three of their final five games at home. Maryland is playing for seeding now, both in the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. Bruno Fernando going up against Iowa’s Tyler Cook Tuesday night promises to be a physical matchup.
Up next: at Iowa Tuesday; vs. Ohio State Saturday
7. Illinois (10-16, 6-9)
Incredible turnaround for the Illini, who had won four in a row and five of six going into Monday night’s game against Wisconsin. Go 4-2 over in its final six games — very doable considering who’s left on the schedule (Penn State twice, Northwestern, Indiana, Wisconsin, Purdue), and Illinois would finish 10-10 in Big Ten play. Unthinkable two months ago.
Up next: vs. Penn State Saturday; at Purdue Feb. 27
8. Minnesota (17-9, 7-8)
The reward for smacking around a nose-diving Indiana team to end its four-game losing streak is a home game against Michigan followed by a road trip to a Rutgers team playing its basketball of the season. Minnesota has some work left to do in ensure itself a NCAA Tournament bid.
Up next: vs. Michigan Thursday; at Rutgers Sunday
9. Ohio State, (16-9, 6-8)
The Buckeyes have seen their offense hit a rough patch, scoring 55, 56 and 44 points in their last three games. The last, a 62-44 defeat at Michigan State, saw Ohio State manage just 13 points in the second half while making only four field goals. For the game, Ohio State had 18 field goals and 15 turnovers.
Up next: vs. Northwestern Wednesday; at Maryland Saturday
10. Rutgers (12-13, 5-10)
The poor Scarlet Knights didn’t even let Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon touch the ball on the game’s final play against Iowa, and still fell victim to a ridiculous buzzer-beating three. Rutgers’ last two losses have been by five in overtime at Illinois, and the Iowa game. It also has a five-point loss at Wisconsin. Just a pain in the butt to play against.
Up next: at Michigan State Wednesday; vs. Minnesota Sunday
11. Nebraska (15-11, 5-10)
The Huskers likely need three more wins to be firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble and sweat out Selection Sunday, and four gives them a pretty good chance at being in the field in a year when the bubble is weak. There are five regular-season games left, plus the Big Ten tournament. Most of us can probably do the math.
Up next: at Penn State Tuesday; vs. Purdue Saturday
12. Penn State (9-16, 2-12)
This team plays everybody close, whether it’s beating Michigan by six in State College or losing to Rutgers by four on the same court. But the Nittany Lions rank 344th of 353 teams in KenPom’s “luck” statistic, which measures the difference between a team’s actual winning percentage and its KenPom projected winning percentage. That is to say, computers think Penn State is better than its record, and most humans would probably agree.
Up next: vs. Nebraska Tuesday; at Illinois Saturday
13. Northwestern (12-13, 3-11)
Northwestern’s offense is hideous. There’s really no other way to put it. Nebraska didn’t really even play all that well Saturday (in part because of Northwestern’s defense) and yet it still felt like the Wildcats wouldn’t threaten NU’s lead over the game’s final 10 minutes. Northwestern’s lack of direction on the offensive end shows the value of having not just a good point guard, but any point guard.
Up next: at Ohio State Wednesday; vs. Wisconsin Saturday
14. Indiana (13-12, 4-10)
Imagine Nebraska’s fan base if the football team lost 10 of 11 games in one season, like the Hoosiers have done in hoops, and you’d have Indiana right now. It’s an abject disaster in Bloomington, so much so that head coach Archie Miller said after a 21-point loss to Minnesota, “we have to make some real, in my opinion, drastic changes to the way we’re doing things right now.” Yikes.
Up next: vs. Purdue Tuesday; at Iowa Friday