B1G basketball power rankings for Week 14
Michigan picked up its biggest win of the Big Ten season Sunday in what was one of the year’s best games, when the Wolverines beat rival Ohio State in a top-5 matchup.
Now, UM, a couple of games clear of the rest of the field in the loss column, has its eyes set on a Big Ten Championship. How does the rest of the conference shake out?
Let’s take a look at the Week 14 power rankings.
(Previous week: 1)
Record: 16-1 overall, 11-1 Big Ten
If there were any doubters remaining about Michigan’s season, they were largely exterminated Sunday, when the Wolverines beat No. 4 Ohio State in Columbus by 5. The game, which had 17 lead changes and 11 ties, was one of the best of this odd college basketball season. But Michigan, thanks for forcing Ohio State into several key mistakes in the closing minutes, escaped with the win, solidifying its spot as the Big Ten’s team to beat. Michigan can win in about every way, from hitting 10 of its first 11 3-pointers, to pounding the ball inside, where Hunter Dickinson had 22 points and nine rebounds.
(Previous week: 3)
Record: 16-5, 12-3
The Fighting Illini might not be able to catch Michigan, but they certainly are surging at the right time. Illinois’ most complete game of the season was its last, a total dissection of Minnesota in the Barn, a place the Gophers had lost only once previously this season. The Fighting Illini dominated in every aspect, maybe no more so than in fast-break points, where they smoked the Gophers 31-8. And it’s where Ayo Dosunmu is at his best, flying at break-neck speed through the defense. For the second time in his last four games, he recorded a triple-double, becoming the first Illini in his career to record more than one. Luka Garza is likely to be the conference’s player of the year, but in any other season, Dosunmu would be at the top of the list.
3. Ohio State
(Previous week: 2)
Record: 18-5, 12-5
Ohio State’s 9th turnover of Sunday afternoon was costly, when a misguided behind-the-back pass was stolen by Michigan. Quickly a 3-point OSU deficit turned to 6 and the Buckeyes were beaten at home, ending their 7-game winning streak. But Ohio State put up an outstanding fight, proving that it does in fact belong in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed. Duane Washington Jr. has been marvelous in the second half of the Big Ten season and was again Sunday, when he poured in a career-high 30 points. He has given OSU a great perimeter complementary scorer to the inside presence of E.J. Liddell.
(Previous week: 4)
Record: 17-6, 11-5
Iowa has rolled its winning streak to 4 games, tied for the 3rd-longest in the Big Ten (behind Michigan’s 5 and Illinois’ 7). But it’s hard not to feel like the Hawkeyes are a team with a definitive ceiling because they just don’t defend well enough for a deep NCAA Tournament run. Maybe the offense can get hot again, especially once out of the Big Ten (where everyone knows everyone too well), and that can overcome the defensive deficiencies, but it seems unlikely. Man, Garza is good; now, he’s Iowa’s all-time leading scorer with 2,126 points (and counting).
(Previous week: 7)
Record: 15-8, 10-6
There aren’t many teams that want to play Purdue, considering the Boilermakers’ young guns keep getting better and better. Before he leaves Purdue, Jaden Ivey might be a conference player of the year and an All-American. He shows the signs now, especially when he’s hitting outside shots, like vs. Nebraska, to pair with his ability to rush the basket. It’s impressive to watch. The Boilermakers’ biggest weakness is their perimeter shooting, where they’re last in the Big Ten in terms of volume of made 3-pointers. But Sasha Stefanovic’s return to form — he had four second-half triples in the win at Nebraska — in his best game post-COVID bodes well.
(Previous week: 6)
Record: 16-8, 10-7
Let’s be honest: Is there a bigger disappointment in the Big Ten than Wisconsin? Sure, the Badgers beat up on Northwestern on Sunday, but they’re not really scaring anyone, not with a pedestrian offense that struggles to get to 70 points. For a team with so many seniors — they’re older than NBA teams! — Wisconsin has failed to live up to expectations. It doesn’t mean the Badgers are in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament (they won’t, even if they lose their last 3 games), but the seed won’t be anywhere near where it thought it’d be.
Record: 14-10, 8-9
Maryland is surging at the right time, with a 4-game winning streak that has it back within a game of .500. If the NCAA Tournament starts today, the Terrapins very likely would be in the field of 68. And Maryland will get a chance to pad its résumé over the next couple of weeks, with remaining games vs. Michigan State, Northwestern and Penn State. Mark Turgeon has had far more talented teams, but this might be one of his best coaching jobs. Maryland is embracing defense and winning by playing small in a league full of giants.
(Previous week: 5)
Record: 12-9, 8-9
Rutgers has to be the biggest mystery of the B1G season because one moment the Scarlet Knights look like they could beat anyone and the next they look completely lost. And lately, the latter is happening far too often. Wednesday’s game vs. Indiana in the RAC is gigantic. It’s too much to say it’s an NCAA Tournament play-in game — both teams might still make it — but it does represent another opportunity for each to pick up a quality win only weeks before Selection Sunday.
(Previous week: 9) 1-1
Record: 12-10, 7-8
Indiana fans are restless, and they should be. The Hoosiers are coming off a home loss to struggling Michigan State, a game in which IU gave up 52 points in the second half. It was ugly. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers got 34 points from Trayce Jackson-Davis and 15 from Race Thompson — the forwards combined to make 18-of-29 shots — but IU had only seven additional made field goals and five of those came from Armaan Franklin. In fact, only four Hoosiers made a basket. IU’s guard play just hasn’t been good enough, often enough for the Hoosiers to gain any consistency.
(Previous week: 8)
Record: 13-10, 6-10
Are the alarm bells going off inside the Barn yet? If not, perhaps they should be. Minnesota is sinking at the most inopportune time, losing 3 straight games to drop to only 6-10 in Big Ten play. The soft spot in the Golden Gophers’ NCAA Tournament résumé is glaring: Minnesota is 0-8 on the road. Now, there are positives, as well. The Gophers have outstanding wins, like over Michigan (the Wolverines’ only loss this season), Purdue, Iowa, 4 teams that are in the top-5 in the league. And Minnesota has road games at Nebraska and Penn State remaining, at least one, if not both, could end up being victories.
11. Michigan State
(Previous week: 12)
Record: 11-9, 5-9
The Spartans received big contributions from Aaron Henry, Gabe Brown and Rocket Watts to help them to one of the few highlights of the Big Ten season, a win at Indiana over the weekend. But that kind of across-the-board contributions have been way too infrequent. That said, if MSU can repeat the performance a couple more times, it could still make the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans have games remaining vs. Michigan (x2), Ohio State, Maryland and Indiana, so plenty of chances for big victories. But will MSU win any of them?
12. Penn State
(Previous week: 11)
Record: 7-12, 4-11
Penn State would probably be a .500 team in any other conference, but the B1G’s depth is too much for the Nittany Lions. They compete but just can’t get over the hump often enough. And the current 4-game losing streak takes PSU out of its long-shot bid for the NCAA Tournament.
(Previous week: 13)
Record: 5-15, 1-12
Nebraska is good for about 20 minutes every game, but unfortunately, every game is at least 40 minutes long. Like has frequently happened this season, the Cornhuskers competed vs. Purdue Saturday, before the Boilermakers found their groove in the second half and blew out the hosts. But Nebraska has handled this bizarre season as well as could be expected, for an undermanned team, considering it’ll continuing playing about every other day until the end of the season.
(Previous week: 14)
Record: 6-14, 3-13
Northwestern might very well become the first team to win its first three Big Ten games only to lose the next 17. (There’s no way it has happened before, right?) But the Wildcats have been a mess since the hot start. Their young players just aren’t developing at the rate many had hoped, and it’s left NU as an afterthought in the league.