B1G Basketball Power Rankings entering final week of regular season
As we enter the final week of the regular season, Michigan has a stranglehold on the Big Ten Power Rankings.
But there’s significant movement elsewhere, as teams jockey for positioning in the Big Ten Tournament and look to score for the NCAA résumé.
Let’s take a look at where teams stand in Week 15.
(Previous week: 1)
Record: 18-1 overall, 13-1 Big Ten
In a 6-day span over the last week, Michigan defeated No. 4 Ohio State in Columbus, beat No. 9 Iowa at home and took care of business at Indiana. Not bad for a team that only a week previous had been on an extended COVID pause, unable to practice together let alone play games. But Michigan is a solid team, perhaps the best equipped to become the Big Ten’s first NCAA Champion since Michigan State in 2000. There’s a long way to go between now and then — a makeup date with Illinois be a battle on Tuesday night — but the Wolverines have all the tools. Perhaps only Gongaza is better, but even that might be questionable.
(Previous week: 2)
Record: 18-6, 14-4
Without Ayo Dosunmu — the outstanding guard is day-to-day after suffering a severely broken nose against Michigan State a week ago — the Fighting Illini have managed to get by the last 2 games, getting by Nebraska then winning at the Kohl Center vs. Wisconsin. Freshman Andre Curbelo has filled in nicely as the starter, nearly recording a triple-double vs. the Cornhuskers. That’s great, but if Illinois is to get where it wants to go, then it’ll need Dosunmu back. Will that be Michigan on Tuesday? Illinois seems in no hurry to rush its star to the court prematurely, nor should it.
(Previous week: 4)
Record: 18-7, 12-6
The truth hurts: Iowa’s defense stinks. At least until Sunday, it did. Inexplicably, the Hawkeyes held No. 4 Ohio State to only 57 points in a 16-point victory. It was a nice — and needed — bounce back after Iowa looked like a pretender in a 22-point mauling at Michigan earlier in the week. It seems illogical to suggest Iowa could potentially continue to defend well, but it might be the Hawkeyes’ only ticket to a deep NCAA Tournament run, especially now with backup forward Jack Nunge (7.1 points and 5.3 rebounds) out the rest of the season with a knee injury.
(Previous week: 5)
Record: 16-8, 11-6
A win at Penn State might not seem all that big a deal, but the way in which the Boilermakers won Friday is impressive: Purdue dominated the Nittany Lions in about every facet and could be playing its best basketball as the calendar turns to March. Rookie Jaden Ivey won’t be the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year, but he might be the freshman with the most upside in the league. The guy is good and just keeps getting better; against the Nittany Lions, he had 14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 steals.
5. Ohio State
(Previous week: 3)
Record: 18-7, 12-7
Ohio State has dropped 3 straight games, including Sunday’s contest in which it was smoked at home by Iowa. The Buckeyes’ grasp on the final No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament is probably slipping away, and now OSU might not even get a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament. But look, the Buckeyes were probably playing above their grade anyway and now have normalized. They have to be able to hit shots to win and in the last 2 games, they’ve made only a combined 9 3-pointers.
Record: 15-10, 9-9
Maryland has gone from a longshot NCAA Tournament team to on the bubble to now almost assuredly in the field, assuming it doesn’t collapse in the final week of the season and in the conference tourney. But that is unlikely given that the Terrapins’ final 2 opponents are at Northwestern and home to Penn State. It’s probable that Maryland will end the regular season on a 7-game winning streak, although the best win in that streak might be against a sinking Rutgers’ team. But the Terps’ have big wins, the biggest being at Illinois in mid-January.
(Previous week: 6)
Record: 16-9, 10-8
Wisconsin had so much go its way in winning a share of the Big Ten title last season. And luck is swinging back in the other direction this year, as the Badgers haven’t been getting many breaks. It’s a reason they’re floundering slightly above .500 in the league this season, despite having basically everyone back from last year. Wisconsin lacks a solid one-on-one scorer, although D’Mitrik Trice impersonated one well against Illinois Saturday, when he scored 19 straight points in just more than 2 minutes to nearly rally Wisconsin.
8. Michigan State
(Previous week: 11)
Record: 13-10, 7-10
Michigan State appeared poised to make a late-season charge to the NCAA Tournament with wins over Illinois and Ohio State, but then it went and laid an egg against Maryland. The Terrapins made the Spartans look pedestrian again, like MSU had for much of the season, by holding them to only 33% shooting. Yikes. Rocket Watts has been all over the place this season, and when he’s off — only 5 points and an assist in 20 minutes vs. Maryland — the Spartans have very little chance of winning.
(Previous week: 8)
Record: 13-10, 9-10
Oh, no Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have put themselves back on the bubble thanks to being boat-raced at Nebraska by 21 points on Monday night. Losing is one thing, but looking lost and disinterested in another altogether. Why? The Scarlet Knights have so much to play for, with a return trip to the NCAA, for the first time since 1991, on the line, one would think they wouldn’t fall flat. Rutgers goes to Minnesota on Saturday in its last regular-season game, one that feels like a must-win.
(Previous week: 9)
Record: 12-12, 7-10
Does Archie Miller survive the season? It might depend on this last week, and whether the Hoosiers can rally for road wins at Michigan State and Purdue and sneak back into the NCAA Tournament. As it stands right now, IU is probably on the outside looking in, but the window is at least still ajar. The problem is Indiana doesn’t look like a team that is starting to figure anything out, and it’s that a reflection of the fourth-year head coach. Compounding matters, Armaan Franklin is likely out this week due to his lingering ankle injury.
11. Penn State
(Previous week: 12)
Record: 8-13, 5-12
Until getting drilled by Purdue in Happy Valley on Friday night, the Nittany Lions had largely been competitive this season. But nobody is going to build a résumé simply on losing close. Maybe PSU could get hot and upset someone in the Big Ten Tournament, but it lacks the frontcourt depth to really make any sort of a consistent noise.
(Previous week: 10)
Record: 13-12, 6-12
Richard Pitino is almost guaranteed to get fired at the end of the season, which might be only a little more than a week away for the Golden Gophers. What a miserable couple of weeks it’s been, especially late last week when Minnesota lost to the 2 worst teams in the league (see below) in a 3-day span. And so the Gophers, once a sure-thing for the NCAA Tournament, have played their way out. And Pitino has coached his way out the door.
(Previous week: 13)
Record: 7-17, 3-14
Kudos to Nebraska, which has played about a billion games in the last 2 weeks and pulled a stunner on Monday night, dominating Rutgers from start to finish. When you’ve not won a lot — and Nebraska hasn’t — then the next best is to try to be a spoiler. The 21-point win was all the more impressive considering Teddy Allen wasn’t with the Cornhuskers. The star guard, who had scored 41 points in a loss to Penn State days earlier, announced he was shutting down, although his reason for doing so wasn’t entirely obvious.
(Previous week: 14)
Record: 7-14, 4-13
Northwestern rallied to win in the Barn on Thursday, scoring its first Big Ten victory after 13 straight losses. Boo Buie, who has been a complete mystery most of the season, returned to form with 25 points, his second straight solid outing. Get this: Northwestern has now won 5 of its last 6 meetings with the Gophers in Minnesota.