Chaos in the Big Ten
By Zachery Bonzheim
The regular season is almost over, and no conference has seen a bigger shake-up than the Big Ten. The top teams have fallen, the historically good teams have risen, and the bottom of the barrel is still there.
Back in week 14, Wisconsin was #7 in the nation, Purdue was #16, Maryland was #21, and Northwestern just dropped from #25. Michigan State, Michigan, and Minnesota were on the outside looking in. Minnesota has dropped 5 in a row and Michigan State had gone off the deep end even with Miles Bridges back. Fast forward to present day, week 17. Wisconsin has plummeted to the 22nd ranking, Maryland and Northwestern have found themselves outside the rankings, and Minnesota, Michigan, and Michigan State are now receiving votes. The only teams that have maintained their playing levels are #16 Purdue and the bottom of the conference. As it stands now, Maryland sits tied for third in the conference with Michigan State when they were alone at the top not so long ago. Northwestern who had been stuck at the third and fourth spot all year suddenly trending down and tied at 6th with the Michigan Wolverines. Purdue, who now sits alone atop the conference was consistently sitting Wisconsin and Maryland. The conference has changed drastically in the last month.
How has the conference shifted in such a dramatic fashion? Purdue has rattled off an impressive 9-2 record in the last 11 maintaining peak for while others fell. Wisconsin started Big Ten play as 10-1, since going 1-4. Maryland started conference play at 8-1 but falling down the stretch at 2-5. Northwestern likewise started strong only to go 2-5 in its last 7.
Well, what about the risers? How could three teams crawl from the pits of the conference all the way into the national conversation receiving votes in the latest AP Poll? Michigan State started hot at 3-0, dropped quite a few in a stretch where the went 1-4, and now are at a point where they are 6-2 in the last 8 with 2 more very possible wins. Minnesota, like Michigan State, started hot at 3-1, dropped a staggering 5 in a row and now are on a 7 game tear with being favored in their 2 remaining games. Michigan started the conference slate at 4-6. Since their second meeting of Michigan State, the Wolverines have gone 5-1. All of these teams, regardless of how they are doing as of late, are more than likely in the tournament come March. There is perhaps one team that confused everyone a lot more with how their season changed.
The week 3 AP Poll had Indiana at #3 and receiving 2 first place votes. Indiana had a trio of OG Anunoby, Thomas Bryant, and James Blackmon Jr firing on all cylinders. IU was on most experts lists of teams with a real shot of winning it all. Fast forward to the Big Ten season and Indiana sits at 10-2 overall including impressive wins over #3 Kansas and #3 North Carolina. Two incredible wins to counter a respectable loss to Butler and an embarrassing loss to IPFW. How did this nationally ranked and respected team handle the conference play? They started at a 1-4 before a three-game win streak. Many thought this three-game win streak was where the season was finally going to be turned around. Instead, IU has gone 2-7 since. At 16-13 and being ranked 10th in the Big Ten, this year did not turn out as most of the nation believed for this Hoosier squad.
Going into the final week of Big Ten play how do the teams rack up?
Standings (As of Monday, February 27th, 2017)
- #16 Purdue 12-4 (23-6) 100% for the Tournament
- #22 Wisconsin 11-5 (22-7) 99% Chance for the Tournament
- RV Maryland 10-6 (22-7) 94% Chance for the Tournament
- RV Michigan State 10-6 (18-11) 93% Chance for the Tournament
- RV Minnesota 10-6 (22-7) 100% Chance for the Tournament
- Northwestern 9-7 (20-9) 45% Chance for the Tournament
- RV Michigan 9-7 (19-10) 75% Chance for the Tournament
- Iowa 8-8 (16-13) 2% Chance for the Tournament
- Illinois 7-9 (17-12) 7% Chance for the Tournament
- Nebraska 6-10 (12-16) 0% Chance for the Tournament
- Indiana 6-10 (16-13) 7% Chance for the Tournament
- Ohio State 6-10 (16-13) 3% Chance for the Tournament
- Penn State 6-10 (14-15) 0% Chance for the Tournament
- Rutgers 2-14 (13-16) 0% Chance for the Tournament
There are 5 teams that are basically locked (2 that are literally locked) for the big dance come March. There are really only 2 teams that are on the bubble, both in opposite positions. Michigan’s latest surge has shot them into the comfort of having a 75% chance of making it. Both Michigan and Michigan State saw their chances of making the tournament greatly increased by their recent play. Michigan State saw their percentage increased from 72.2% to 93.1. That 20.9% jump in one week was the third largest in all Division 1. Michigan saw their chance go from 57.7% to 75.2%. Their jump of 17.5% was the fifth-largest one week jump last week. Northwestern’s huge struggles down the line have lowered their chances to 45%. 4 teams are holding onto a thread for a shot at the big dance. A week ago, Northwestern had a 74,4% chance of making the tournament. Their one-week drop of 29.9% is the biggest drop of any team in all of Division 1. Of those teams, Indiana has the best shot at just 6.8%. Indiana who three weeks ago saw their chances to get in at 41.2% have dropped 34.3% to just a 6.8% chance of making it. Their three-week drop of 34.3% put them at fourth biggest three-week fall in the whole nation. And then there are the teams with no shot at the tournament, Rutgers, Penn State, and Nebraska. All three have the only losing records in the conference and have kissed their chances goodbye.
The Big Ten has had huge changes as of late. The middle of the pack has risen and taken back their NCAA tournament spots, the top has fallen, Purdue has been one of the most consistent in the nation, and Indiana not so much. With a final week of games and the conference tournament coming up, this will be one conference to keep an eye on.