With all Big Ten teams having at least seven games under their belts, the top teams have begun to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. But there has yet to be an emergence of a true favorite to earn the number 1 seed in this year’s tournament in Washington DC. But there has been enough play to break down the rankings into the following three categories.
DEFINITELY NOT MAKING THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
14. Rutgers (1-7, 12-9) – The Scarlet Knights have improved immensely from last year and are not the automatic blowout win for opponents that they were a season ago. They really have made teams fight to the end of games and for that alone, deserve a ton of credit. But with that being said, they don’t have what it takes to finish games and thus have only won once.
13. Illinois (2-5, 12-8) – What an absolute waste of Malcolm Hill. Tracy Abrams and Jalen Coleman-Lands have severely underperformed and the Illini are 0-4 on the road, with 4 ugly blowout loses.
12. Penn State (3-5, 11-10) – The Nittany Lions have have 2 good wins at home against Michigan State and Minnesota, but were just blown out on the road against Wisconsin and Purdue. Yes those are two good teams, but Penn State looks like a completely different team on the road and one that won’t win against a decently tough opponent.
11. Nebraska (3-4, 9-10) – What the hell happened to this team? They are only this high because of the huge wins over Indiana and Maryland. But the Rutgers loss really ends any chance of a momentum swing that could have boasted this team back toward the upper half of the conference.
10. Iowa (3-4, 11-9) – Did just beat Purdue, but their only other wins are Rutgers and Michigan, all three at home. Another team that looks like a shell of themselves on the road, Iowa will at least give you everything they have on their home court, where they seem to be able to beat good competition.
So You are Saying there’s a Chance?
9. Michigan (3-4, 13-7) – Michigan’s 3 wins are home games against Nebraska, Penn State and Illinois. They gave both Maryland and Wisconsin scares but couldn’t complete either game. Michigan is too experienced to be struggling this much. In their next four games they see Michigan State (twice), Ohio State, and Indiana. If they can sneak away with wins in 2 or 3 of those games, they could rejoin the conversation of making the big dance.
8. Minnesota (3-4, 15-6) – The Golden Gophers tasted a top 25 ranking a few weeks ago and then went on the worst four game stretch imaginable. They still have the potential to right the ship, but they are spiraling quickly and need to stop the bleeding. But they host a red-hot Maryland over the weekend for their next game, a chance to prove they are tournament worthy.
7. Michigan State (4-4, 12-9) – Michigan State is also spiraling and after their 3 consecutive loss, found themselves with a media nightmare after Tom Izzo said he didn’t care about the fan base. But he is still Tom Izzo and we all know he can and probably will find a way to turn this around and finish in the top 4 of a weaker than normal conference.
6. Ohio State (3-5, 13-8) – How can an experienced team with Jae’Sean Tate, JaQuan Lyle, Marc Loving, and Keita Bates-Diop be just 3-5? The Schedule-makers weren’t kind to the Buckeyes, whose first 5 games in conference play were Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan State. Ohio State only got a win in one of those games and the Illinois loss in the conference opener seemed to destroy any confidence they had. But they have since won 3 of their last 4 and things seem to be looking up in Columbus as they should with so much experience.
5. Indiana (4-3, 14-6) – I still don’t know what to make of the Hoosiers. Besides the Nebraska loss, Indiana has looked fine in every game, but nowhere near great yet. They will struggle even more after the devastating loss of OG Anunoby for the rest of the season. And to make matters worse, Juwan Morgan also missed the last 2 games and they’ll definitely need him back ASAP to keep their modest 3 game win streak rolling.
They are IN
4. Northwestern (5-2, 16-4) – I really hope that I am not jinxing it because everyone knows Northwestern has never played in the world’s greatest tournament. Well this really looks like the year even though they haven’t won any games against the top 5 of the conference. BUT, as long as they win half of their remaining games Northwestern should be dancing. They can start by beating Nebraska and Indiana at home in their next 2 games.
3. Purdue (6-2, 17-4) – If they just would have beaten Iowa, they would be number 1 in the conference because they have the best win of any team against Wisconsin. But that loss plus the Minnesota loss at home push them down to 3. They have tough games against Northwestern and at Maryland in the next 10 days, 2 chances to get signature conference wins.
2. Maryland (6-1, 18-2) – Maryland has gotten the job done since the Nebraska loss at home, winning the next 5. Melo Trimble is a top 3 player in the conference and legitimate contender to be an All-American. The Terps best win so far is Indiana and have 2 semi-tough road games at Minnesota and Ohio State coming up before their date win Purdue on February 4. If they win those two games, they could be a top 10 team in the country in my opinion at 20-2, which would make that game in College Park a wild one.
1. Wisconsin (6-1, 17-3) – Their only loss was at Purdue, which they made up for by winning at Indiana. They have won four straight including a gut-wrenching one at Minnesota. Ethan Happ is still the best player in the conference and until Wisconsin loses again, they should remain atop the standings. They play Rutgers and Illinois next before hosting Indiana.