#1. Michigan (16-1,11-1) (E)
What a performance Saturday from the Wolverines going on the road at top 5 opponent and pulling out the victory, against your fiercest rival no less. Hunter Dickinson was the star again for Michigan against OSU as he almost had a double double with 22 points and 9 rebounds. Overall it was a great team effort from Big Blue as they had 5 players score in double figures. Earlier in the week the Wolverines also handled Rutgers at home with little issue. These 2 victories have Michigan closing in on the Big 10 crown. If they defeat Illinois on March 2nd, they should lock up the Big 10 crown and probably a one seed in the NCAA tournament.
#2. Illinois (16-5, 12-3) (+1)
Another week another 2 wins for the Illini including an absolute massacre of the Gophers Saturday in a 31 point victory. This victory was headlined by a masterful performance by Ayo Dosunmu, who led Illinois with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his 2nd triple double this season. The Illini continue to roll down the stretch now bringing the winning streak up to 7 games. With 5 games left on the schedule and the last three being at Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State Illinois has ample opportunity to stake its claim for a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, Illinois will probably drop 1 or 2 of these so my guess is they will be a strong pick for a 2 seed.
#3. Ohio State (18-5.12-5) (-1)
Ohio State played very well in their game vs Michigan and they held it close the entire game until Michigan put it away during the final minutes. I don’t think this loss hurts the Buckeyes chances for a 1 seed but that makes the margin for error much thinner and it makes their March 6th contest vs Illinois that much more important to maybe be the deciding factor on who gets the 4th 1 seed. The Buckeyes play at MSU and home against Iowa this week. I bet the Buckeyes split these games with an upset loss in East Lansing playing a desperate Spartan team with their backs against the wall but then will come home and handle the Hawkeyes.
#4. Iowa (17-6,11-5) (E)
Iowa is being seen as the 4th banana with Michigan, Illinois and Ohio State above them, which I agree with. However, the Hawkeyes have as high a ceiling as any of those three teams and continue to let their play doing the talking as they rattled off their 4th straight victory, including a very nice road win over Wisconsin thrown in the mix. A huge tip of the cap to Luka Garza who continues to put the Hawkeyes on his back for becoming the all time leading scorer in school history. 4 scheduled games remain for Iowa including a brutal 2 games this week at Michigan and at Ohio State. I will be very impressed if Iowa can find a way to split these but I think a winless road trip is more likely.
#5. Wisconsin (16-8,10-7) (E)
Wisconsin still cannot figure out how to beat the teams above them, most recently falling to Iowa by 15 at home last week. Don’t get me wrong, those are some of the best teams in the country, but Purdue, Rutgers, Minnesota, Michigan State, Maryland, Indiana, and even Northwestern all have at least one victory over 1 of those 4 teams. Wisconsin has three games left on their schedule:home vs Illinois then at Purdue and Iowa. Wisconsin for sure has a spot in the dance without a win here, but the Badgers need to find a win out of these three games here to make sure their seed doesn’t take a serious hit. My prediction is that Wisconsin will lose all three of these.
#6. Purdue (15-8, 10-6) (E)
Purdue picked up wins in both of their games last week vs Michigan State and Nebraska. The win over the Spartans is seeming to get better with age with the Spartans string some wins together down the stretch but I was most more excited as a Purdue fan by the win over Nebraska. Most people would have looked at the final score and think that Purdue won the game handily, but even as late as 12 minutes to go, Nebraska was tied with the Boilermakers. Then the sight that Purdue fans had been longing to see finally happened, Sasha Stefanovic made his first three pointer since his return from COVID. Then he made another, and another and another to help the Boilers pull away from the Huskers. Before he got Covid-19, Stefanovic was the Big 10 leader in 3 point shooting percentage. Purdue doesn’t need him to be that level, but with Williams and Edey dominating the inside combined with Ivey’s emergence as an excellent driver, Stefanovic’s reemergence forces the defense to respect the perimeter free up space for the other big guys to do their thing in the paint. Purdue has 3 games left on the schedule and they should win all 3.
#7. Rutgers (12-9, 8-9) (E)
Rutgers lost both of their games last week and now have dropped 3 out of their last four with their only win coming in over lowly Northwestern. The loss at home to Maryland was particularly concerning to me because that is a game that they really should have won, but Maryland controlled ¾ of the entire game at the RAC. I do think Rutgers is still a virtual lock for the tournament but they really could use 2 more victories to sure up their status. They really need to beat Indiana at home and Nebraska on the road, then the Scarlet Knights are guaranteed a tournament spot even if they lose to the Gophers in the season finale.
#8. Minnesota (13-10, 6-10) (E)
Minnesota must be counting their lucky stars that the schedule makers line them up about an easy 4 game stretch to finish their season as they could have possibly imagined. 3 out of their last 4 games are against the bottom three teams of the conference (vs NW, at Nebraska, at Penn State) with home vs Rutgers to close out the season. The only problem for the Gophers is that even though these should all be wins, even 1 loss here to one of the three bottom teams could be a bid stealing loss for Minnesota so they might have to win ¾ at least to feel more comfortable about their bubble status. My money says they do win 3 out of 4 and as long as they don’t lose in the first round of the Big 10 tournament, the Gophers will be dancing like in the end of Caddyshack.
#9. Michigan State (11-9, 5-9) (+1)
The Spartans live to fight another day for their tournament lives especially after their 7 point victory over the Hoosiers in Bloomington. 6 games left for Michigan State. Thankfully none of them can be bad losses but 4 of the last 6 are against top 5 teams. If Sparty can win both games against IU and Maryland and pick up at least 1 win against Illinois, Ohio State or Michigan (x2), I believe MSU will fall on the right side of the bubble as long as they don’t lose in the first round in the Big 10 tournament.
#10. Maryland (14-10, 8-9) (+1)
Don’t look now, the Terps are rolling, winning 4 games last week. The win at the RAC over Rutgers was particularly impressive and for sure gets Maryland into the field of 68… for now. I actually think at this point the Terps should have a better chance to dance than the Hoosiers or Gophers. Maryland continues their easy end of the schedule with their last three games with home games vs Michigan State and Penn State with a trip to Northwestern sandwiched in the middle. The Terps should be able to sweep these three games to lock them into the tournament, but even 2 out of three might be enough as IU and Minnesota continue to struggle.
#11. Indiana (12-10, 7-8) (-2)
IU just refuses to make it easy on themselves and looks like they will continue to ride the bubble until the very end. The Hoosiers did pick up a very important win over fellow Big 10 bubble buddy Minnesota, in fact, the Hoosiers own the tiebreaker now vs both Minnesota and Maryland, which might tip the scales in the Hoosiers favor if the committee only allows only 2 out of these 3 teams into the dance. However, they dropped another important home game to MSU. Right now ESPN is projecting the Hoosiers is one of the last 4 teams into the tournament, meaning these last 4 games are crucial for IU. They play at Rutgers and home vs Michigan this week, then at MSU and at Purdue to close out the year. I think that it is very likely that Hoosiers don’t win any of these and that would for sure keep Indiana out of the tournament. My guess is that IU needs 2 of these games to secure their spot in the tournament.
#12. Penn State (7-12, 4-11) (E)
Outside of a deep Big 10 tournament run looks like Penn State will be playing for the NIT. Penn State has now lost 4 games in a row and looks like their tournament chances have all but evaporated. With 4 games left, they will need to win all for and at least 2 or 3 non pigtail games in the Big 10 tournament and even that might not be enough. I would like to give coach Jim Ferry a huge shoutout, because even though their record is not great, he took over following the firing of Pat Chambers and losing a lot of talent, Ferry is getting his team to play hard every game and keep the Nittany Lions competitive in the country’s most competitive conference. Penn State really should consider keeping him as the full time coach.
#13. Northwestern (6-14, 3-13) (E)
Only 3 games left before this once hopefully season comes to an end, the most interesting part of about the end of NW’s schedule 2/3 of the games are against Minnesota and Maryland and a loss to the Wildcats could put a huge damper on either of these teams tournament hopes. I doubt Northwestern wins any of these games but even if they won all 3, even the NIT doesn’t seem likely this year.
#14. Nebraska (5-15,1-12) (E)
It almost seems like a cruel and unusual punishment making Nebraska finish their schedule and continue to lose games for the benefit of their fellow conference members, but Nebraska is playing the part well. I have not watched a ton of Nebraska basketball this year but what I will say is they fight hard and keep it close for at least part of the game but then they don’t have the horse to keep up the entire game with the superior talent on the teams around them.