Once again, I’m abandoning the rankings this week. I’m not sure anyone can confidently rank the top seven teams in the league and have the results support their rankings. Everyone is beating each other.
I was fairly set on Iowa being the number one team. Then, they lose at Indiana, which wasn’t all that surprising, but they followed it up by barely beating Minnesota at home.
I had Michigan State right below them. I actually think the Spartans will end up being the better team when it matters most, but they’ve also lost five games in the conference and sometimes wonder if their defense will bite them in March. If I just watched this team having no idea who coached them would I feel the same way? I think we all just assume Tom Izzo will figure it all out and Michigan State will be in the Final Four like they’ve done seven times in his tenure. You’re right, they probably will.
Wisconsin is suddenly Wisconsin again. Remember in mid-December when I declared them dead and even made an Oregon Trail tombstone meme about their run of top-4 finishes being over? Yeah, me neither. Although, they do currently sit in fifth place with road games at Michigan State, Iowa, and Purdue comprising half of their remaining schedule. I’m certainly not betting against them in any game from here on out, though. That program is incredible.
Indiana played three halves pretty well this week. I think any Hoosier fan would’ve signed up for a split this past week and they got it. They still control their own destiny in the Big Ten title race. You don’t get a true champion in this league anymore, but if IU does end up pulling it out, they’ll have earned it.
Maryland probably had the worst week of any of the top teams. They played Bowie State for some reason early in the week and apparently that didn’t properly prepare them to host Wisconsin. They held a 14-7 lead six and a half minutes into the game and watched that turn in to 14-point deficit at the half, which was about all she wrote. Kind of makes me wonder if having that Bowie game made a veteran team lose a little bit of focus when they’d previously been unbeatable at home.
Purdue started off the week with a huge victory over Michigan State at home. The Boilers got up by 18 early in the second half, only to watch that lead completely evaporate and have to shut the Spartans out for the final two minutes of regulation to rally from four points down and force overtime. It wasn’t only big to beat MSU – something they hadn’t done in their seven previous tries – but it would’ve been a devastating loss considering they had blown a similar lead at home to Iowa. What looked to be a monumental victory turned in to a flat-faced loss over the weekend. Purdue had no business losing to Michigan. They led basically the entire way, but never extended leads due to blown lay-ups and careless turnovers and just like that the Wolverines snatched the win down the stretch.
Speaking of those Wolverines, that was a huge win for them in regards to their tournament standing. The work is hardly finished for Michigan, but getting a quality win kept them likely in for the moment. Caris LeVert came back. I’m not sure that’s a positive thing at the moment because he was a defensive liability against Purdue. Obviously, his foot still needs some time and it’s not clear how he’ll handle his return when he stands to make millions of dollars in the draft this June.
Stars of the Past Week:
Vitto Brown, Wisconsin – averaged 19.5 points and 6 rebounds in wins over Maryland and Nebraska
Denzel Valentine, Michigan State – averaged 28.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 11.5 assists, and 2 steals in two games this week
Rapheal Davis and A.J. Hammons, Purdue – seniors combined for 43 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 blocks in win over Michigan State
Zak Irvin, Michigan – 22 points and 5 rebounds in win over Purdue
Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa – averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks in two games this week
Jae’Sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State – averaged a combined 33.5 points and 24 rebounds in wins over Northwestern and Rutgers
Team Basketball, Indiana – wanted to find a spot for a Hoosier on here, but their balance as a team was the star this week. They had six guys score at least 8 points in each game this week.
Five Best Games to Watch This Week:
Michigan at Ohio State – Tuesday, 7:00 pm EST, ESPN
Nebraska at Indiana – Wednesday, 8:30 pm EST, BTN
Wisconsin at Michigan State – Thursday, 9:00 pm EST, ESPN
Purdue at Indiana – Saturday, 8:30 pm EST, ESPN
Michigan at Maryland – Sunday, 1:00 pm EST, CBS
Because I’ve got no formal rankings this week, let’s check in on where each team is settled in the BracketMatrix.com seedings.
Solidly In (if the tournament started today)
Iowa – 2 seed (1.79 average; 92/92 brackets)
The Hawkeyes have been lingering right on the 3-6 part of the seed line for some time now. Right now Bracket Matrix has them in the fifth spot, or the top 2 seed. The Hawkeyes only have two more chances for quality wins at the moment, but Michigan may move into that category and there’s obviously still the conference tournament. It’s important that they don’t stub their toe at Penn State this week if they want to be a top seed.
This week: at Penn State
Maryland – 2 seed (2.48; 92/92)
The Terps somehow moved up a seed line with their only D-1 game of the week being a double-digit loss at home to a team that was previously outside of the RPI top-50, but whatever. Their standing in the RPI moved up as well. I guess it’s likely due to the fact that Wisconsin is now in the top-50 – who Maryland previously beat and is now a quality win – as a result of beating the…Terps. It was like Maryland almost won in the long run by losing a game. Maybe Mark Turgeon is on to something.
Also helping Maryland is the fact that UConn and Princeton have moved in to the top-50. Princeton is in the top-50 despite not beating a team in the top-100, but that’s just RPI math for you. The Terps need both teams to keep winning for seeding purposes.
This week: at Minnesota and home for Michigan
Michigan State – 3 seed (3.00; 92/92)
The Spartans have the most quality wins in the league with six, but that Nebraska loss is still hurting them.
Here’s my prediction: the Spartans win their last five games, finish as a top-4 seed in the conference tourney, win the tourney, ride into Selection Sunday on a nine-game win streak, and get a 1 seed.
Did you know just one of Izzo’s teams have been a 1 seed since 2001 and he’s made four Final Fours in that stretch? The year they were a 1 seed wasn’t a Final Four year. After making it as a 1 seed three straight times from 1999-2001, he’s made it as a 2 seed once, a 5 seed twice, and a 7 seed once.
What does that have to do with this year? Absolutely nothing. Izzo stats just amaze me.
This week: Wisconsin at home
Purdue – 5 seed (4.79; 92/92)
I guess Purdue was trying to use that Turgeon strategy of allowing Michigan to beat them in order to boost Michigan’s RPI and give the Boilers another quality win (Purdue beat the Wolverines by 17 on Jan. 7). Obviously that’s not the case, but it just might work. The entire top half of the league is hoping Michigan jumps into the top-50.
It may not seem like that much of a difference if Michigan is #51 (where the Wolverines currently are) or #50, but 50 is that magical cut-off point for quality wins. It’s kind of crazy when you think about it, the difference that one spot makes when it comes to the aesthetics of their opponents’ resumes.
Anyway, back to Purdue. They’ve got three chances at quality wins before the postseason. They’ll travel to play IU and host Maryland and Wisconsin. Their matchup with the Hoosiers is the best rivalry in the Midwest when it comes to college basketball and fortunately for Purdue, Indiana really has a tough time guarding the Boilers post players. Unfortunately for them, the game is being played at 8:30 on a Saturday night in Bloomington. My guess: you’ll be able to smell the booze breath coming out of Assembly Hall in Indianapolis and IU rides the raucous atmosphere and some hot shooting to a victory.
This week: home for Northwestern and at Indiana
Indiana – 7 seed (6.79; 92/92)
While the Hoosiers’ strength of schedule is still its weakest area, it’s improved and only getting better. That might not weigh them down as much as it is right now when the brackets come out, but bad losses to Penn State, Wake Forest, and UNLV can’t really be undone.
It’s tough seeing any of those teams busting out of the triple-digit RPI rankings they currently hold. Wake has lost ten straight games and seems to be getting less competitive as the season goes on. It looked like UNLV was about to turn a corner after Dave Rice was fired, but then they lost four of five. They don’t have a lot of opportunities for big wins in a down year for the Mountain West. Penn State is Penn State.
That’s not to say IU can’t move up in the seeding, however. They’ve still got two great opportunities to beat Purdue and Maryland at home and have proven they can beat Iowa, although they’ll have to do it on the road this next time around. It’ll be interesting to see how the committee handles those three bad losses from the Hoosiers, considering two of them happened before Thanksgiving.
This week: home for Nebraska and Purdue
Likely In (if the tournament started today)
Michigan – 9 seed (9.09; 87/92)
Once again, the Purdue victory was a big one. Michigan needs to avoid bad losses right now as much as they need wins, which essentially means they can’t lose to Northwestern at home next week. Winning at Ohio State Tuesday night would keep that “no losses outside of the RPI top-50” stat in tact as well.
This week: at Ohio State and Maryland
Wisconsin – 10 seed (9.62; 76/92)
The Badgers are officially back. That’s seven wins in a row – three of them “quality” – for those of you counting at home. I’m not so sure the work is done yet, though. If they just win the games they’re supposed to they’ll still be 19-12 on the year and 11-7 in the Big Ten. Like Indiana, they can’t erase those bad losses earlier in the year and if Wisconsin wants to leave no doubt of making the field, they could really use a win against Michigan State, Iowa, or Purdue on the road. If not, there’s going to be a lot of stressed out Badger fans walking around Indianapolis on conference tourney weekend.
This week: Michigan State at home and Illinois on the road
The Buckeyes aren’t really part of the tournament discussion right now, but they’re not entirely absent from it either. They have home games with Michigan, Iowa, and Michigan State left. They win two of those and they’ll have a chance to make waves in the Big Ten tourney.
This week: home for Michigan and at Nebraska
The chances here are very, very slim, but Northwestern has always kind of been a thorn in Purdue’s side and they’re playing them Tuesday night. They steal one in Mackey and who knows what can happen?
This week: at Purdue
Around this time two years ago, the Huskers were 80th in the KenPom rankings and had a 12-10 record before winning eight of their last nine. They didn’t even have to win a game in the conference tourney and they still got in the Dance. Well they’ve won two out of three, they’ve got five games left, they’re 90th in KenPom, and they’re 14-12. Kinda similar, no? Right now they’d probably only be favored in two of their remaining games, but all five of them are winnable. I guess once you win at Michigan State, there aren’t many games that aren’t winnable, really.
This week: at Indiana and home for Ohio State
3-9 (It gives me way more joy than it should that I’ve been able to use their matching conference records to name their group the past three weeks.)
The Nittany Lions only had one game this past week at Nebraska. They played a good half and then go their doors blown off in the second half. There’s not a lot else to say about this team that I haven’t said already.
This week: home for Iowa and at Rutgers
The Illini almost had themselves a nice road win against in-state foe Northwestern, but couldn’t quite finish it off. They won’t win many games that Malcolm Hill has 7 points and 5 turnovers.
This week: Rutgers at home and Wisconsin on the road
0-13, But All Seven Games They’ve Played Against The Top Half Of The League Have Been Single-Digit Losses
This week: home for Maryland
*Judge Judy Eye Roll GIF*
Corey Sanders is suspended for the next four games, including their first game with Minnesota.
My favorite storyline of the Scarlet Knights season is Eddie Jordan’s unexplainable defiance. He was upset with a reporter who questioned his team’s defense after they gave up 107 points to Purdue at home and recently said that he didn’t care what any Rutgers supporters thought. Hey Eddie, your team’s performance has been incredibly embarrassing, you have nothing to show for your stint as head coach there, and now your best player – a freshman point guard – has to be disciplined. Somehow you made a bad program worse. I think the fan base might have some reason to be displeased with your leadership, or lack thereof.
This week: at Illinois and home for Penn State