A relatively slow week in the Big Ten week saw Michigan State drop two huge games, while Indiana solidified itself as the best team in the country. Mired in a five-game losing streak, Northwestern continues to plummet down the rankings, while Ohio State and Wisconsin ride serious momentum. As we look ahead to the Big Ten Tournament, see which teams are destined to keep climbing and which teams await sticky ends to their seasons.
Biggest drop: Michigan State Spartans (-2)
Biggest improvement: Ohio State Buckeyes (+2)
1. Indiana Hoosiers (24-3, 12-2 Big Ten, AP No. 1)
Last week: 1
Dynamic guard Victor Oladipo’s return against Michigan State reminded the rest of the conference what Indiana can do at full strength.
Honored as the Big Ten Player of the Week, the junior is shooting over 50 percent from behind the arc and nearly 64 percent from the field this season. Sophomore center Cody Zeller is in contention for a slew of year-end awards, but more attention should go to Oladipo for his explosive offense and stout defense.
Indiana should feel pretty good about the rest of its schedule, having beaten remainin opponents Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa and Minnesota earlier in the season.
2. Wisconsin Badgers (19-8, 10-4, No. 17)
Last week: 3
The Badgers beat Northwestern with ease Wednesday to win back-to-back games.
While Wisco has been one of the most consistent teams in the Big Ten this year, its 62 percent free-throw shooting is dead last in the Big Ten. Struggles from the foul line will come back to bite the Badgers in what should be close games in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin likes to get up early in games, so it can slow things down on both ends.
The only real threat left on the schedule is Michigan State, who will host Wisconsin March 9.
3. Michigan Wolverines (23-4, 10-4, No. 4)
Last week: 4
Michigan’s win over Illinois Sunday put the halt on a hot Illini team.
Sophomore Trey Burke has been Michigan’s most consistent scorer all year. Yet, the Wolverines need more steady production from freshman forward Glen Robinson III. In the Victors' four Ls, Robinson is averaging just four points per game.
Facing Penn State next week, the Wolverines should be able to extend their win streak to three games.
4. Michigan State Spartans (22-6, 11-4, No. 9)
Last week: 2
State had the opportunity to rise to the top of the power rankings, but two big losses later, the Spartans have hit a rough patch.
Even though Michigan State lost to top-ranked Indiana and a formidable opponent in No. 18 Ohio State, the Spartans continue to raise question marks about their ability to win big games.
MSU is just 3-5 against AP Top-25 teams this season. With two more games against ranked opponents, Tom Izzo’s crew better start showing some improvement if they want to harness momentum before heading to the Big Ten Tournament.
5. Ohio State Buckeyes (20-7, 10-5, No. 16)
Last week: 7
Handling the No. 4 Michigan State Spartans at home Sunday is about as high as it gets.
Averaging nearly 20 points per night, junior forward Deshaun Thomas continues to put the team on his back, but fellow junior Aaron Craft gave the team a much-needed lift against Michigan State when Thomas was struggling from the field, totalling a career-high 21 points.
If Craft and Thomas start clicking at the same time, the Buckeyes can be one of the best teams in the country.
6. Illinois Fighting Illini (20-9, 7-8)
Last week: 5
Illinois’ loss to Michigan is nothing to ring the alarm about.
The Illini are still one of the more dangerous teams in the Big Ten because of their penchant for clutch performances in big games. A lot of teams in the upper half of the power rankings have poor records against ranked teams, while Illinois’ has four wins against Top-25 opponents.
No games this week for the Illini, who will have plenty of time to prepare for lowly Nebraska the following week.
7. Iowa Hawkeyes (17-10, 6-8)
Last week: 6
After racking up three wins in a row, the Hawkeyes took a inexplicable loss to the Cornhuskers Saturday.
For the second week in a row, leading scorers Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White have played well without much help from the supporting cast. The bench only shot 30 percent from the field against Nebraska.
The Hawkeyes have a home game against Purdue Wednesday that will help determine Big Ten Tourney seeding. The middle of the conference has been neck and neck all year.
8. Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-9, 6-8)
Last week: 8
After a blowout loss to Iowa, the Golden Gophers had a great opportunity to prove their relevance against No. 18 Ohio State Wednesday.
They really blew that one.
A second-half run of 16 straight points was just one of the embarrassing statistics Minnesota put up. The Gophers shot 29 percent from the floor, including 13 percent from downtown.
Minnesota has nothing to lose against top-ranked Indiana next week.
9. Purdue Boilermakers (12-14, 5-8)
Last week: 9
A blowout win over Northwestern might have meant something two months ago, but now a victory against the 'Cats isn’t much to boast about.
Junior guard Terone Johnson and freshman center A.J. Hammons have the potential to be a dominant duo, but Hammons doesn’t get the playing time he deserves. Averaging the second-most points on the team, he's averaging just 24 minutes a game.
The Boilermakers are tied with Iowa in the Big Ten; Wednesday's matchup is a big one for both teams.
10. Nebraska Cornhuskers (13-14, 4-10)
Last week: 11
The No. 10 spot belongs to Nebraska this week.
Heading into the season, the Cornhuskers definitely looked like the team with the least amount of talent and experience in the conference.
But with a win over Iowa, and with only one ranked team left on their schedule, the Huskers might be able to salvage a bit of respect.
11. Northwestern Wildcats (13-14, 4-10)
Last week: 10
The 'Cats have reached a season low.
Since their last win on Feb. 2, Northwestern has lost five straight games, getting drubbed by an average of 20.8 points. In a beatdown from Purdue Sunday, the Wildcats fielded no scorers in double-digits.
The road ahead is pretty dark. The 'Cats still face Ohio State Thursday and Michigan State in March.
Northwestern’s March 7 game against winless Penn State isn’t even close to a guarantee anymore.
12. Penn State Nittany Lions (8-18, 0-14)
Last week: 12
The record speaks for itself.
But Penn State is improving. The Nittany Lions' last three losses have been by single digits, something they’ve only been able to accomplish in seven of their 18 losses.