We're at the halfway point of the Big Ten basketball season and that means it is time to scoreboard watch. Purdue is only a game back in the win column, but they are two back in the loss column behind Indiana and Iowa. That means we need the Hawkeyes and Hoosiers to start losing a few games. Purdue still controls its destiny to catch Maryland and Michigan, but there is not a lot we can do about Iowa except hope they cool off.
We might even need to cheer for Indiana against them, which would suck.
Anyway, here are your broken down Big Ten Power Rankings
1. Iowa (18-4, 8-1) - Remember when we were all making fun of Iowa for losing to a Division II team in an exhibition? Yeah. They have only three games left against top 50 teams, and two are against Indiana at No. 49. They are through the difficult part of the schedule and the conference is pretty much theirs to lose. I don't see them dropping three more, and even two more losses might be a stretch.
2. Maryland (19-3, 8-2) - The Terrapins are tied with Purdue and Michigan State for the most overall wins. The game on Saturday with Purdue could be a bit of an elimination game. Purdue is probably not getting a share of the conference with four losses, but since at Maryland is its toughest game left it could sneak through with only three. Maryland still has to go to Purdue and Indiana while hosting Purdue, Michigan, and a resilient Wisconsin team.
3. Indiana (18-4, 8-1) - Well, it is time to find out if Indiana is for real, as they get to start playing real Big Ten teams now. They nearly stumbled twice against Minnesota and Wisconsin finally got them. Tonight at Michigan is their toughest game since at Duke. After that they have five games in the last eight against teams currently in the top 25 of the RPI. If they win the conference, they will earn it. Their run in the last 9 is tougher than Iowa's run in the first nine.
4. Purdue (19-4, 7-3) - I am giving Purdue a slight edge over Michigan here because the Boilers have already beaten the Wolverines once. I really want that Illinois game back right now, too. It was clearly Illinois' best game to date, but if those teams played 10 more times I would pick Purdue to win 8 of them. It very well could cost Purdue the Big Ten title, but with some help and a strong finish Purdue still has a chance.
5. Michigan (17-5, 7-2) - The Wolverines have very quietly done their business and now get Indiana and Michigan State at home with a chance to go to 9-2 in the league. They also get Purdue and Iowa at home down the stretch, so if they can defend home court they will be a very worthy Big Ten champion. It all starts tonight at home against Indiana, where a victory moves them into second place.
6. Michigan State (19-4, 6-4) - The Spartans could be a second day Big Ten Tournament team at 12-6, but would anyone really count them out of a run in Indianapolis or in the NCAAs? They are off in the midweek but have to go Saturday-Tuesday to Michigan and Purdue. Because of that, I don't think they win the title. They can still win a lot of games and easily win the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, however.
7. Ohio State (14-9, 6-4) - The Buckeye have that nice non-conference win over Kentucky on their resume, but they need some big conference wins. Home games against Michigan, Michigan State, and Iowa are excellent chances and they likely need at least one of those to have any shot at an at large selection.
8. Wisconsin (13-9, 5-4) - Who would have thought the Badgers would be here, but they are still alive. This team would actually be in really good shape is not for the non-conference losses to Western Illinois, Marquette, and Milwaukee. They have won four in a row and will probably be favored in the next two at home. Unfortunately, five of their last seven are on the road and just one, Minnesota, is not against a top 25 team. The schedule is there to get to the NCAAs, but they have to win a few.
Clear the Home Schedule for the NIT
9. Northwestern (15-8, 3-7) - Northwestern only has itself to blame for this. A weak schedule, a home loss to Penn State (A staple in every year they have come close to the tournament but missed it) and missed chances in conference play. They have currently lost five in a row and really only came close to a win at Maryland. If they win the next three (Minnesota, at Ohio State, Illinois)they might climb back into the at large discussion, but they are not getting in without winning those three, their last three, and beating either Purdue or Michigan on the road.
10. Nebraska (12-10, 4-5) - Losses to Michigan and Purdue by 28 total points last week ended any faint at large hopes for the Cornhuskers. They can still play spoiler in the Big Ten race, however. They get Maryland at home tomorrow, go to Indiana Still, and host Purdue later.
Can they Avoid Wednesday?
11. Illinois (10-12, 2-7) - Four teams have to play on Wednesday in the Big Ten Tournament now. Last year Penn State managed to at least get out of Wednesday and make it to Friday, but it is not a good position. The Illini look destined for this spot. They did at least hang on against Minnesota, but their win over Purdue is looking more inexplicable by the day.
12. Penn State (11-11, 2-7) - The Illini are at least dealing with a ton of injuries. Penn State is just not very good. Now they get to play Iowa twice in a span of 14 days while also hosting Indiana. In both home games there is at least the chance for the traditional upset in the Bryce Jordan Mausoleum. It always seems to happen, usually at the most sparsely attended game.
13. Minnesota (6-16, 0-10) - The Gophers gave Purdue and Indiana all they could handle last week. In both instances some better offensive execution in the last 4 minutes would have meant a win. Northwestern is probably on upset alert Thursday night. I think this team gets one game against a team not named Rutgers.
Special Rutgers Category
14. Rutgers (6-16, 0-9) - If Rutgers completes the 0-fer they will reach a streak of 32 straight Big Ten losses. They do get Illinois and Minnesota twice each in the last nine games. This is still a team whose closest Big Ten game was the opener against Indiana, where they lost by 7. Even then, Indiana still had the handicap of playing James Blackmon.