- Myron Medcalf, ESPN Staff Writer
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Finally, there's serious movement in the Big Ten Power Rankings. And it mostly centers on Ohio State’s recent struggles and Iowa’s … surge? Without further ado, the new Big Ten Power Rankings:
Michigan State: Tom Izzo is certainly in the national coach of the year conversation. And Draymond Green is the Big Ten’s player of the year. The Spartans have won a slice of the Big Ten title, and with a victory at Indiana on Tuesday, they would earn the outright conference championship. A loss against the Hoosiers, however, would set up a possible three-way tie for first in the Big Ten, with Ohio State traveling to East Lansing on Sunday.
Michigan: The Wolverines’ Saturday loss to Purdue snapped a four-game winning streak for Michigan. And it was its first home loss of the year. The Wolverines don’t control their own fate, but with a little help and road wins over Penn State and Illinois this week, they could grab a share of the Big Ten title.
Wisconsin: The Badgers bounced back from a midweek loss to Iowa by outplaying Ohio State in Columbus on Sunday. They held Jared Sullinger to eight points, his second-lowest tally of the season. And down the stretch, they were the tougher team.
Ohio State: Columbus, we have a problem. The Buckeyes have lost three of their past five games. And Sullinger is struggling (17 points combined in past two games). This Buckeyes squad has Final Four talent, but I'm not sure it has Final Four poise. This team panicked on its final possessions against the Badgers. Do the Bucks have the necessary leadership to make a run in March?
Purdue: The Boilermakers needed a signature victory to feel more secure about their at-large hopes. So they played with passion during a 75-61 win at Michigan this weekend. Matt Painter continues to find a way with this team. Despite limited size, limited depth and off-court issues, the Boilermakers are an NCAA tourney team.
Indiana: The Hoosiers were never going to live up to the hype that commenced after December victories over Kentucky and Ohio State. But you have to step back and take a look at what’s happened in Bloomington this season. A team that won three Big Ten games last season is comfortably in the field of 68 and has amassed 22 victories. The Hoosiers crushed Minnesota on Sunday (69-50 in Minneapolis), avenging an earlier loss to the Gophers.
Northwestern: Wildcats fans, prepare to send towels my way so I can wipe the egg off my face. Weeks ago, I was confident that the Wildcats wouldn’t sniff the NCAA tournament. But here they are, right on the bubble. If they beat Ohio State and win at Iowa this week, how could the selection committee leave them out? A .500 conference record isn’t sexy, but look around the country. They wouldn’t be the only team with questions surrounding their postseason résumés. Plus, the Wildcats can secure another major win in the Big Ten tournament. There’s a first for everything, right?
Iowa: Yep, it can happen. It hasn’t happened. But it can. The loss at Illinois on Sunday was disappointing, but the Hawkeyes (7-9 in the Big Ten) can play their way into the field of 68. If they win their next two and get to the Big Ten final, the selection committee would have to consider them. Reminds me of the 2009-10 Minnesota team I covered, one that upset Purdue and Michigan State in the conference tournament and earned an at-large berth that season.
Minnesota: This was supposed to be the week that the Gophers solidified themselves as a team with a legit argument for the NCAA tournament. But they unraveled during a must-win home game against Michigan State. And they were crushed by Indiana on Sunday. This squad overcame the November loss of Trevor Mbakwe to a knee injury, and it’s been in a position to earn an at-large berth in recent weeks. But it continues to squander crucial opportunities. Time has run out for Tubby Smith’s team.
Illinois: The Fighting Illini needed Sunday’s win over Iowa, a win that snapped a six-game losing skid for Bruce Weber’s team. With matchups against Michigan and Wisconsin ahead, the Fighting Illini can give their at-large résumé at least a fighting chance.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions pushed Northwestern, a desperate bubble team, to the brink Saturday during a 67-66 loss. They’ve lost a lot of games, but they’ve never given up under first-year coach Pat Chambers.
Nebraska: You can rearrange the bottom four in a variety of ways, but some team has to fill this spot. The Cornhuskers’ Big Ten debut hasn’t gone so well, as evidenced by their 34-point performance at MSU this weekend. But at least they’ll have an opportunity to spoil some team’s postseason aspirations in the Big Ten tournament.