One week remains in the regular season, and it’s a big one.
The top three and bottom three teams remain stagnant, and things in the middle are beginning to solidify themselves, helping us become more and more aware of exactly what scenarios are in play in the Big Ten Tournament.
Once again, we begin this week with the seventh-ranked Maryland Terrapins.
#1: #7 Maryland (23-4, 14-2 B1G)
Last Week: 1
After a week of impressive blowouts, the Terrapins were rewarded with matchups against two of the bottom three teams in the conference. The result? An average margin of victory of 33 points.
Maryland has a track to a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament, and there isn’t a team in the land who wants to see the Terps, for whom some thought the sky was falling when they were ranked 20th.
#2: #18 Northwestern (24-3, 14-2)
Last Week: 2
The magic number is two for the Wildcats. NU played three very different games in a span of just seven days. The comeback win over Nebraska was almost unsettling, but Lindsey Pulliam quickly regained form to score 55 points against Rutgers and Purdue.
Veronica Burton is what makes this team tick, but when she and her backcourt partner are in sync, this team can go toe-to-toe with just about anyone. Tuesday’s game against a rising Ohio State team is the only real roadblock in front of a Big Ten regular season title.
#3: #19 Iowa (22-5, 13-3)
Last Week: 4
Last week Noah talked about Iowa’s recent slip-ups against Michigan and Maryland and how the Hawkeyes had lost a step. They needed a regrouping week, and they were gifted such by their schedule, facing Wisconsin and Penn State.
Bounce back they did, annihilating both visitors as they extended their home winning streak to 35 games. Iowa is comfortably in third place, but it is clearly a different team on the road than at home. Its regular season finale at Rutgers should serve as a measuring stick.
#4: #24 Indiana (20-7, 10-5)
Last Week: 3
The Hoosiers continue to be exactly who they are. The loss to OSU wasn’t bad, and they avoided an upset in Minneapolis.
If IU can handle the Big Ten’s wild middle in the coming week, they are well-primed for a five-seed in the Big Dance with a win in the conference tournament.
#5: Rutgers (19-8, 9-7)
Last Week: 7
Saturday’s dramatic win over Ohio State was huge, and the Scarlet Knights earned two solid wins this week despite being rolled over by Northwestern. C Vivian Stringer’s team still struggles offensively, and that’s got to be a concern going forward.
Russ Steinberg had Rutgers projected as an eight-seed a couple of days ago, and a win over Wisconsin to follow up the victory against OSU would put them in a comfortable spot.
#6: Ohio State (17-10, 10-6)
Last Week: 6
After six straight wins and an upset of #20 Indiana in Bloomington, RPI vaulted the Buckeyes all the way up to 22. A trip to Piscataway proved to be the streak’s kryptonite as Rutgers nailed a late jumper to secure the win.
The loss shouldn’t be read into much, as overall Ohio State is still trending up. They have a chance to earn a great win over Northwestern on Tuesday at home, where they have been good.
#7: Michigan (17-9, 8-7)
Last Week: 5
The good news for the Wolverines is that Naz Hillmon is back after suffering an injury versus Northwestern. The bad news is that inconsistency continues to plague them.
An ugly blowout loss to Rutgers was not what many foresaw happening, but Michigan responded by rolling over lowly Illinois. So, in essence, this week told us little about Michigan, and Sunday’s rivaIry game in East Lansing against the weirdest team in the B1G likely won’t yield many more answers.
#8: Purdue (17-11, 8-8)
Last Week: 7
The Boilermakers certainly aren’t making it easy on themselves. Currently a projected eight-seed, they fell in a tight one on the road in Michigan State after notching a routine win over the Illini. Purdue has now lost four of its last six, with those two wins coming against some of the Big Ten’s worst.
They’re still a top-50 RPI team, but with matchups against Maryland and Ohio State to close the slate, there’s a legitimate chance that the Boilers stumble into Indianapolis having lost three in a row. This team could benefit immensely from a win next week and at least one in the B1G tourney.
#9: Nebraska (17-11, 7-10)
Last Week: 8
Oh, Huskers. If they could’ve just not let Veronica Burton run wild and/or kept Lindsey Pulliam from hitting one shot, this week may have gone very differently. The late loss to Northwestern set the tone for a second loss at Ohio State.
Amy Williams’ team has plenty of games when it competes and sometimes beats quality opponents, but Nebraska has lost six of its last eight and has slipped to the first four out in most projected brackets. They have nearly a week before their last game, and a win over Indiana would set the stage for a crucial Big Ten Tournament. Otherwise, it’s back to husking the corn.
#10: Michigan State (14-12, 7-8)
Last Week: 10
We have described this team as strange. That description continues to reign true, as after a five-game losing streak, all it took was facing Rutgers — which seems to be MSU’s good luck charm — to key three wins in a row.
Do the Spartans have a shot at the tournament? Not really, but they’re kinda just playing in their own world, sometimes screwing up others’, and it’s not not fun! Can’t wait to see them deal a blow to Michigan’s March hopes.
#11: Minnesota (15-11, 5-10)
Last Week: 11
Minnesota’s tournament hopes are on life support. Lindsey Whalen’s squad is in Russ Steinberg’s next four out category, and a close home loss to the Hoosiers doesn’t help.
Facing Iowa and Maryland to close the season might just spell doom for the Gophers.
#12: Wisconsin (11-17, 3-14)
Last Week: 12
Not much else to say besides that they gave Northwestern a fight for the first half and change.
#13: Illinois (11-16, 2-14)
Last Week: 13
The Illini have lost their last three games in fairly similar fashions. I guess that’s what happens when you can’t score 60 points.
#14: Penn State (7-20, 1-15)
Last Week: 14
Giving up 100 and scoring less than 70 in each of your last two matchups seems less than ideal.