It’s February, and there are just over three weeks left of the regular season. Right now, four teams have proven themselves to be contenders not only in the B1G, but nationally as well.
Last week, I said three things were for certain: the regular season title is still up for grabs, the conference is arguably the deepest in the country, and the middle tier continues to cannibalize itself. A week later, not much has changed:
#1: #13 Maryland (19-4, 10-2 B1G)
Last Week: 2
After placing second in the rankings last week, there’s good reason for Maryland to claim the top spot after another strong week that has them continuing to trend up. Two spectacular games from Kaila Charles and Ashley Owusu demonstrated just how dominant this team can be. A business-like victory at Indiana made clear that nobody wants to see the Terps right now.
#2: #20 Iowa (19-4, 10-2)
Last Week: 1
The slip up was bound to happen, and it came on an early Sunday start for the Hawkeyes. Michigan outplayed them from the get go to notch a signature win, but Iowa came back strong to dispatch middling Nebraska on Thursday. A matchup against Maryland on Thursday will go a long way in determining Big Ten Tournament seeds at the top.
#3: #21 Northwestern (19-3, 9-2)
Last Week: 3
The Wildcats started slow defensively versus Penn State before taking it to another level in the third quarter and thrashing the Nittany Lions. They got more good news when Michigan upset Iowa to put NU back in a tie for first place in the conference. Now the challenge is to not fall victim in Ann Arbor the same way the Hawkeyes did.
#4: #18 Indiana (18-6, 8-4)
Last Week: 5
The Hoosiers have now played the conference’s consensus top three teams four times, and they are 0-4. For as much hope as IU had earlier in the season — and don’t get me wrong, they have some good resume wins — it is hard to envision this team winning the Big Ten Tournament. For now, its goal is to keep a grasp on the fourth seed.
#5: Rutgers (17-4, 7-4)
Last Week: 5
It was a Rutger-like week for the Scarlet Knights. They dropped a heartbreaker in double-overtime to Minnesota before holding Penn State to a mere 39 points in a win. Another opportunity for a high-quality win, albeit a tough one, awaits in College Park on Sunday.
#6: Michigan (15-7, 6-5)
Last Week: 8
The Wolverines are trending up, and Naz Hillmon continues to be the reason why. After a 30-point effort in the upset of Iowa, she dropped another 19 to eke Michigan by Purdue. She makes this team very dangerous, and it has shown it can play with anyone.
#7: Purdue (15-9, 6-6)
Last Week: 7
Two tough losses in four days isn’t going to make Sharon Versyp feel great, but with her team’s remaining schedule, the path to a .500 conference record looks attainable. If the Boilermakers can hit that mark, they likely make the tournament based on how much the numbers continue to favor them. Can they channel some Mackey magic to earn a much-needed win over Iowa on Sunday?
#8: Nebraska (15-8, 5-7)
Last Week: 6
Not a great week for the Huskers. They dropped a close one to a rising Ohio State team before getting handled — like everyone else — in Iowa City. Amy Williams’ team is teetering on the edge of the top 70 in RPI, and they have an opportunity to pick up a big win at home, where they’re 11-3, against Indiana before playing Penn State.
#9: Ohio State (13-9, 6-5)
Last Week: 10
Maybe RPI is seeing something in Columbus. A win over Nebraska in Lincoln is impressive, while the blowout of Illinois is, well, whatever. Still, a two-road win week in the Big Ten is nothing to scoff at, and the Buckeyes should be feeling confident with their conference record now over .500 in the season’s final month.
#10: Minnesota (15-8, 5-7)
Last Week: 11
Seventy-three seems to be the magic number for the Gophers. A double-overtime victory over Rutgers showed that winning in Minneapolis is not easy, and they avoided a letdown against lowly Wisconsin to put together a week that potentially serves as a crutch for their season’s hopes.
#11: Michigan State (11-11, 4-7)
Last Week: 9
Since Northwestern’s thrashing of the Spartans in East Lansing, MSU hasn’t won, and those games haven’t been particularly close. In fairness, two of those losses came against Iowa and Maryland, but Michigan State’s tournament hopes are beginning to fade, and a coming week that features Northwestern and Rutgers isn’t one that figures to get them back on track.
#12: Wisconsin (11-12, 3-9)
Last Week: 12
Sunday’s win over Illinois might have been the Badgers’ final victory of the season.
#13: Illinois (10-12, 1-10)
Last Week: 13
If certain B1G media makes a big deal about #Illinutgers for football, I think we can get a similar thing trending for Illinois-Penn State women’s basketball. And they play each other on Sunday, how perfect! Champaign Room, you in?
#14: Penn State (7-16, 1-11)
Last Week: 14
Nothing new to see here, folks. Well, except for the fact that they put up as many points in a whole game versus Rutgers as they did in a half versus Northwestern (and they still lost to NU).