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Big Ten Men’s Basketball Power Rankings, Edition IX

Seems like the Midwest will be heavily involved in March Madness this year

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern’s season has gone through the transition from good to bad to oh have mercy this is horrendous in quite rapid fashion. Nevertheless, there is still plenty of great basketball being played in the Big Ten with Selection Sunday just one month away. Here’s how things stand in the nation’s best conference.

1. Ohio State (16-4, 10-4 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 4

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The veteran Buckeyes are heating up at the right time. As evidenced by back-to-back, come-from-behind wins against Maryland and Iowa this week, OSU has a major edge when it comes to experience. Head coach Chris Holtmann attributes his team’s continued success to a wide range of contributors on offense. Even more, Ohio State has strung together some strong defensive performances of late, holding four of its last six opponents under its season average 68.4 of points allowed. -Revsine

2. Michigan (13-1, 8-1 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 1

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Purdue Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

In the time since Juwan Howard’s squad was last seen on a basketball court, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won both the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl, the NBA completed nearly all of its All-Star voting process and Northwestern lost four more games. It’s hard to say much about a team that hasn’t played, but the Wolverines still hold an offense that ranks in the 97th percentile on a points per possession, and a defense that ranks in the 87th percentile, according to Synergy Sports. A small sample size for sure, but impressive nonetheless. -Olinger

3. Illinois (13-5, 9-3 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 2

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Illini extended their win streak to four on Saturday with their first home win over Wisconsin since 2011. Ayo Dosunmu became the first player this season to put up a triple-double, while Kofi Cockburn was dominant on both ends, finishing with 23 points and 14 rebounds. While no other player scored in double figures and the bench tacked on only 12 points, lockdown defense from Trent Frazier secured a momentum-building win for the Illini. -Revsine

4. Iowa (14-6, 8-5 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 3

There’s falling off a cliff. Then there’s what Iowa did the past two weeks prior to a much needed win over Rutgers on Wednesday. Once the conference’s preeminent favorite, the Hawkeyes lost four out of five games, largely due to their at times unwatchable defense. Time and time again, Iowa shifts to a zone defense only to fall asleep at the worst possible moments and leave dangerous opposing players wide open. Like, what the heck is this?

The Hawkeyes’ offense is still a space-laden machine with Garza at the middle, so writing them off entirely would be foolish, but the black and gold clearly have some work to do down in Iowa City. -Olinger

5. Purdue (13-8, 8-6 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 10

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Painter’s “Baby Boilers” continue to defy expectations. Despite falling to Minnesota on Thursday due to some Marcus Carr heroics, this team has an impressive resume, including two wins over No. 4 Ohio State. With Sasha Stefanovic slowly returning following his battle with COVID-19, the Boilermakers have surely been missing his reliability from behind the arc. While it hasn’t always been pretty, this young Purdue team has some major grit and has been able to eke out victories over the more experienced squads. -Revsine

6. Wisconsin (15-6, 9-5 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 5

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Nebraska Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

D’Mitrik Trice is a fun watch, shooting 37.5% from three and scoring 13.5 points per game on a shot diet filled with contested jumpers and acrobatic layups. But outside of him, the Badgers play a bland and disheartening brand of ball. Good shooters pass up potential threes to swing the ball with little purpose, the off-the-dribble juice every team needs is nearly non-existent and the result is a team performs at a rate that is less than the sum of its parts. Wisconsin is not a trash, downward-spiraling team, as its combination of competent shooters, defenders and tall bodies prevents it from falling too low. However, UW’s dearth of quality, conference wins knocks it down below Purdue. -Olinger

7. Rutgers (11-7, 7-7 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 6

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

If Ron Harper Jr. was still playing like he did in December, Rutgers might have been able to scrape out a win over Iowa and extend its four-game win streak. However, he was unable to help the Scarlet Knights claw their way back against the best offense in the country. Geo Baker and Jacob Young have been consistent scorers, but Steve Pikiell’s squad will need to find some more shooters in order to make the final push towards a long-awaited NCAA Tournament berth. -Revsine

8. Minnesota (13-7, 6-7 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 8

What hellish deal did Marcus Carr make with the devil that gifted him the power to make every single clutch shot that he has ever taken? The Gophers snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat last night when the junior guard banked in a 25-foot three-pointer with time winding down, keeping Minnesota afloat through the the thick of its conference schedule. Carr and the Gophers’ plethora of wings provide off the dribble creation in spades, and Liam Robbins’ rim protection and pressure have been much appreciated additions, but the shooting is becoming problematic. Robbins leads the team in three-point percentage at a very blah 34.7%, while expected floor spacer Gabe Kalscheur has had a rough time, shooting 24.5% from deep on 106 attempts. Not great, Bob! -Olinger

9. Indiana (11-8, 6-6 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 6

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The Hoosiers are hot following back-to-back wins over Iowa and Northwestern. Armaan Franklin sealed the deal with a last-second shot against the Hawkeyes and then followed it up with a season-high 23 points at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Couple that with continued strong performances from Al Durham and Trayce Jackson-Davis, and the inconsistent Hoosiers are where they need to make an NCAA Tournament push. -Revsine

10. Michigan State (10-7, 4-7 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 12

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Michigan State Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Sparty has been let slightly off the hook with the widespread failures of Blue Bloods throughout college basketball this year. It’s not a hopeless squad, but it’s become clear that it pales greatly in comparison to teams of MSU past. Rocket Watts hasn’t developed as neither a shot nor have shifty handles come to form, Foster Loyer is just an average three-point shooter, reducing his winning impact to nearly zero. Suddenly you’re left with a team that’s Aaron Henry and unproven parts. Henry will flash his wild cross section of strength, speed and functional handles, but the fact that the defense-first forward is the de facto playmaker speaks to the trouble Tom Izzo’s team has faced this season. (-Olinger)

11. Maryland (10-10, 4-9 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 11

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland is hard to pin down. The Terps have executed some of the season’s biggest upsets, with wins at Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. However, Mark Turgeon’s team has yet to be able to build upon any of the momentum they garnered, falling at Penn State and to Ohio State last week. Turnovers and offensive inconsistency have furthered Maryland’s struggle to find rhythm and reliability within its roster. - Revsine

12. Penn State (7-9, 4-8 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 9

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Michigan State Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Knocked down after a loss in East Lansing, Penn State’s odd unit can both shoot and protect the basket well enough to give it a chance against anybody in the Big Ten (evidenced by its win over Wisconsin and close losses to OSU and Michigan). The Nittany Lions just don’t have enough to truly be considered good, with both their offense and defense ranking below the 50th percentile, according to Synergy. At least PSU fans have John Harrar and his gargantuan shoulders to look forward to. -Olinger

13. Northwestern (6-11, 3-10 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 13

No comment. -Revsine

14. Nebraska (4-11, 0-8 B1G)

Last week’s ranking: 14

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Nebraska Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska finally returned to the court this past week, and promptly dropped three conference matches in the span of five days. The only noteworthy thing the Cornhuskers did this week was an attempt to wage war with Northwestern following the ‘Cats’ prolonged loss to Purdue on Saturday.

You do you, Nebarkas. -Olinger