It’s been about three weeks since my last Big Ten Power Rankings. Honestly, not much has changed. There are only eight more days on which Big Ten games will be played, and it’s yet to be seen if any one team will assert its dominance in that time.
Very likely to make NCAA Tournament
1. No. 10 Ohio State (21-2; 8-2; 13 RPI): They might be tied for second place in the conference, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a pundit who doesn’t think they’re the best team in it right now. They led the Big Ten in points per game, have the best overall record and RPI, and would be sitting really pretty had they not slipped up at Minnesota last week.
2. No. 13 Nebraska (19-3; 8-2; 22 RPI): Cornhuskers Jordan Hooper and Lindsey Moore have yet to usurp Ohio State’s Jordan Taylor and Samantha Prahalis as the best 1-2 punch in the conference. But they’re close. Nebraska is a dangerous team. It’s perfect that both the Buckeyes and Cornhuskers finish their seasons in a game against each other on Feb. 26 in Lincoln.
3. No. 16 Purdue (19-5; 9-2; 23 RPI): The Boilermakers really had a stranglehold of things on Jan. 27. Then, the got upset at Iowa on Jan. 28. Then, they lost a 3OT thriller in their own house against Nebraska on Feb. 2. Now, they sit a smidgen below Ohio State and the Cornhuskers in my power rankings. They’re still first place in the conference by record, though.
4. No. 18 Penn State (18-5; 8-3; 28 RPI): Had the Lady Lions not buckled down to beat Minnesota on the road on Sunday, they’d be a spot lower on this list. Of course, they won that game to cap a good week. Since Dec. 30, the Lady Lions are undefeated against teams not named Michigan State (and they’re 0-2 against them).
On the Bubble
5. Michigan (17-7; 6-5; 38 RPI): I think that their roller coaster of a season will eventually land them in the Big Dance. Judging by how inconsistent they’ve been, it could be close. After getting hammered by the Lady Lions in Ann Arbor on Jan. 26, the Wolverines inexplicably went to Madison and lost to a bad Wisconsin team. They recovered by downing Northwestern…and then promptly lost to Michigan State. And, though they’re done playing Penn State (who has defeated Michigan twice by an average of 18 points), they still have to deal with a solid Iowa team twice as well as Purdue and Nebraska.
6. Michigan State (14-9; 6-4; 74 RPI): Michigan State is a half-game better than Michigan, and they own the 2-0 tiebreaker against them, but they have too many losses to be above them in these rankings. MSU has recently recovered from a 4-game Big Ten losing streak that seemed certain to doom its season very nicely with wins against Penn State and Michigan. The Spartans are the kind of team that could make a run in the NCAA Tournament; they just have to get there first.
7. Iowa (14-10; 6-5; 48 RPI): They are still on the precipice of entering the Tournament. Despite several non-conference losses to some only-solid teams, the Hawkeyes are facing five more regular season against four unranked teams. They might be able to afford to go 4-1, but only if that loss comes against Michigan State or Michigan (whom they play twice). If an ‘L’ shows up next to Minnesota or Northwestern, a fork can probably be stuck in Iowa.
Little chance of making the Tournament:
8. Northwestern (13-10; 3-7; 99 RPI): They are one of the few teams in the Big Ten who have six games left (MSU, PSU, Nebraska, Illinois Iowa, MSU), and they could go 5-1 to have a shot at the Dance. The Wildcats have been an underrated team, and could be a spoiler for Michigan State or Iowa down the stretch if nothing else.
9. Minnesota (12-13; 4-7; 132 RPI): They would absolutely have to win out to have any chance of making the Tournament, and with three of those games coming against Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State, you can kiss their chances goodbye. Still, their Jan. 29 stunner of then-No. 9 Ohio State sent shockwaves through the Big Ten, and they deserve credit for such a win.
All but eliminated from the Tournament
10. Wisconsin (8-15; 4-7; 133 RPI): They might only be a spot lower than Minnesota in RPI, but that’s mainly because they’ve played six ranked teams. They’ve lost to all of them. If they won out, they would need to keep winning out through the Big Ten Tournament to make the Big Dance, just like the next two teams.
11. Illinois (8-16; 2-9; 92 RPI): The Fighting Illini have had a brutal schedule: Seven ranked teams as well as some tough draws from the SEC and Pac-12. Regardless, it’s all about next season for them unless they like playing spoiler.
12. Indiana (5-19; 0-11; 189 RPI): Not much to see here. Indiana is a rebuilding program.
Here are some of the biggest remaining games:
Feb. 9 - Michigan at Nebraska
Feb. 12 - Purdue at Ohio State
Feb. 16 - Penn State at Purdue
Feb. 20 - Ohio State at Penn State
Feb. 23 - Purdue at Michigan
Feb. 26 - Ohio State at Nebraska