Men’s college basketball writer Amelia Rayno provides her final power ranking of the Big Ten season and lays out what each team is playing for in the conference tournament starting Thursday:
It’s been a topsy-turvy year, but at the end of the regular season, the Hoosiers are still on top of the Big Ten and in the nation’s top three. Indiana finished the regular season on a resounding note — defeating Michigan in Ann Arbor — but now the Hoosiers will be playing to lock up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
2. Ohio State
You have to give it to the Buckeyes — what a final act! Ohio State picked up a season that looked on the ropes and infused it with new life, with the Buckeyes winning their last five, including games against Michigan State and at Indiana. With a good performance this weekend, the Buckeyes could get as high as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
3. Michigan State
The Spartans went through their three-game losing streak, but they appear to be on the up-and-up now. Are they worn out, or simply “battle-tested” as coach Tom Izzo implies? The difference could mean whether the Spartans play well in the Big Ten tournament and challenge for a No. 1 seed or a 2-4.
Not the prettiest end to the season for the Wolverines, who dropped five of their last 10, including a shocker at Penn State, but there is little doubt Michigan will come into the Big Ten tournament hungry and eager to show that despite a fifth-place conference finish, they belong with the elite.
The Badgers are a little prone to a letdown every now and then. In the same vein, when they are clicking, they can beat anyone. After sliding past Penn State in the season finale — a buzzer-beating victory and the only thing keeping them from dropping three straight — Wisconsin looks to get back on track and stay in the hunt for a top-four seed in the NCAA tourney.
The days when the Boilermakers were getting beat by 30 points seem far away now that they have made a statement in their final stretch, beating Northwestern, Wisconsin and Minnesota in their last five games and nearly trumping Michigan as well. The Boilermakers don’t have enough victories to get an at-large bid into the Big Dance, so short of running the table this weekend they’re playing for the future.
Winning six of their last eight, the Hawkeyes are peaking at the right time. Their weak overall resume hurts their chances of an NCAA tournament bid, but as Iowa heads into the Big Ten tournament, the young team is building up confidence for next season. A good Big Ten tournament run could yield an NCAA berth, or at worst momentum for a possible run in the NIT.
The Illini have been up and down all year, and which of those high or low teams shows up could determine whether it makes the NCAA tournament or somehow falls off the bubble. Illinois has a very strong shot at making the NCAA tournament, but there is a difference between entering as an eight or nine and limping in as a double-digit seed.
Nonconference dominance, a very strong RPI and plenty of quality victories have saved the Gophers from, well, a pretty significant collapse. Minnesota will almost surely make the NCAA tournament, but with another shot at gaining momentum, the Gophers will also be playing for seeding.
10. Penn State
The Nittany Lions migh t be last in the standings, but give them credit for what they’ve done in the past couple of weeks. After a massive win over Michigan, the Lions had a letdown vs. Minnesota but bounced back to beat Northwestern and scare Wisconsin. Can Penn State take another step next season? Perhaps we’ll see a glimpse of that growth this weekend.
Tim Miles’ bunch has shown a lot of growth and determination this year. And now they’re ready to play the role of spoiler. They’ve seen enough success to know what it tastes like and to try to recreate it.
At the beginning of the season, it seemed next to impossible for the Wildcats to fall lower than 10th with Penn State and Nebraska around. But injuries have hurt the Wildcats in a tough league. Northwestern, however, can bring a spark into next season with a win over Iowa in the first round on Thursday.
|Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran||2||FINAL|
|Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels||9|
|Toronto - WP: C. Hynes||9||FINAL|
|Boston - LP: D. Hinojosa||7|
|Tampa Bay - WP: J. Norberto||3||FINAL|
|NY Yankees - LP: C. Whitley||0|