Michigan State leads pack of four (including Michigan) in Big Ten title race
This thing's about to get interesting.
Four teams sit within a game of one another. From here on out, the pressure just keeps increasing.
Here are this week's rankings:
No. 7 Michigan State (20-5, 9-3)
Last week: W 77-57 vs. Penn State, W 58-48 at No. 3 Ohio State
Up next: vs. No. 15 Wisconsin (Thursday), at Purdue (Sunday)
The Spartans snapped Ohio State's 39-game home-court winning streak and officially moved into sole possession of the wheel with less than a month to go. The good news: MSU's lone remaining bout with Ohio State comes at home. The bad news: The Spartans still have to visit Indiana, Purdue and Minnesota.
No. 6 Ohio State (21-4, 9-3)
Last week: W 87-84 vs. Purdue, L 58-48 vs. No. 11 Michigan State
Up next: at Minnesota (Tuesday), at No. 17 Michigan (Saturday)
Ohio State finally met its match at home last weekend, but not all is lost. Ohio State still has a shot at revenge when it travels to East Lansing on the final day of the regular season (March 4). But first, the Buckeyes will have to survive a week on the road -- including a possible season-changing tilt at rival Michigan on Saturday.
No. 17 Michigan (19-7, 9-4)
Last week: W 62-46 at Nebraska, W 70-61 vs. Illinois
Up next: vs. Ohio State (Saturday)
They're not dead yet. Not even close, actually. Michigan hits its lone off week of the season just one-half game behind Ohio State and Michigan State for the conference lead. And, of the four contenders, the Wolverines have far and away the easiest remaining schedule. Michigan's hardest game (Saturday vs. Ohio State) will come with an ESPN College GameDay home crowd at its back.
No. 15 Wisconsin (19-6, 8-4)
Last week: W 68-61 (OT) at Minnesota
Up next: at No. 7 Michigan State (Thursday), vs. Penn State (Sunday)
Much like Michigan, Wisconsin has a chance to scramble the top of the Big Ten standings Thursday when it visits East Lansing. The Badgers have now won seven of their last eight after suffering a three-game losing skid in early January.
Still tourney bound
No. 23 Indiana (19-6, 7-6)
Last week: W 84-71 vs. Illinois
Up next: vs. Northwestern (Wednesday), at Iowa (Sunday)
The Hoosiers continue to fight for NCAA seeding at this point, and a lopsided win over Illinois last week helps. From here on out, the Hoosiers have an extremely favorable schedule. Outside of a remaining home game against Michigan State, the Hoosiers won't likely face a ranked foe the rest of the way.
Purdue (16-9, 6-6)
Last week: L 87-84 at Ohio State, W 87-77 vs. Northwestern
Up next: at Illinois (Wednesday), vs. No. 7 Michigan State (Sunday)
Purdue seems to be one really impressive win away from moving off the bubble, and the Boilermakers nearly got it at Ohio State last week. If Purdue can score a road win at Illinois and stun Michigan State at home Sunday, Matt Painter and company will make it extremely difficult for the committee to leave them at home come March.
Minnesota (17-8, 5-7)
Last week: L 68-61 vs. No. 21 Wisconsin
Up next: vs. No. 6 Ohio State (Tuesday), at Northwestern (Saturday)
Minnesota really, really, needed a home win over Wisconsin last week, but couldn't seal the deal in overtime. Now, the Gophers have an uphill climb to NCAA Tournament security. Minnesota still has to play Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Plenty of upset chances, but also very little room for error against top-notch competition.
Illinois (16-9, 5-7)
Last week: L 84-71 at No. 23 Indiana, L 70-61 at No. 22 Michigan
Up next: vs. Purdue (Wednesday), at Nebraska (Saturday)
The Bruce Weber train is now dangerously close to rolling off the tracks. Illinois has dropped six of its last seven and, despite wins over Michigan State and Ohio State, the Illini find themselves firmly on the bubble. Remember, part of the NCAA selection process is how a team finishes the season. If this skid holds up, Illinois might be NIT-bound.
Northwestern (15-9, 5-7)
Last week: W 83-64 vs. Iowa, L 87-77 at Purdue
Up next: at No. 18 Indiana (Wednesday), vs. Minnesota (Saturday)
I've still got the Wildcats on the bubble, but barely. Northwestern still has a top 50 RPI, but the Wildcats just haven't been able to build on their lone signature win over Michigan State. With nine losses already, one signature win might not cut it. Beating Indiana on the road this week would certainly help.
Outside looking in
Iowa (13-12, 5-7)
Last week: L 83-64 at Northwestern
Up next: at Penn State (Thursday), vs. No. 20 Indiana (Sunday)
The Iowa "finish above .500" watch is officially on. And, getting pasted at Northwestern last week certainly did this cause no favors. Earlier this season, I said Iowa still had one upset left in its chamber. I stand by that. So, look out Indiana and Wisconsin.
Penn State (11-15, 3-10)
Last week: L 77-57 at No. 11 Michigan State, W 67-51 vs. Nebraska
Up next: vs. Iowa (Thursday), at No. 15 Wisconsin (Sunday)
Tim Frazier finished one assist shy of a triple-double in a beatdown of Nebraska with 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. At this point, it's the small things that count for Penn State
Nebraska (11-13, 3-10)
Last week: L 62-46 vs. No. 22 Michigan, L 67-51 at Penn State
Up next: vs. Illinois (Saturday)
Has Nebraska quit? That's certainly a topic for debate in Lincoln right now. At least folks will have a week to mull it over, as the Huskers don't return to action until Saturday.
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