Big Ten Power Rankings: 3/3

Story posted March 3, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Jeff Jezewski and Michael Katz

1. Michigan (21-7, 13-3 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) @ Purdue 77-76 OT, (W) Minnesota 66-56

This Week: @ Illinois (17-12, 6-10), Indiana (17-12, 7-9)

Michigan has been the best team in the Big Ten since conference play began. With the win over Minnesota on Saturday, the Wolverines clinched a share of the Big Ten title and will clinch outright with a win at Illinois this week. Michigan squeaked out an overtime win at Purdue on a Glenn Robinson III buzzer beater last week. The inconsistent Robinson was on his game Wednesday, scoring 17 points on 7-11 shooting. He was able to pick up the slack on a poor shooting night from star shooting guard Nik Stauskas, who went 5-18. Stauskas rebounded Saturday, with 21 points against Minnesota.

Michigan takes on Illinois and Indiana this week, and a win in either game will give the program its second outright Big Ten title in the past three seasons. – Michael Katz

2. Wisconsin (24-5, 11-5 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) Indiana 69-58, (W) @ Penn State 71-66

This Week: Purdue (15-14, 5-11), @ Nebraska (17-11, 9-7)

Wisconsin is one of the hottest teams in the nation, at the moment. The Badgers picked up two wins this week, to extend their win streak to seven games. As the Big Ten continues to be ravaged by upsets and teams that aren’t living up to expectations, Wisconsin has continued to be consistent. Bo Ryan’s team continues to boast their stout defense, holding both Indiana and Penn State under 70 points. The Badgers’ attack is still led by star forward, Sam Dekker, despite his struggles against the Nittany Lions.

The Badgers head into the last week of the regular season prepared to extend their run. While any team in the Big Ten can defeat any other squad, the Badgers have a solid chance of maintaining their torrid pace, facing off against Purdue and Nebraska. Wisconsin should have no trouble with the Boilermakers, but a game on the road, against Nebraska could prove to be tricky. Two wins for the Badgers will have them in perfect position for the start of the Big Ten Tournament. – Jeff Jezewski

3. Michigan State (22-7, 11-5 Big Ten)

Last Week: (L) Illinois 53-46

This Week: Iowa (20-9, 9-7), @ Ohio State (22-8, 9-8)

Michigan State’s streak of alternating wins and losses ended last week, but not in a good way. The Spartans are now in the midst of their first losing streak of the season, after a shocking home loss to Illinois. The Illini played suffocating defense, holding Michigan State to 46 points on 39 percent shooting. Gary Harris was the only double figure scorer for the Spartans, scoring 19 points, while shooting under 50 percent from the field. The rest of the team was dreadful offensively.

The Spartans are finally healthy, but did not look the part this past week. Keith Appling and Branden Dawson are back on the floor, and should improve with more practice and game time. Iowa and Ohio State await Michigan State this week. Both games are big from a standings perspective. The Spartans can still finish above Wisconsin with a good week, but can also fall into a tie with Iowa and Nebraska with two losses. Michigan State’s play is getting worse at the wrong time, and it needs to pick up the performance level this week and find momentum heading into the Big Ten Tournament. – Michael Katz

4. Iowa (20-9, 9-7 Big Ten)

Last Week: (L) @ Minnesota 95-89, (L) @ Indiana 93-86, (W) Purdue 83-76

This Week: @ Michigan State (22-7, 11-5) Illinois (17-12, 6-10)

Despite being one of the most talented teams in the Big Ten, Iowa continues to squander perfect opportunities. The Hawkeyes headed into last week with a prime opportunity at getting a top seed in the conference tournament. They left the week dropping two of three games, leaving them in need of a strong finish to keep a top five seed. Iowa continued to show a lack of interest and ability on the defensive end, lacking toughness and overall playing poorly. Fran McCaffery’s squad has shown plenty of offensive talent, but without a reliable defense they will be a tournament afterthought.

Iowa’s season doesn’t get any easier at the end, as they must take on Michigan State and a surging Illinois squad. The inconsistency of this season’s team has left something to be desired from Iowa, but they can put some of that to rest with a strong finish. Michigan State has been showing the same inconsistency as Iowa, and Illinois is on a hot streak. A strong week could possibly save Iowa’s season. Another week of struggles could define it. – Jeff Jezewski

5. Nebraska (17-11, 9-7 Big Ten)

Last Week: (L) @ Illinois 60-49, (W) Northwestern 54-47

This Week: @ Indiana (17-12, 7-9), Wisconsin (24-5, 11-5)

Nebraska’s five-game winning streak came to a halt at the hands of Illinois last week. The loss was a big blow to the team’s chances at an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskers

couldn’t get any offense going and sent the Illini to the free throw line for 19 shots, where they converted on 13. Nebraska rebounded against Northwestern, with a win to get back on track.

This week may determine whether Nebraska can get into the Big Dance, as a loss probably ends its chances. The week starts with a road matchup with Indiana, followed by a meeting with Wisconsin. Wisconsin is the hottest team in the Big Ten, and a win for Nebraska would be huge for its resume, which is lacking wins over quality opponents. – Michael Katz

6. Indiana (17-12, 7-9 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) Iowa 93-86, (W) Ohio State 72-64

This Week: Nebraska (17-11, 9-7), @ Michigan (21-7, 13-3)

After a mostly disappointing season, Indiana is heating up at the perfect time. While an NCAA Tournament bid is still in the distance, Indiana made strides in the right direction picking up two huge wins. The Hoosiers used their homecourt advantage to take down Iowa and Ohio State. Yogi Ferrell has stepped up big time for Indiana recently, scoring at least 20 points in each in the past two gams. The key, however, will be Noah Vonleh’s health, as he sat out the victory over Ohio State with an injury.

Indiana has another big week ahead if they hope to make a run at the NCAA Tournament. They must get past two tough teams, in Nebraska and Michigan, to preserve hopes. A win over Michigan, on the road, would go a long way in the eyes of the Selection Sunday committee. Indiana is certainly making itself known at the right time. – Jeff Jezewski

7. Ohio State (22-8, 9-8 Big Ten)

Last Week: (L) @ Penn State 65-63, (L) @ Indiana 72-64

This Week: Michigan State (22-7, 11-5)

Ohio State’s final two road games of the season were against lower tier Big Ten teams that should’ve set them up to take on Michigan State riding a five-game winning streak. Ohio State’s season has been an inconsistent one however, and the madness continued with losses to Indiana and Penn State. Ohio State now sits at 9-8 in the Big Ten, and has a chance to finish at .500 in conference in a season that held such high hopes for the Buckeyes.

They must win at home against Michigan State. Ohio State is not on the bubble yet, but that could change with a loss to the Spartans and an early Big Ten Tournament exit. They have been a Jekyll and Hyde squad all season, and the good side needs to emerge during these final two weeks to ensure a spot in the Big Dance. – Michael Katz

8. Minnesota (18-12, 7-10 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) Iowa 95-89, (L) @ Michigan 66-56

This Week: Penn State (14-15, 5-11)

Minnesota has been a very unpredictable team all season and last week was no different. After dropping two straight, Minnesota picked up a huge win over Iowa. However, they were unable to have a truly huge week, losing to Michigan. The Golden Gophers are still very much alive in the tournament hunt, but they can’t afford any more heartbreak. Austin Hollins, the senior guard, was huge for Richard Pitino’s squad. Hollins scored 27 points and 16 points respectively in this past week’s games. Hollins was an integral reason for the upset victory over the Hawkeyes.

The Gophers have some time off before their last regular season game, against Penn State, on Saturday. Minnesota needs a win over the Lions, and then a solid performance in the Big Ten Tourney to solidify them a spot in the NCAAs. If the Gophers are unsuccessful against Penn State, they may have to win the Big Ten Tournament for a bid. The week ahead isn’t an overly difficult one, but it’s a vital one. – Jeff Jezewski

9. Illinois (17-12, 6-10 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) Nebraska 60-49, (W) @ Michigan State 53-46

This Week: Michigan (21-7, 13-3), @ Iowa (20-9, 9-7)

Don’t look now, but Illinois is winning basketball games. The Illini picked up two quality wins last week, and could shake things up late in the Big Ten season. They played spoiler against Nebraska, ending its winning streak and potentially ending its chances at an NCAA Tournament bid. They followed with an upset at Michigan State, handing the Spartans their first losing streak of the season.

Illinois plays two more big games this week, taking on Michigan at home, followed by Iowa on the road. The young Illinois team is clearly not going anywhere in postseason play, but it can once again make things interesting with a few wins this week. – Michael Katz

10. Purdue (15-14, 5-11 Big Ten)

Last Week: (L) Michigan 77-76 OT, (L) @ Iowa 83-76

This Week: @ Wisconsin (24-5, 11-5), Northwestern (12-17, 5-11)

Purdue continued their free fall this past week, dropping games to Michigan and Iowa. Albeit tough opponents, the Boilermakers lost out on two opportunities for huge wins. Purdue took Michigan to the brink, losing in overtime, before getting edged out by Iowa, on Sunday. The Boilermakers’ attack lacks consistency, as many players have shown the ability to score, but not at a consistent level.

On a four-game losing streak, Purdue heads on the road to face Wisconsin, in what projects to be another loss for the Boilermakers. However, they have a winnable game, against Northwestern, to end the season, giving them hope to avoid the Big Ten cellar. With two losses, Purdue would be a lock for a bottom two seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Matt Painter’s squad also needs a win to avoid finishing below .500 on the season. – Jeff Jezewski

11. Penn State (14-15, 5-11 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) Ohio State 65-63, (L) Wisconsin 71-66

This Week: @ Northwestern (12-17, 5-11), @ Minnesota (18-12, 7-10)

After a rough stretch that included losses in four of five games, Penn State had to be glad to be facing Ohio State. The Nittany Lions proved that they have Ohio State’s number this season, defeating the Buckeyes by two on Senior Night, to complete the season sweep. The season has not been ideal for Penn State, but a second win over its most hated rival has to be a huge spot of confidence. D.J. Newbill dominated once again, scoring 23 points. Senior Tim Frazier finished with 16, as he was sent off in a huge way.

Penn State also faced Wisconsin over the weekend, and lost despite a valiant effort that saw the Nittany Lions remain close the entire game and give the Badgers a scare. Penn State takes to the road to finish its season, with meetings against Northwestern and Minnesota. – Michael Katz

12. Northwestern (12-17, 5-11 Big Ten)

Last Week: (L) Nebraska 54-47

This Week: Penn State (14-15, 5-11), @ Purdue (15-14, 5-11)

After a strong performance early in conference play, Norhwestern has fallen off dramatically. However, they are a young team with a new coach, headed in the right direction. The Wildcats lost their lone game last week, 54-47 against Nebraska. All season long, Northwestern has proven they can slow the pace down and play solid defense, but they lack the offensive ability needed to win in the conference. Just three players combined for 41 of the Wildcats 47 points against the Cornhuskers.

Northwestern needs to continue playing hard and stocking up on talent, as they continue to build off of this season. The Wildcats have two games left, both of them decent opportunities for a victory, but they’ll need to show more offensively. While Chris Collins’ squad has been improved and competitive in his first season, they could use another win to try and avoid finishing last in the conference. Last place or not, the season can be considered a mild success for the forever struggling program. – Jeff Jezewski

Jeff Jezewski is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jvj5228@psu.edu.

Michael Katz is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email mak5672@psu.edu.

 

About the Contributors

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Michael Katz

Junior / Broadcast Journalism

Michael is a Junior Broadcast Journalism major originally from the Washington DC area. He has done play by play and beat writing for various Penn State sports. He is a supporter of all Washington sports teams and hopes to host a sports radio show focusing on Washington teams in the future.

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Jeff Jezewski

Senior / Broadcast Journalism

Jeff Jezewski is a senior from Nanticoke, PA, aspiring to work professionally in the sports industry. Jeff is currently a production director for ComRadio while also serving as a play-by-play broadcaster and a producer.

In the summer of 2014, Jeff interned with Westwood One in New York City. Jeff served as a live event production intern in his time with the company. In the fall of 2014, he served as an intern for ESPN 1450 in State College.

In the summer of 2015, Jeff acted as a media relations intern for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

You can contact Jeff at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or follow him on twitter @JeffJezewski13