Men’s Basketball: Around the Big Ten Week 13
Joe Murphy, Brian McLaughlin and Will Desautelle look at this week's matchups around the Big Ten conference.
The Big Ten has continued down the whirlwind path it has followed thus far. At the top, #11 Wisconsin sits at 10-2 in conference play, only a half game above #23 Maryland and #16 Purdue, both of whom are 10-3. Northwestern and Michigan State continue to make their push to contend, as both hold 8-5 records in the Big Ten. Minnesota and Michigan are the only other teams above .500 in conference at 7-6 and 6-6 respectively. Here’s how each team looks heading into the stretch run of the season:
Illinois (14-12, 4-9 B1G): The Illini managed to snap a three-game losing streak, knocking off Northwestern last week. They could not beat the Nittany Lions at home last week after trying to pull off a second-half comeback on them. Malcolm Hill just does not have the supporting cast to succeed right now in Champaign. They will travel to Iowa this weekend before hosting Northwestern next Tuesday.
Indiana (15-12, 5-9 B1G): The Hoosiers cannot catch a break at an important point in their season, as they sit in the midst of a four-game losing streak. They’ll be off this weekend before taking on Iowa next Tuesday on the road. The Hoosiers are probably out of NCAA Tournament contention as they are in the “Next Four Out” category of ESPN’s projected bracket, but could still make noise in the Big Ten Tournament.
Iowa (14-12, 6-7 B1G): The Hawkeyes have struggled as of late, falling below .500 in the Big Ten last week. Iowa will have a good chance to snap their two-game losing streak this weekend as they host Illinois. As Iowa has fallen to the middle of the Big Ten pack, they’ll need to continue winning if they want to make the NIT. A loss to a sub-par Illinois team would only sink the Hawkeyes even further in the standings.
No. 23 Maryland (22-4, 10-3 B1G): A road loss at Penn State hurts the NCAA résumé for the Terrapins, but wins at home against Ohio State and on the road at Northwestern helped bring Maryland back into the Big Ten title race. They travel to Wisconsin for a big showdown on Sunday and will host Minnesota next Wednesday. The Terps are firmly in the tournament field, but a couple big wins down the stretch could help their seeding.
Michigan (16-9, 6-6 B1G): The Wolverines are on a two-game winning streak but remain in the middle pack of the Big Ten. They have looked impressive in the streak with wins over Indiana and Michigan State. Taking on Wisconsin will prove quite the challenge but things get easier with trips to Minnesota and Rutgers next week. This Michigan team should have a fairly decent seed in the tournament.
Michigan State (16-10, 8-5 B1G): The Spartans are a similar story to their in-state rivals, with two important wins last week. Wins over Iowa and Ohio State have elevated Michigan State’s status in the tournament and the Spartans shouldn’t have too much trouble making it. The Spartans will play Purdue and Nebraska this week in a pair of tests for Tom Izzo and his team.
Minnesota (19-7, 7-6 B1G): The Golden Gophers were able to get back in the win column this week, beating Rutgers on the road and Indiana at home. They have an overall great record and are being projected as high as a 7 seed by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. They’ll look to continue their four-game winning streak against Michigan at home and Maryland on the road this coming week.
Nebraska (11-14, 5-8 B1G): The Cornhuskers snapped their three-game losing streak against Penn State this week, but still sit towards the bottom half of the Big Ten standings. They’ll travel to Ohio State and Michigan State this week, both considerable challenges for a struggling Nebraska team. They still have the chance to play spoilers in the conference race.
Northwestern (19-7, 8-5 B1G): The Wildcats have gone cold after a hot streak last month, having lost three of their last four games in conference play. They still remain in the NCAA tournament hunt at the moment, but they will need to get back on track at home against Rutgers on Saturday, then play Illinois next week. However, the Wildcats will have to get wins down the stretch to stay in the tournament.
Ohio State (15-12, 5-9 B1G): The Buckeyes are still crawling back into the conference race, but face an uphill battle with a tough record in Big Ten play. Tough losses at Maryland and Michigan State also haven’t helped their cause, and things could be rough as they host Nebraska and Wisconsin next week. Thad Matta and his team do have a good shot at making the NIT, however.
Penn State (14-13, 6-8 B1G): The Nittany Lions remain in the NIT hunt, but a bad loss at Nebraska really hurt them this week. This team can’t seem to turn the corner, even when they come off upset wins. They will likely have to win two of their last four games to make the NIT, which is definitely feasible for Pat Chambers and his team. That task starts with hosting Purdue next Tuesday, and a trip to Minnesota next Sunday.
No. 16 Purdue (21-5, 10-3 B1G): The Boilermakers continue to dominate in the midst of a four game winning streak against Big Ten foes. ESPN has them projected as a 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and should Purdue continue their winning ways, that seed may rise down the stretch. They’ll take on Michigan State this weekend before traveling to Happy Valley to take on Penn State next Tuesday.
Rutgers (13-14, 2-12 B1G): The Scarlet Knights can’t seem to catch a break. Three straight losses keep them in the basement of the Big Ten and they might have had their last win of the season in Big Ten play. They’ll travel to Northwestern this weekend before hosting Michigan next week. Certainly a chance to play spoiler for other conference foes, but a win will probably be hard to come by.
No. 11 Wisconsin (21-4, 10-2 B1G): The Badgers continue to look dominant in Big Ten play, but a bad loss to Northwestern ended their eight-game winning streak. The Badgers do still control their own fate in the Big Ten, but hosting Maryland on Sunday will be a big test for Wisconsin. The Badgers are projected as a 5 seed as well in the tournament, but losses down the stretch could really hurt that seeding if they slip up.
Zach Kaplan is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.