Final Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings Before March Madness
The Big Ten conference ended the regular season in epic fashion. From a buzzer-beater three-pointer from Wisconsin's Traevon Jackson to Michigan's Jordan Morgan missing a put-back shot, the Big Ten had one hell of a final weekend. Indiana's road win on Sunday gave them their first outright Big Ten title since the 1992-93 season.
In today's AP and USA Today polls, four Big Ten teams were selected in the top-10, which is the most of any conference. The rankings just prove why the Big Ten is the best conference in the country. There has been a constant battle between squads each and every game in the conference. This weekend's Big Ten tournament will be teams last chance to duke it out before heading to the big dance.
Here are the final Big Ten Power Rankings of the regular season:
12. Penn State
Record (Big Ten): 10-20 (2-16)
Reasons: When the Nittany Lions lost guard Tim Frazier for the entire season with an Achilles tear, wins were harder to obtain. They lost their first 14 Big Ten games.
Certainly, the Nittany Lions competed the best they could, but they were never able to get a victory.
It appeared as though they would not win a Big Ten game this season, until they defeated—then No. 4—Michigan at home because of the play from Jermaine Marshall and D.J. Newbill.
In their last three games, Minnesota whooped Penn State, they beat Northwestern and lost a close one to Wisconsin. Even though Penn State didn't come out on the winning end very often, they kept fighting throughout the season, which is a positive sign for the future.
Record (Big Ten): 13-18 (4-14)
Reasons: This has to be one of the most disappointing Northwestern basketball seasons in recent years. They finished with 17 overall wins or more and seven or eight Big Ten victories in each of the last four seasons.
This year, Northwestern ended the regular season with only 13 wins and four in conference play. The Wildcats went 1-10 in the last 11 games, including an eight-game losing streak to end the regular season.
This was a team that beat Illinois on the road and Minnesota at home in January, then had a poor February and March to close out conference play. One of the main reasons for the poor performances this season was their lack of good shooting in a lot of games. According to ESPN, they rank 307th in points per game and 309th in shooting percentage. Poor shooting throughout the season will hurt any teams chances of winning.
Record (Big Ten): 14-17 (5-13)
Reasons: Nebraska isn't a school known for it's basketball program, but the team improved from last season.
The Cornhuskers showed an ability to compete with the rest of the conference throughout the season. Although many of their losses were to Big Ten teams from the top-half of the standings, they did pull out some quality victories.
The Cornhuskers beat Minnesota and Iowa. Showing that they can beat teams other than Penn State or Northwestern should prove well for this team in the future. But, the only way they are going to compete with a team like Michigan or Ohio State is if they get high-level recruits. Until that happens, they will continuously see themselves in the bottom-half of the standings every year.
Record (Big Ten): 20-11 (8-10)
Reasons: Minnesota has to be one of the most inconsistent teams in the Big Ten. They beat Indiana and Wisconsin, but lost to Northwestern and Nebraska.
The Golden Gophers are a really talented team, but not all of their players play up to their potential each game. This has turned into a problem because they have lost very winnable games over the season.
Even with some bad losses, Minnesota will still make the Wisconsin's Traevon Jackson because of five top-50 RPI wins. According to ESPN's Joe Lunardi, Minnesota currently has the No. 9 seed. It will depend on what Minnesota team shows up in the tourney, if they are going to make a run or get sent home in the first round.
Record (Big Ten): 15-16 (8-10)
Reasons: Purdue started off the season with bad losses to Bucknell, Oregon State and Eastern Michigan.
The young team wasn't playing well because they didn't have a leader to help them battle in close games. Things started to change when Terone Johnson turned into a player that the team could rely on and A.J. Hammons developed his presence down low.
In Big Ten play, the Boilermakers defeated Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota and barely lost to Michigan. These results show that this year is a sign that their future will be bright. Certainly, Purdue won't make the NCAA tournament, but at least they won some tough games and battled well throughout the season.
Next season, the Boilermakers could end up finishing in the top-half of the Big Ten standings.
Record (Big Ten): 21-11 (8-10)
Reasons: Illinois is a team that really excelled in non-conference play. The Fighting Illini won their first 12 games, including giving Gonzaga one of their two losses of the season.
This squad looked like they were going to compete with the other top teams of the Big Ten, but weren't able to. They didn't beat teams like Wisconsin and Michigan at home and lost to weaker Big Ten squads as well.
They will make it into the tournament, but if their players don't consistently hit shots from downtown, then they could get knocked out early. Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson need to continue to score points and play solid defense on the opposing teams' guards. Give a lot of credit to Head Coach John Groce for having this much success in his first season.
Record (Big Ten): 20-11 (9-9)
Reasons: Iowa is a much better team then their record shows. The Hawkeyes defeated quality teams like Iowa State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White played very good minutes in those games to earn victories.
The Hawkeyes probably won't make the NCAA tournament because of no outstanding victories against any of the top-four Big Ten teams. A big win like that could’ve propelled them into the field. The only way they can make it into the tourney is if they can have a run in the Big Ten tournament. That's going to be a hard thing to do because of how tough the Big Ten conference has been this year.
Record (Big Ten): 21-10 (12-6)
Reasons: Wisconsin has continued to be one of the best Big Ten teams in recent history. It doesn't matter if Head Coach Bo Ryan earns commitments from five or two-star recruits, his team's always seem to win big games.
This year is no different. Even with the early season injury to point guard Josh Gasser, the Badgers still pushed through adversity to become of the top Big Ten teams.
Wisconsin could be a threat come tournament time because of their slow offensive style and hard-nosed defense. Freshman Sam Dekker has been an excellent offensive threat for this team all season long. If the young man can continue to play well in the tourney, then the Badgers could be a tough team to beat.
4. Ohio State
Record (Big Ten): 23-7 (13-5)
Reasons: Ohio State really finished off the regular season well. The Buckeyes won six of their last seven games against opponents like Indiana and Michigan State.
The turning point of their season was the home loss to Indiana. The Buckeyes started to play better defense and Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. played better after the home loss.
Ohio State will need Aaron Craft to continue to play well on the defensive end, but also attack the rim more often. He needs to be their X-factor because Thomas can’t be their only offensive threat.
If the Buckeyes can play like how they did against Indiana on the road, then they can go deep in the tournament.
Record (Big Ten): 25-6 (12-6)
Reasons: Some of you may be wondering, why is Michigan behind Michigan State? The reason that the Spartans are better is because when these two teams faced off, MSU dominated the Wolverines at home and barely lost on the road.
Michigan has one of the best players in the country in Trey Burke and a very talented guard in Tim Hardaway Jr.
Michigan is a team that needs players other than Burke and Hardaway Jr. to score for them to have success in the tourney. One of the players that has to consistently play well is Nik Stauskas. He is an excellent outside shooter and is a tough matchup for opponents because of his 6-foot-6 size.
Michigan can be a deadly team in the tourney, if all their pieces make contributions to the team.
2. Michigan State
Record (Big Ten): 24-7 (13-5)
Reasons: Michigan State can be an excellent tournament team for two reasons. One is Head Coach Tom Izzo. Izzo has had NCAA tournament success over the years. Izzo does a great job of getting his team ready for each tourney game.
The next reason the Spartans could make it to Atlanta in April is because of the play from their big men. Adreian Payne is a very good outside shooter for his size and has the ability to gobble up many rebounds.
Next, Derrick Nix's big body makes him a tough player to guard because he does a good job of backing down in the paint for easy buckets. If these two players can get going on the offensive side and out-rebound opponents, then the Spartans will be a team to watch out for in the tourney.
Record (Big Ten): 26-5 (14-4)
Reasons: The Hoosiers took a tough path to become the outright Big Ten champions. Indiana could've beat Ohio State at home on senior night, but they lost. Luckily for them, the Jordan Morgan put-back shot didn't fall in and IU won. The two main reasons they won were because Michigan didn't hit their free throws at the end of the game and the Hoosiers dominated rebounding the whole game.
Cody Zeller showed on Sunday why he is still one of top players in the country. The main reason why he was successful on Sunday was because he asserted himself in the paint. The more aggressive Zeller can be in the paint, the better the Hoosiers will be off in the tourney. Victor Oladipo will be another important player on IU's journey for their sixth title.