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Big Ten power rankings head for the home stretch

Only two weeks left of conference play before the B1G Tournament starts!

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Time is running out on this year's season, so let's get right to the rankings this week.

Tier 3: Autobids only

14. Rutgers (10-18, 2-13) (Previous: 14)

If you thought IU's victory over Rutgers was bad, the Scarlet Knights had just come off a 34-point loss to Iowa three days earlier. For what Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack have put up with during their four years in Piscataway, they deserve a better send-off than how their team's been playing.

The Rutgers mascot, however, deserves a raise.

13. Penn State (15-13, 3-12) (Previous: 12)

Penn State has stayed competitive for most of conference play, but has just not been on the winning end of games. However, the Nittany Lions only scored 39 in a 21-point loss to Northwestern on Saturday, as Pat Chambers' hot seat grows even warmer.

12. Nebraska (13-14, 5-10) (Previous: 11)

Remember when Nebraska was supposed to be the B1G dark horse this year? Yeah, neither do I. After a beatdown loss at home to rival Iowa, Tim Miles is threatening to make his players play in street clothes:

11. Minnesota (16-12, 5-10) (Previous: 9)

I think Indiana broke the Golden Gophers last Sunday. Minnesota lost at home to Northwestern and on the road to Wisconsin this week. Richard Pitino has his team third in turnover percentage and fourth in steal percentage; however, the Gophers haven't done enough to capitalize on these opportunities.

10. Northwestern (13-14, 4-10) (Previous: 13)

The Wildcats jump all the way up to 10th this week, as they've won three games in the span of a week. IU might be making the trip to Welsh-Ryan Arena at the wrong time. One point in the Hoosiers' favor, however, is that Northwestern ranks 287th nationally in 3-point defense.

9. Michigan (14-13, 7-8) (Previous: 10)

Despite being considerably undermanned, the Wolverines controlled the Buckeyes from start to finish yesterday. It was a stellar performance, and proof that anything can happen in rivalry games. While this has been a down season for the defending B1G champs, they have come to play more often than not this season, and are only a few tough losses (including to Indiana) from being 11-4 in conference play.

Tier 2: The march to March

8. Illinois (17-10, 7-7) (Previous: 7)

The Illini had a huge chance to get itself off the NCAA Tournament bubble last night, but Michigan State came to Champaign and gave Illinois only their second home loss of the year. The Illini will likely have to win three of their last four (at Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, at Purdue) in order to get to the Dance. However, Illinois is only 1-2 since Rayvonte Rice returned from injury, and they are down another player after Aaron Cosby announced his intention to transfer.

7. Iowa (17-10, 8-6) (Previous: 8)

After a week of "Bad Iowa," we got "Good Iowa" this week as the Hawkeyes crushed both Rutgers and Nebraska. Beating Illinois in Carver-Hawkeye on Wednesday could go a long way for Iowa to getting into the tourney, and when the 1-2 punch of Aaron White of Jarrod Uthoff is rolling, they are tough to stop. I'm predicting another high-scoring romp in Assembly Hall next week, similar to last year's 93-86 track meet.

6. Indiana (19-9, 9-6) (Previous: 6)

Wins by 30 can't totally erase a home loss to your rivals, but they help a bit. To make you feel better about last Thursday, here's our blog's patron saint/mascot, who did beat Purdue recently:

5. Ohio State (19-8, 8-6) (Previous: 2)

The Buckeyes have only won two of their last five, and these wins came against Penn State and Rutgers. OSU is slumping at the wrong time, but barring a total collapse, they should be fine in terms of getting into the field of 68.

4. Maryland (22-5, 10-4) (Previous: 5)

The Terps keep winning close games, and while they haven't looked great in about a month, they have a chance to make a statement in College Park tomorrow when Wisconsin comes to town.

3. Michigan State (19-8, 10-4) (Previous: 4)

Despite a final-minute scare, Sparty was able to close out a win on the road against Illinois last night, and has suddenly won 6 of its last 7 games. Branden Dawson has been a force during conference play, and with Tom Izzo's reputation, you can know that this team will be considered a dark horse come March.

2. Purdue (18-9, 10-4) (Previous: 3)

I have no choice but to put Purdue at second this week. The Boilers got a big road win at Assembly Hall, and as long as they win at either Columbus or East Lansing, they should be in good shape for the tournament, which is crazy to think about after they lost to Gardner-Webb on December 22.

Tier 1: Championship belt in sight

1. Wisconsin (25-2, 13-1) (Previous: 1)

Wisconsin can clinch a B1G title by winning its two games next week. However, the Badgers have the softest strength of schedule in the conference, and with Maryland, Michigan State, and Ohio State as three of their last four games, it is incredibly backloaded as well. It won't be easy for the Badgers to win out, and the offense wasn't as uber-efficient last week as it has been, so while a conference title is still very much in reach, getting onto that one-seed line could be a challenge.