What better way to look at how the other teams in the Big Ten are playing than power rankings? So, without further ado:
THE BIG BOYS
1. Indiana Hoosiers, 14-4 (No. 21, D1Baseball; No. 24, Baseball America). The numbers mentioned in the lede--the 11 consecutive wins and the 14-4 record--only tell part of the story. The Hoosiers are fresh off a sweep of national powerhouse Cal State Fullerton, the most impressive accomplishment of any team in the Big Ten thus far. And IU has pitching that has only been rivaled by the 2nd place team in the power rankings. Indiana's starting pitchers have been plenty good enough over the past three weeks, and that was without ace Scott Effross. Add in a bullpen that has thrown 26 straight scoreless innings and you have a team that can win any game, no matter who is pitching for the opposition. If IU wins the Big Ten, they've done enough in the non-conference (with big games still looming against Louisville, Kentucky, and Long Beach State) that they will get into the national seed conversation.
2. Illinois Fighting Illini, 14-4-1 (No. 18, D1Baseball; No. 25, Baseball America). Illinois is doing all it can to help Indiana improve the reputation of northern baseball. What jumps off the page when you look at the Illini schedule is a series win at then-No. 10 Oklahoma State. Illinois's terrific pitching is the next thing you'll notice. They're allowing just under 2.5 runs per game, even better than the 3.0 runs per game Indiana is allowing. Based solely on Indiana's 11-game winning streak and the extra "big" series that Indiana has won (two for IU, at Stanford and vs. Fullerton; one for Illinois, at Oklahoma State), the Hoosiers get the edge. But Illinois is a very close second and it wouldn't be surprising at all to see them take the 1-seed into the Big Ten Tournament. They way the two teams have played thus far, there's no reason to think that seed won't be decided April 17-19 when they get together in Champaign.
GOOD, BUT THEY HAVEN'T DONE ANYTHING
T-3. Maryland Terrapins, 13-4 (No. 14, D1Baseball; NR, Baseball America). Maryland was one of three teams the experts pegged to finish ahead of Indiana in the Big Ten this season, along with Illinois and Nebraska, and they still might. They sit at 3rd in this ranking because they just haven't played anyone except for No. 7 (Baseball America) Central Florida, to whom they lost. And other than Nebraska and Indiana, they won't play anyone of note, so they should finish with a tremendous record. But it's tough to see them working themselves into the same national seed talk that Indiana or Illinois would warrant with a Big Ten title.
T-3. Nebraska Cornhuskers, 13-6 (NR). See, Maryland explanation. I'm sure Nebraska is still a fine club, but they lost to the only two good teams they've played (No. 1 LSU and No. 5 Texas A&M, Baseball America). They'll get an opportunity unlike Maryland, however, to work themselves into the same category as Indiana and Illinois as they will face Cal State Fullerton and Texas over the next few weeks. Winning those series would go a long way toward moving them into the national spotlight.
LESS GOOD, STILL HAVEN'T DONE ANYTHING
5. Iowa Hawkeyes, 12-4 (NR). Iowa's schedule is even weaker, and I refuse to waste column space talking about it in detail. 12 wins are great. If they'd played the schedule Indiana has played, they'd have four.
6. Ohio State, 11-5 (NR). More of the same. They'll play one game against Louisville later this season, but no one else outside the conference worth mentioning. They do get Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, and Maryland, however. So, there is potential for them to lay claim to being a quality team. But I think we'd all be surprised if they win four of five of those 12 games.
NORTHERN BASEBALL TEAMS!
7. Michigan Wolverines, 11-8 (NR). Michigan hasn't played a home game yet because it's March and Michigan is Canada. Anybody playing north of the Mason-Dixon line has to be pleased with a winning record away from home, given that the southern teams they face are miles ahead of them. Too bad Michigan didn't really schedule any of them. Four of their wins came in Florida, but against Siena who probably experienced even worse weather. The only reason they rank this highly is because the other teams in this league are hot garbage.
8. Michigan State Spartans, 8-9 (NR). That's right, two Canadian teams fall back-to-back in this season's inaugural power rankings. Give Michigan State credit for playing three games at UCLA, a more aggressive scheduling approach than 10 of the 13 league teams took. But don't credit them for losing by a combined tally of 23-3.
9. Purdue Boilermakers, 7-11 (NR). Purdue hasn't been as bad as I thought they would be, which is the nicest thing I've ever said about Purdue. They remain, however, irrelevant. They have no good wins and more than a couple ugly losses. Again, too bad IU doesn't get a weekend off this year. And by a weekend off, I mean they don't play Purdue.
THE REST OF THE BOTTOM-FEEDERS
10. Minnesota Golden Gophers, 7-9 (NR). Is it still hockey season?
11. Northwestern Wildcats, 4-13 (NR). Yikes.
12. Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 3-12 (NR). In what sport, exactly, is Rutgers supposed to make the Big Ten better? Rutgers is so bad that Purdue may be tied for first after the first weekend of the conference season because they play each other. Indiana plays Rutgers at home the weekend of The Masters. At least I can skip the trip to the Bart that weekend, put the Hoosiers down for 3 wins, and can watch all the young guns at Augusta shove Tiger deeper into irrelevance.
13. Wisconsin Badgers. They don't have a baseball team, which clearly makes them better than Penn State.
I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT TO CALL THIS LEVEL OF THE RANKINGS
14. Penn State, 2-13 (Sure as hell not ranked). Maybe they can forfeit this weekend's series and let the Hoosiers head to Omaha so that they can support the basketball team and get acquainted with the town so they're comfortable when they go back in June.
(Records and statistics were current as of 5PM EST on Wednesday, March 18.)