First of all, congrats to our own Kyle Swick, who will become a dad in August, right before Indiana football goes on their incredible run to next year's Rose Bowl. Here are some IU-related baby names that I've already suggested:
- Kevin Yogi Swick
- Cody Victor Swick
- Howard Coleman Swick
- Antwaan Randle Swick
- Herman B Swick
- Zander Creanface Swick
Add yours in the comments. Now onto the rankings:
Tier 5: The Garden State
14. RUTGER (6-16 overall, 0-9 B1G)
Last week: Lost at Michigan, 68-57. Lost at MSU, 96-62.
So this happened:
Video: Rutgers player doesn't realize it's a one-and-one, throws live ball out of bounds for a turnover: pic.twitter.com/RZpFzUNr6n— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) January 28, 2016
Tier 4: Wait for next season?
13. MINNESOTA (6-16, 0-10)
Last week: Lost vs. Purdue, 68-64. Lost at Indiana, 74-68.
12. NORTHWESTERN (15-8, 3-7)
Last week: Lost vs. MSU, 76-45. Lost at Iowa, 85-71.
11. ILLINOIS (10-12, 3-5)
Last week: Lost to OSU, 68-63 (OT). Lost to Wisconsin, 63-55.
10. PENN STATE (11-11, 2-7)
Last week: Lost at OSU, 66-46. Lost vs. Michigan, 79-72.
9. NEBRASKA (12-10, 4-5)
Last week: Lost at Purdue, 89-74.
Including Rutger, the bottom six teams in the conference went 0-11 this week, and there are only a few promising signs as these squads roll into the second half of conference play. Minnesota has lost each of its last five games by seven points or less (including twice to Indiana). Even though they haven't yet put it all together, I think they will catch someone off balance soon and finally get their first conference win. That may come this Thursday, when they play Northwestern. Since the Wildcats lost a heartbreaker at Maryland in overtime, they've been blown out in three straight games against top conference opponents. Tre Demps, however, did score 30 against Iowa last night. Penn State came out flat in both their games last week, but the Hoosiers will want to limit the scoring of 6-6 small forward Brandon Taylor when they travel to State College on Saturday. Finally, Nebraska has struggled since their stunning upset in East Lansing, and it won't get much easier on Wednesday, when Maryland comes into Lincoln. Two years ago, Tim Miles had his Huskers at 11-10 and 3-6 in the B1G at this time, then Nebraska won 8 out of 9 conference games, good enough to sneak into the Tourney as an at-large. Do the Huskers have another magical run left in them?
Tier 3: NCAA Tourney dark horses
8. OHIO STATE (14-9, 6-4)
Last week: Won vs. Penn State, 66-46. Won at Illinois, 68-63 (OT). Lost vs. Maryland, 66-61.
7. WISCONSIN (13-9, 5-4)
Last week: Won vs. Indiana, 82-79 (OT). Won at Illinois, 63-55.
Ohio State has played the third-easiest B1G schedule thus far, and their results demonstrate the dichtomy of their play - the Buckeyes have feasted on the conference's bottom tier, while all four of their losses have come against top-six teams. Meanwhile, Wisconsin is rolling again, having won four straight with two very winnable games ahead of them. Mid-February will make or break this team though. In the span of eleven days (Feb. 13-24), they will face Maryland, Michigan State, and Iowa, all on the road. Even if these teams don't crack the top six by season's end, the 1- or 2-seed in the conference will not enjoy matching up with them during the B1G tourney.
Tier 2: Still in the hunt
6. PURDUE (19-4, 7-3)
Last week: Won at Minnesota, 68-64. Won vs. Nebraska, 89-74.
5. MICHIGAN (17-5, 7-2)
Last week: Won vs. Rutger, 68-57. Won "at" Penn State, 79-72.
4. MICHIGAN STATE (17-4, 6-4)
Last week: Won at Northwestern, 76-45. Won vs. Rutger, 96-62.
Purdue's A.J. Hammons had a stellar performance in the throwback unis against Nebraska on Saturday. If he has this type of game against the Hoosiers later this month, IU is in serious trouble. Michigan continues to get scrappy victories without its best player, meaning that I will once again call John Beilein the MacGyver of college hoops. They'll be favored to win over the Hoosiers in Crisler Center tomorrow. As for Michigan State, Tom Izzo seems to be getting this team into form right as the stretch run begins. Sparty might have one too many B1G losses to claim the conference title, but there's no doubt this team can make another Final Four if Denzel Valentine and Tum Tum Nairn are healthy.
Tier 1: The frontrunners
3. INDIANA (18-4, 8-1)
Last week: Lost at Wisconsin, 82-79 (OT). Won vs. Minnesota, 74-68.
2. IOWA (17-4, 8-1)
Last week: Lost at Maryland, 74-68. Won vs. Northwestern, 85-71.
1. MARYLAND (19-3, 8-2)
Last week: Won vs. Iowa, 74-68. Won at OSU, 66-61.
Indiana remains in the top tier this week with an 8-1 conference record. Despite a relatively tough week, IU still only has one loss in conference, which came at the haunted Kohl Center in overtime. And Thomas Bryant gives the Hoosiers a post threat that, as shown in the Minnesota game, can take over if the shots from outside are not falling. A six-point road loss in the Xfinity Center during their star player's worst game of the season should not be anything for Iowa to fret about, and the Hawkeyes have a very manageable schedule in the second half of conference play.
However, this week Maryland has earned the top spot in the rankings, after their victory over the Hawkeyes. The thing about the Terps that makes them dangerous is that on any one of their players can take over a game on any given night. Against Iowa, Rasheed Sulaimon came away with 17 points. Yesterday against OSU, Melo Trimble had 20. In the loss to Michigan, Diamond Stone came off the bench and got a double-double. Robert Carter is a consistent scoring threat as well. So while the Terps make their fans sweat out the results in most games, ultimately the team has enough talent to survive. Maryland will attempt to stay unbeaten in College Park on Saturday, when Purdue comes to town.