With Purdue hosting Michigan State tomorrow and Indiana hosting Iowa on Thursday, this should be the week where we get to see some separation among the leaders in conference play. Let's break it down!
Tier 5: Rutgersota
14. RUTGER (6-17 overall, 0-11 B1G)
Last week: Lost vs. Illinois, 110-101 (3OT). Lost at Nebraska, 87-63.
13. MINNESOTA (6-17, 0-11)
Last week: Lost at Northwestern, 82-58.
Oh, Rutger. I was actually rooting for the Scarlet Knights last Wednesday, as they battled Illinois to a triple-OT loss, because a win would have meant that Purdue would have a transitive loss to Rutger and I'd still be laughing at that. As for Minnesota, Northwestern has their number - beating the Gophers by 25 and 24 this season now. Sorry, Goldy - you've been relegated to the Rutger tier for the time being.
Tier 4: NIT contenders?
12. ILLINOIS (11-13, 4-6)
Last week: Won at Rutger, 110-101 (3OT). Lost vs. Iowa, 77-65.
11. NORTHWESTERN (16-8, 4-7)
Last week: Won vs. Minnesota, 82-58.
10. NEBRASKA (13-11, 5-6)
Last week: Lost vs. Maryland, 70-65. Won vs. Rutger, 87-63.
9. PENN STATE (12-12, 3-8)
Last week: Lost at Iowa, 73-49. Won vs. Indiana, 68-63.
At 11-13 and 3-8 in the conference, Illinois is in the midst of a rough season. On the bright side, freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands has hit 11 threes in his last two games. With former AD Mike Thomas now out in Champbana, John Groce's seat could be pretty hot right now. Northwestern torched Minnesota Thursday night, breaking a five-game losing streak, and have a manageable enough schedule down the stretch that a .500 conference record wouldn't be too crazy. Nebraska lost a close home battle against Maryland last Wednesday, which most of B1G country didn't get to see much of because of the triple-OT Rutger-Illinois clash. And these are my power rankings, so I have Penn State at the front of this tier because despite the questionable calls near the end of the game, the Nittany Lions put Indiana in a position that the Hoosiers should never have been in to begin with. Brandon Taylor is legit.
Tier 3: Middle of the pack
8. OHIO STATE (14-10, 6-5)
Last week: Lost at Wisconsin, 79-68.
7. MICHIGAN (17-7, 7-4)
Last week: Lost vs. Indiana, 80-67. Lost vs. MSU, 89-73.
6. WISCONSIN (14-9, 6-4)
Last week: Won vs. Ohio State, 79-68.
Unless the Buckeyes go on a late-season run, it's looking like Ohio State will miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. Besides that Kentucky win, the Buckeyes don't have a great tournament profile right now. Michigan drops to seventh this week. Don't be fooled by the final scores of the Indiana and MSU games this week - both those games were blowouts, and the Wolverines missed two opportunities to make a statement at home. Meanwhile, Wisconsin keeps creeping up the standings, as they've won five straight since January 17.
Tier 2: The Hoosier State
5. PURDUE (19-5, 7-4)
Last week: Lost at Maryland, 72-61.
4. INDIANA (19-5, 9-2)
Last week: Won at Michigan, 80-67. Lost at Penn State, 68-63.
Tomorrow's game will be an important one for Purdue, as Caleb Swanigan goes up against Michigan State, the team to which he originally committed last spring. Last year's Indiana Mr. Basketball has been struggling to put up points in recent games, but he leads the conference in defensive rebounding percentage with a whopping 28%. I'm guessing Indiana fans would have been fine with a split at the beginning of last week, but with the loss being against Penn State after an amazing 28-0 run during the Michigan victory, it demonstrates how maddeningly inconsistent the Hoosiers can be sometimes.
Tier 1: Iowa back on top
3. MICHIGAN STATE (20-4, 7-4)
Last week: Won at Michigan, 89-73.
2. MARYLAND (21-3, 10-2)
Last week: Won at Nebraska, 70-65. Won vs. Purdue, 72-61.
1. IOWA (19-4, 10-1)
Last week: Won v.s Penn State, 73-49. Won at Illinois, 77-65.
During every New England Patriots game, SB Nation writer and all-around genius Jon Bois will tweet "Never count out Touchdown Tom." It's become a running joke of his, but I've amended it for Michigan State this season: "Never count out Tournament Tom." Sparty now has four straight wins in the conference, and with a game against Indiana on Valentine's Day, you're sure to hear plenty of Denzel Valentine puns throughout the game. Maryland gets an unusual break from B1G play tomorrow with a nonconference game against Division II Bowie State. It's rare for a team to schedule such a game but also not unprecedented - Indiana had a mid-February game against NC Central back in 2012. College basketball scheduling is weird, man. But Iowa regains the top spot this week against two methodical victories against Penn State and Illinois. If the Hawkeyes can win in Bloomington on Thursday - and KenPom likes them to win by 2 - they might not lose another game in the conference this season. And even in a down year for the conference on the whole, 17-1 in the B1G is quite impressive - and would likely give the Hawkeyes the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.