Two weeks ago, Michigan looked like they were in a league of their own at 12-3. Maryland had struggled through a tough opening schedule. Indiana was under .500. Oh, how things have changed.
1. Maryland Terrapins, 15-8 Overall, 2-1 B1G, RPI: 71 — In reality, all of these “contenders” are probably interchangeable. Anyone who placed any of them anywhere 1-5 could make solid arguments as to why it was correct. For us, it’s Maryland’s having the only series win over another contender that gets them the nod at No. 1. After starting 1-5, the Terrapins have won 14 of their last 17 games, including a series victory over Michigan this weekend to open Big Ten play. With a series in Piscataway next weekend, Maryland has a great chance to start 5-1 in conference play and put some pressure on others teams with title hopes.
2. Indiana Hoosiers, 13-8-1 Overall, 3-0 B1G, RPI: 32 — Indiana has won seven of its last eight, including three out of four in Hawaii and a sweep of lowly Northwestern. Given how the Hoosiers have struggled to open conference play in recent years, it was encouraging for the club to win three games that it should win. What should scare Hoosier fans, though, is pitching. Opponents have hung a lot of crooked numbers against the cream and crimson lately, and Indiana has blown big leads late twice, and almost did again on Sunday. Nonetheless, Indiana’s offense has been so good that they can probably beat anyone in the league even if the pitching isn’t very good. The last 10 days have proven that.
3. Michigan State, 15-5 Overall, 3-0 B1G, RPI: 24 — The only reason I have Michigan State above Minnesota is their RPI. Neither team has played anyone of note. They both swept bad conference foes to open league play. And they play each other next weekend. Whoever wins that series will be 5-1, at worst, and will be in great position thorough one-third of Big Ten play to grab the 1-seed in the conference tournament.
4. Minnesota Golden Gophers, 14-8 Overall, 3-0 B1G RPI: 86 — Minnesota was convincing in its sweep of Ohio State this weekend, but for the reasons stated above, Michigan State gets the nod.
5. Michigan Wolverines, 16-6 Overall, 1-2 B1G, RPI: 37 — Michigan’s series loss at Maryland isn’t fatal to their conference title hopes by any means. But what it does is seriously diminish their margin for error. They’ll still be alive a couple weeks from now, though, if they take care of business against Penn State and Illinois, who you wouldn’t figure will put up much of a fight. That could leave Michigan around 7-2 or 6-3 going into a big series in East Lansing against Indiana.
Show Me Something
6. Nebraska Cornhuskers, 12-10 Overall, 0-0 B1G, RPI: 97 — Nebraska’ win over Arizona still may be the best win in the conference, but that’s all the Huskers have going for them right now. It’s not their fault that their sweep of the College of Charleston is utterly meaningless given how bad the Cougars have been, but the Huskers have dropped 30 spots in the RPI in the last two weeks, partly because of CofC’s terrible record/RPI. We’ll find out if they belong on the contender list this weekend when the visit Bloomington.
7. Iowa Hawkeyes, 13-9 Overall, 2-1 B1G RPI: 62 — Iowa is another team that hasn’t played anyone. I’d be much more willing to consider them a contender right now if they hadn’t lost a game at home to Purdue over the weekend. But still, they have what looks to be an incredibly easy route to the top of the standings. Their remaining Big Ten series? Northwestern, Nebraska, Rutgers, Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Illinois. Two wins against both Nebraska and Sparty might be all Iowa needs to steal this league’s championship.
Trying to Make the Big Ten Tournament
8. Purdue Boilermakers, 12-10 Overall, 1-2 B1G, RPI: 84 — Purdue is up over 60 spots in the RPI over the last two weeks. Other than the teams ahead of them in this week’s power rankings, they are the only club with a winning record. Purdue has three tough series on the horizon — Indiana, Minnesota, and Michigan — but if they can take care of business against Northwestern, Illinois, and Rutgers, the Boilermakers just might grab that eighth and final spot in the conference tournament.
9. Rutgers Scarlet Knight, 9-14 Overall, 0-0 B1G RPI: 50 — Rutgers is a Top-50 RPI team. But that’s all based on strength of schedule, their’s including Virginia and Miami (FL). We’ll find out quickly, though, whether the Scarlet Knights are going to have a shot at qualifying for the tournament in Bloomington as they face Maryland and Minnesota the next two weekends.
10. Penn State Nittany Lions, 9-13 Overall, 0-0 B1G RPI: 185 — We still know absolutely nothing about Penn State other than they are not a very good team. Still, though, this season, you probably don’t have to be a very good team to make the Big Ten Tournament. Until we see how they fare against Michigan, Ohio State, and Maryland the next three weekends, no reason to rule them out.
11 . Ohio State Buckeyes, 9-14 Overall, 0-3 B1G, RPI: 104— 76 spots. That’s how far Ohio State has fallen in the RPI since our last power rankings. They have lost six of their last seven and desperately need to win four or five against Purdue and Penn State over the next two weeks to avoid being effectively eliminated from the race for a Top-8 spot before the halfway point.
12. Illinois Fighting Illini, 6-15 Overall, 0-3 B1G, RPI: 199 — The fall from grace continues for the Illini. They are very bad and have no hopes of doing anything other than playing spoiler this season, which they might get a shot to do on the last weekend of the season against Iowa.
13. Northwestern Wildcats, 5-17 Overall, 0-3 B1G, RPI: 289 — Northwestern played well against Indiana this weekend. And they still got swept. The Wildcats may not lose 22 games in league play like Purdue a year ago, but they won’t win more than four or five. According to the RPI, only 10 teams in the country are worse.