Big Ten MBB thoughts: approaching the halfway point

We've gotten a lot of head-to-head results so far, which actually helps distill with a clear power ranking (in addition to standings, KenPom numbers, etc.)

1. Purdue - Still looking like the best. Might be some kind of reverse Ewing effect happening here, where they now have to lean on their best player (no disrespect meant to Ivey - but Edey's far more efficient on a per-possession basis)

2. Rutgers - The only team to beat Purdue and coalescing as the 2nd best team in the conference. I admit, I underestimated them a bit, despite them clearly returning the B1G's best wing duo. Temple looks less bad as a loss now, but the Knights need Wake Forest to finish the season strong in order to have a decent non-conference win.

3. Northwestern - What is happening right now? NW should win at home against Minnesota, which will take them to 6-3 in conference. However, they've got a brutal back half of the schedule, so I could still see them actually finishing below .500 in conference play. But they keep surprising, so who knows?

4. Iowa - Before the loss at OSU, they had run off four straight victories, which seemed to be a sign that McCaffrey had overcome the physical and mental health challenges his team was suffering. The win over Indiana and more impressively, at Rutgers, signaled not to underestimate this squad. Unpredictable B1G, etc., but they could be good.

5. Penn State - They've got solid wins against Iowa & Indiana, and a big win at Illinois, but the best non-conference win is probably Butler or Furman. This might be the high-water mark for the Nittany Lions, as they've struggled against bigs and now face Dickinson and Edey back-to-back.

6. Indiana - On a four-game win streak, somehow. There's really no telling which way things will break down the stretch, but they've got themselves back on track for a decent season. Great to see Race back, too.

7. Illinois- So much talent, but every so often they just seem not to show up. They've got a bunch of playmakers, so I keep thinking they'll be a team to watch out for in the postseason, but right now they'll probably continue to wobble around .500 in conference play.

8. Michigan State - The Sparties seemed to have such an impressive start to the year, but have been pretty up and down ever since. Not sure what's going on with Hall, who's the key to their success, but the development of frosh center Jaxson Kohler is a very welcome development for Izzo.

9. Ohio State - Low in the conference standings and in a bit of a slump, but I still believe they're going to get it figured out. Somehow still they're ranked 19th in KenPom, just behind Rutgers, despite losing 6 of their last 7. With Texas Tech slipping down to the bubble, they really need to finish strong. Hopefully that doesn't start against the Hoosiers.

10. Maryland - I had them ranked below Wisconsin, but they just took the Badgers apart, so here we are. If they hold serve at home, the schedule might work for the appearance of a strong finish. The NCAA tourney is still very much in play for this team, but so is the NIT.

11. Wisconsin - Kind of like Maryland and Michigan State, the Badgers' start to the season was an undisputed surpassing of expectations, before, well all this. If they can scrape together 10 wins in conference looking at the rest of the schedule, this is totally possible), they can sneak into the Big Dance based off of good non-conference wins.

12. Michigan - Sure, they're 5-3 in conference play, but 2-0 vs Minnesota, and have 3 wins over bubble teams, all at home. One of those, an impressive blowout of Maryland, was just reversed by a loss in College Park. That said, I could squint at the schedule and see them going 6-0 in the next stretch, which would totally reverse UM's season.

13. Nebraska - Ouch. Losing starters Juwan Gary and Emmanuel Bandoumel back to back is just cruel for a team that was already paper-thin. Hoiberg has had some of the worst injury luck I've seen over the past few years, and any chance for a postseason probably just went down the tubes. It'd be remarkable if they win more than 2 more games.

14. Minnesota - Well, they almost caught the Hoosiers napping, and they'll probably upend one or two other teams on a bad night, too. Getting the freshmen some seasoning without totally breaking their spirits is probably all that Coach Johnson can do from here out.

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