Last week was another prime example that even the best of teams cannot take any road and/or conference foe for granted, and that one off night could cost you dearly.
Just when you think the conference is beginning to take shape, it takes a sharp turn.
Last week, teams ranked between 3-6 nationally in the AP poll lost, three of which were to unranked teams. Among those three were the Big Ten’s Iowa Hawkeyes (20-6, 11-3 Big Ten) and Maryland Terrapins (23-5, 11-4 Big Ten). The two have been near the top of the conference all season long but have struggled in their last few games respectively.
Meanwhile, the Michigan State Spartans (22-5, 9-5 Big Ten) are now the highest-ranked Big Ten team in the poll at No. 6. and while it is a long shot at winning the regular season title, head coach Tom Izzo has his team playing just how they’ve grown accustomed to around this time of the season, primed for another March run.
MSU has won six of their last seven and they are one of the one of the last teams anyone wants to see on the schedule. For those very reasons, they have, at least for this week, re-claimed the top spot in our latest power rankings [Last week’s rankings]:
- Michigan State (22-5, 9-5 Big Ten) 
- Indiana (22-6, 12-3) 
- Iowa (20-6, 11-3) 
- Maryland (23-5, 11-4) 
- Purdue (21-7, 9-6) 
- Wisconsin (17-10, 9-5) 
- Ohio State (18-10, 10-5) 
- Michigan (19-9, 9-6) 
- Nebraska (14-14, 6-9) 
- Penn State (14-13, 5-9) 
- Northwestern (17-10, 5-9) 
- Illinois (12-15, 4-10) 
- Minnesota (7-19, 1-13) 
- Rutgers (6-21, 0-14) 
TEAMS TO WATCH THIS WEEK
WISCONSIN – ‘Bucky Badger’ has played themselves into the conversation to steal an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament. Having won seven of their last eight games, this is a completely different Badgers team than the one that lost earlier in the season to the likes of Western Illinois and UW-Milwaukee at home.
Unfortunately for Wisconsin, those very bad losses very well could keep them out of the tournament for the first time since the 1997-98 season, despite racking up wins against Michigan State, Indiana, and Maryland in their recent stretch.
This week, they have another big week with the potential to add more resumé-building victories. On Wednesday, February 24th, they have the opportunity to upset another highly-ranked Big Ten foe of the road when they travel to Iowa. Then on Sunday the 28th, they head back home and welcome in the Wolverines, in what could very well be a de facto ‘knockout’ game.
OHIO STATE – Coming into this season, the Buckeyes were in the same boat as the Badgers; nobody was really sure what to expect out of them with all the talent they lost from a season ago, but the experience of their head coach Thad Matta could propel them to sneak into the big dance again.
OSU suffered some really bad losses early on as well, losing to UT-Arlington and Louisiana Tech at home. They’ve also gotted waved by the likes of Connecticut out of conference and Indiana, Maryland, and Purdue in conference. Their lone ‘key victory’ of the season comes against Kentucky.
Normally an 18-10 record overall and a 10-5 record in league play is good enough for teams to make the tournament. But when the number of bad losses outweighs the number of key wins, it puts them on the bubble.
The Buckeyes have a chance to change that this week with a pair of home games against top 10 teams. On Tuesday the 23rd, Michigan State visits Columbus. After that, Iowa comes calling for a late afternoon tilt on Sunday the 28th