Big Ten Power Rankings: March 2 EditionPosted by KTrahan on March 2nd, 2013
In this week’s power rankings, we give each team a grade for the month of February. This week’s voters were Deepak Jayanti, Joey Nowak and Kevin Trahan.
- Indiana Hoosiers: For awhile there, it looked like Indiana had secured itself as the top team in the country in a year when it’s been very difficult to figure out who the top team really is. However, the Hoosiers showed that they’re human this week, falling to Minnesota in Minneapolis. Victor Oladipo and Jordan Hulls played well, but IU was dominated inside by Minnesota’s stellar front court, led by Trevor Mbakwe. The Hoosiers certainly have the potential to win the National Championship, but they need to prove themselves against teams that rebound well. Grade: Before this game, Indiana likely deserved an A- for the month, with the loss to Illinois as the blemish. However, the Minnesota loss drops the Hoosiers to a B+ for February.
- Michigan State Spartans: The Spartans have dropped two straight but their performances against Indiana and Ohio State — while not impressive — are not entirely worth fretting about. They’ve been in position to win both games (one of them on the road) and if Keith Appling was playing the way he’s played all season, it’s highly likely that they would have. They’re going through the tough stretch of schedule that most every team in the conference has hit at some point. We’ll find out soon enough how they emerge. Grade: The Spartans get a B+ for February, given the way they climbed in the standings and in the polls by taking care of business all the way up to the Michigan blowout. Their performance against the Hoosiers and Buckeyes was good, but not enough so to win.
- Wisconsin Badgers: Bo Ryan’s team continues to take care of business in the Big Ten and wait for the showdown in East Lansing against Michigan State. If the Hoosiers drop another game in the conference, don’t be surprised to see the Badgers beat the Spartans win the conference title. If that happens, this season might be Ryan’s best since he arrived over a decade ago in Madison. Grade A Except for their loss to the Gophers, Ryan’s team has done very well in February. The win over Michigan will help them in terms of seeding in the NCAA tournament but they proved that they can hang with the top teams in the country. Nobody outside of the Big Ten can take them lightly in March just because they don’t have the star power that Michigan or Indiana has. Ben Brust continues to be a great rebounding guard and he can make a serious case for the best perimeter defender in the Big Ten.
- Ohio State Buckeyes: If Aaron Craft turns out to be the Buckeyes’ second scorer behind Deshaun Thomas, that could be a real good thing for Ohio State. To have scoring potential in your primary ballhandler and leader is a valuable thing, and Craft has been known to have great judgment on both ends of the floor. If he can perform the rest of the way like he did against Michigan State, the Buckeyes could have a reliable scorer and a floor general rolled into one. Grade: The Buckeyes were busy this month, with losses to Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin, but they got things back on track by the end with a couple necessary wins against Minnesota and Michigan State. They got a scare against Northwestern but took care of business when they had to. We’ll give them a B.
- Michigan Wolverines: My, how Michigan has fallen. The Wolverines have struggled mightily this month, and that culminated in this week’s loss to Penn State, which gave the Nittany Lions their first Big Ten win of the season. Trey Burke has continued to play well, but the Wolverines’ freshmen, who were very strong at the beginning of the season, have faded. In particular, Glenn Robinson III and Nic Stauskas are slumping, and Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. haven’t been able to pick up the slack entirely. UM must find an inside presence and start hitting shots again, or else it could be headed for an early March exit. Grade: Considering the expectations heading into the month, Michigan earns a D for February. The good news of the Wolverines? It’s better to get a D in February than in March.
- Minnesota Golden Gophers: Beating Indiana was a huge boost to the Gophers’ confidence but can they continue to perform at such a high level over the next week? They have three games left against Nebraska, Purdue and Penn State and they can win all of them if they continue to play good defense. The road game in Happy Valley will not be a cakewalk especially after Penn State’s stunning win over Michigan last week. Minnesota’s Grade: B The win over Indiana isn’t enough for us to forget the rest of the month for the Gophers. Despite the win, Tubby Smith has to resolve his issues on the offense before the postseason. Their win over the Hoosiers may have cemented an NCAA bid for them but if they play like they did in February, they won’t last too long in the NCAA tournament. Andre Hollins has to step up and be the leader on the offensive end to get them back to consistency.
- Illinois Fighting Illini: John Groce’s team beat Penn State, per expectations, but they seemed lethargic at times during the game as they won just by five points. Their home game against Nebraska should go smoothly but losing the last two games on the road to Iowa and Ohio State is not a good way to end the season. It is very likely that the inconsistent Illini could drop those games which puts them in a tough spot to begin the Big Ten Tournament. Illinois’ Grade: A- We could argue that John Groce’s team deserves an A after beating Indiana and Minnesota consecutively but they still have room to improve. They might have figured out their issues on defense but Brandon Paul still needs to show up in March if they have any hopes of winning a game or two in the NCAA tournament. But February was all about gaining their confidence back and they even had a bit of a “swagger” at times against Minnesota or the first half against Michigan in Ann Arbor.
- Iowa Hawkeyes: The loss in Lincoln was brutal for the Hawkeyes especially after winning three straight before that game. Fran McCaffery’s team rebounded to beat Purdue but they lost their momentum after last weekend. Winning at Indiana is possible but unlikley considering that the Hoosiers will be focused over the last three games of the regular season. Iowa’s Grade: B- The Hawkeyes had their chances at Minnesota and Wisconsin but couldn’t seal the deal but that can be attributed to their youth and inexperience. But losing to Nebraska at home is just unacceptable and that loss essentially put an end do their hopes of an NCAA bid. This grade could have been a B+ if it weren’t for that loss because they continue to stay motivated to compete in the Big Ten despite close losses on the road.
- Purdue Boilermakers: Wins against only Penn State and Northwestern? Not exactly something for the Boilermakers to hang their hats on this month. Safe to say Matt Painter and Co. are ready to start focusing on next year. Grade: We’ll give Purdue a C- simply because a team that was difficult to face at home and on the road is not so anymore. Mackey Arena doesn’t strike fear into anyone this season.
- Northwestern Wildcats: After three straight blowout losses at the hands of Illinois, Wisconsin and Purdue, Northwestern finally made things competitive this week against Ohio State before falling late in the game. Ironically, it’s the most competitive NU has been since the last time it faced the Buckeyes. You can hardly blame the Wildcats, who are without three of their five best players, but it has been a very tough month since a loss to Iowa on Feb. 9. Grade: NU only has one win this month — a 20-point win over Purdue to start February off — and things have gone downhill since the loss to Iowa, which was the same day Jared Swopshire went down with a season-ending knee injury. This was to be expected after all the injuries, but the losing streak still lands NU at a D+.
- Nebraska Cornhuskers: Tim Miles’ squad got its most signature win of the season last weekend, coming from 17 points down at halftime to beat Iowa. Miles has Nebraska on the rise, and while the Huskers have shown an ability to hang around with top teams all year, they have never had the shooting to seal the deal. They shot well in the second half against the Hawkeyes and pulled off quite an impressive comeback. Grade: It’s hard to call a month with very few wins a success, but the win against Iowa helped Nebraska establish itself as a pesky team down the stretch, and it gave hope for next year. That puts the Huskers at a solid C for February.
- Penn State Nittany Lions: That elusive first conference win did come, and in perhaps the most unlikely fashion. Give credit to coach Patrick Chambers and the Nittany Lions for staying focused through a dismal Big Ten season, and for learning from their first meeting against the Wolverines to finish the deal the second time around. Grade: The Nittany Lions are riding high now, after securing perhaps college basketball’s biggest upset of the season, and can end the month with a D instead of an F.