Big Ten Power Rankings: 2/24

Story posted February 24, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Jeff Jezewski and Michael Katz

1. Michigan (19-7, 11-3 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) Michigan State 79-70

This Week: @ Purdue (15-12, 5-9), Minnesota (17-11, 6-9)

Michigan has been a model of inconsistency lately, winning and losing back and forth in its last seven games. The latest win was huge however. Michigan locked horns with in-conference foe Michigan State on Sunday, and picked up a huge nine-point win to gain possession of first place in the Big Ten. Leading scorer Nik Stauskas was unstoppable, scoring 25 points on 9-13 shooting, including three buckets from long range. Guard Caris LeVert added 23 points of his own. Michigan State led by two at the break, but was outscored 45-34 in the second half. Michigan swept the season series from the Spartans. 

This week the Wolverines take on Purdue on the road, and Minnesota at home, hoping to end the streak of inconsistency they have kept up in February. Purdue has faltered against strong competition, unable to score an upset in any of its games against the top five Big Ten teams. Minnesota is falling off itself, losing by double digits last week to a lowly Illinois squad and not coming close against Ohio State. Michigan has a strong chance to run the table and finish with the best record in the Big Ten. – Michael Katz

2. Wisconsin (22-5, 9-5 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) @ Iowa 79-74

This Week: Indiana (15-11, 5-8), @ Penn State (13-14, 4-10)

Wisconsin is a team looking primed to make a solid tournament run after a big road win against Iowa. The Badgers defeated the Hawkeyes behind a big performance from Frank Kaminsky, who scored 21 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Kaminsky was joined by sophomore forward, Sam Dekker, who picked up his fifth double-double of the season, scoring 15 points and grabbing 11 boards. Wisconsin makes the jump up to number two in the power rankings, riding a five-game win streak. 

The Badgers have, what should be, an easy week coming up, as they face off against Indiana at home, before traveling to Penn State. Neither of Wisconsin’s opponents this week have more than five wins in Big Ten play, nor have they been able to shake their inconsistencies. While they still need a lot of help at the top, Wisconsin could presumably win out and challenge for the conference crown. Bo Ryan’s team is on fire at the perfect time and they have the talent to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. – Jeff Jezewski

3. Michigan State (22-6, 11-4 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) @ Purdue 94-79, (L) @ Michigan 79-70

This Week: Illinois (15-12, 4-10)

Michigan State has been as inconsistent as Michigan, and were beaten twice by the Wolverines. After starting conference play 7-0, Michigan State has now exchanged wins and losses in nine straight games. The latest loss to Michigan dropped the Spartans out of the top spot in the Big Ten, and that spot will be difficult to regain. The loss was keyed by another second half collapse,  after taking a lead into the break. Gary Harris led the Spartans in scoring with 21, but shot the ball very poorly. He was 4-13 from behind the arc. 

Michigan State looks to regroup in a cupcake game at home against Illinois this week. They beat the Illini by 16 in the first matchup, and Illinois has not gotten any better since then. The final week of the season will be brutal for the Spartans, as they try to maintain their Big Ten tournament seed. They take on Iowa before heading to Columbus, for a meeting with Ohio State. You never want to look past an opponent, but with Illinois’ lackluster team, Michigan State may want to start to focus a little bit on next week. – Michael Katz

4. Iowa (19-7, 8-5 Big Ten)

Last Week: @ Indiana (PPD), (L) Wisconsin 79-74

This Week: @ Minnesota (17-11, 6-9), @ Indiana (15-11, 5-8), Purdue (15-12, 5-9)

Iowa had a very interesting week, first having their game with Indiana postponed due to an issue in Assembly Hall. After the cancellation, Iowa returned home to face off with Wisconsin, but failed to capitalize on a huge opportunity to make their push for the Big Ten championship. Despite Roy Devyn Marble’s best efforts, the Hawkeyes were unable to avoid being swept by the Badgers, losing this matchup, 79-74. Iowa shot a better percentage from the field than Wisconsin, but the Badgers eight three-pointers propelled them to the victory.

Due to the postponed game, Iowa has a long week ahead of them, facing three games including two on the road. The Hawkeyes start off the week at Minnesota, before returning to Assembly Hall for their previously scheduled matchup with Indiana. Then Iowa will return home to take on Purdue, to finish off the week. While the Hawkeyes aren’t playing the toughest slate of teams, three games in a week, in the Big Ten is never an easy task. If Fran McCaffery’s squad can rebound and sweep the week, they’ll be in fantastic shape. – Jeff Jezewski 

5. Ohio State (22-6, 9-6 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) Northwestern 76-60, (W) Minnesota 64-46

This Week: @ Penn State (13-14, 4-10), @ Indiana (15-11, 5-8)

An upset loss at home to Penn State seems to have woken up an Ohio State team that looked to be falling at the time. The Buckeyes have now won six of seven. Last week presented no challenges. They were easily able to fend off Northwestern and Minnesota at home for their second and third straight wins. Four players scored in double figures for the Buckeyes in a wild one against Northwestern, in which leading scorer LaQuinton Ross was ejected late in the second half for an altercation with a Northwestern player. Sam Thompson was the man in the demolition of Minnesota, scoring 19 on 7-12 shooting.

Momentum is huge in a conference as wild as the Big Ten, and Ohio State is the conferences hottest team not named Nebraska or Wisconsin. Two road games await this week against lower level teams which Ohio State should win, to continue its hot streak. The Buckeyes have a chance to avenge a crushing loss to Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions have looked terrible since the win and are now dead last in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes next game is at Indiana. Despite Indiana’s lackluster season, Assembly Hall is never an easy venue to win at, and Ohio State needs to maintain focus. – Michael Katz 

6. Nebraska (16-10, 8-6 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) Penn State 80-67, (W) Purdue 76-57

This Week: @ Illinois (15-12, 4-10), Northwestern (12-16, 5-10)

Nebraska is one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten, and they are making a run at the NCAA tournament. The Huskers have won seven of their last eight, including five straight after defeating Penn State and Purdue last week. Terran Petteway continued his torrid stretch, scoring 26 against the Nittany Lions and 29 against the Boilermakers. Petteway has been one of the most impressive players in the conference this season, just his first as a Cornhusker. The six-foot-six sophomore is the leader of the Huskers and his offense could propel them to a tournament bid.

The Huskers have a prime opportunity to stay on their hot streak with two winnable games this week. Nebraska opens up the week against the Fighting Illini, a team that is tied for last in the Big Ten. After the contest with Illinois, the Huskers return home to face off with Northwestern. Two wins this week would guarantee a positive record, in Big Ten play, for Nebraska. If they hope to make the tournament, Tim Miles’ squad can’t afford to drop either of these contests. – Jeff Jezewski 

7. Minnesota (17-11, 6-9 Big Ten)

Last Week: (L) Illinois 62-49, (L) @ Ohio State 64-46

This Week: Iowa (19-7, 8-5), @ Michigan (19-7, 11-3)

Minnesota lost any small chance it had at making the NCAA Tournament last week with double-digit losses to Illinois and Ohio State. They maintain the seventh spot in the power rankings primarily based on how bad the bottom half of the conference has been. The loss to Ohio State was expected, but the home loss to Illinois has to sting. They only managed to muster 49 points in the game and were killed by Illinois freshman Kendrick Nunn, who hit five three-pointers for 15 of his 19 points. Minnesota has now dropped six of its last nine games. 

The Gophers will need to play their best basketball of the season to escape this week with a win. They play Iowa first, whom they lost to by 21, when they were playing better than they are now. They then travel to Ann Arbor and play the Big Ten’s top team in Michigan. Michigan has played great at home this season, losing only to Wisconsin and fourth ranked Arizona. – Michael Katz 

8. Indiana (15-11, 5-8 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) @ Northwestern 61-56

This Week: @ Wisconsin (22-5, 9-5), Iowa (19-7, 8-5), Ohio State (22-6, 9-6) 

Indiana went undefeated in a wacky week last week. The game against Iowa was postponed after a piece of ceiling fell in Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers then passed a road test at Northwestern, winning by five. The scoring spread was phenomenal, with four players scoring 12 points apiece. Indiana’s defense was the real story in this game, holding Northwestern to 38% shooting and five bench points. Only two Wildcats scored in double figures. The win snapped a three-game losing skid that followed its biggest win of the season against Michigan. 

The win against Northwestern was big to gain some sort of confidence heading into arguably the toughest week a Big Ten team has faced all season. The week starts in Madison, Wisconsin, against the Big Ten’s hottest team. Indiana took the first matchup, handing Wisconsin its first loss of the season. Wisconsin is on a tear right now, defeating three ranked teams this month, including two straight on the road at Michigan and Iowa. The next game is the make up of the Iowa game that was supposed to happen last week. This will be the first time the teams have met this season. The Iowa game is followed by another game against a top 25 team in Ohio State, another team who the Hoosiers have not met this season. On the bright side, Indiana has played up to its competition this season, beating some very good teams and losing to some bad teams. That is about the only silver lining in as brutal a week as the Hoosiers are facing. – Michael Katz

9. Purdue (15-12, 5-9 Big Ten)

Last Week: (L) Michigan State (94-79), (L) @ Nebraska 76-57

This Week: Michigan (19-7, 11-3), @ Iowa (19-7, 8-5)

The Boilermakers experienced a rough week, dropping both contests to Michigan State and Nebraska. Purdue’s lack of defense continues to plague them, as they allowed the Spartans to shoot nearly 58 percent and score 94 points. Against Michigan State, Purdue’s defense, or lack thereof, gave up 17 three pointers to Tom Izzo’s squad. The defense was a little better against Nebraska, but they still allowed Terran Petteway to score 29 points. 

Purdue’s rough stretch may continue for the rest of the season, as they still have multiple tough games left. The tough slate resumes this week, as the Boilermakers take on Big Ten leader, Michigan, before heading on the road to face Iowa. Purdue must win out to finish .500 in Big Ten play, but that seems like an extraordinarily difficult task. The Boilermakers have little to no chance of making the tournament so they will be playing for pride at this point in the season. – Jeff Jezewski 

10. Northwestern (12-16, 5-10 Big Ten)

Last Week: (L) @ Ohio State 76-60, (L) Indiana 61-56

This Week: @ Nebraska (16-10, 8-6)

After enjoying a nice stretch earlier this season, Northwestern has been in a slump, dropping their last five games. The Wildcats, who haven’t won since February 1st, have still been competitive, however. Northwestern has lost just two games, during their losing streak, by more than six points. Consistency on offense has been the issue for the Wildcats, who shot less than 40 percent against the Hoosiers. Northwestern has failed to score more than 70 points in any game during their losing streak.

The Wildcats have a long break before their next contest, facing off with Nebraska on March 1st. Having time off could be a blessing in disguise for this struggling Wildcats team. However, Chris Collins’ team runs into a red-hot Nebraska team. A loss would put them on a six-game losing streak, hampering what was looking like a surprising season for the Wildcats. – Jeff Jezewski

11. Illinois (15-12, 4-10 Big Ten)

Last Week: (W) @ Minnesota 62-49

This Week: Nebraska (16-10, 8-6), @ Michigan State (22-6, 11-4)

Illinois had a rare perfect week last week. It only played one game, but any win is a big one for the 15-12 Illini, who have lost 10 of 12. Freshman Kendrick Nunn tied his career high with 19 points, going 5-7 from deep. The defense did the rest, holding Minnesota to 37% from the field. 

Illinois gets a no favors and has a very slim chance at scoring its first winning streak since the start of conference play. It can play spoiler in a game against a Nebraska team vying for an at-large NCAA tournament bid. The Huskers are streaking at just the right time and have won five straight. Illinois’ second game this week comes at the Breslin Center, against Michigan State. Illinois was handled easily by the Spartans earlier this season, and has only won once on the road in Big Ten play, at last place Penn State. – Michael Katz

12. Penn State (13-14, 4-10 Big Ten)

Last Week: (L) @ Nebraska 80-67

This Week: Ohio State (22-6, 9-6), Wisconsin (22-5, 9-5)

The Nittany Lions have been an up-and-down team all season long, and they are currently down. After winning three straight, the Lions have dropped four of five contests, including their only matchup this past week. Penn State fell at the hands of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, due to their ugly 34.9 percentage from the field. The Nittany Lions have had trouble shooting the ball efficiently all season, as they rank 237th in the nation in field goal percentage. 

Things will not get easier for Penn State, who takes on Ohio State and Wisconsin this week. The Buckeyes and the Badgers have been playing very good basketball lately, but the Lions will look to grab a signature home victory. While the tournament isn’t in their sights, Penn State will look to finish strong and avoid the Big Ten basement. – Jeff Jezewski 

Jeff Jezewski is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jvj5228@psu.edu.

Michael Katz is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email mak5672@psu.edu.

About the Contributors

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Michael Katz

Junior / Broadcast Journalism

Michael is a Junior Broadcast Journalism major originally from the Washington DC area. He has done play by play and beat writing for various Penn State sports. He is a supporter of all Washington sports teams and hopes to host a sports radio show focusing on Washington teams in the future.

Jeff Jezewski's photo

Jeff Jezewski

Senior / Broadcast Journalism

Jeff Jezewski is a senior from Nanticoke, PA, aspiring to work professionally in the sports industry. Jeff is currently a production director for ComRadio while also serving as a play-by-play broadcaster and a producer.

In the summer of 2014, Jeff interned with Westwood One in New York City. Jeff served as a live event production intern in his time with the company. In the fall of 2014, he served as an intern for ESPN 1450 in State College.

In the summer of 2015, Jeff acted as a media relations intern for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

You can contact Jeff at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or follow him on twitter @JeffJezewski13