Big Ten Power Rankings: Gophers, Spartans, Wolverines on the rise

It was a tough week for many of the Big Ten's top teams. But a good week for many bubble teams.

BIG TEN POWER POWER RANKINGS

BOBBING AND WEAVING

1, PURDUE (No. 1 in last ranking), 23-6, 12-4:Suspect perimeter? No problem. Still tracking for regular-season title in skittery Big Ten.

FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY, STING LIKE A BEE

2, MINNESOTA (No. 5), 22-7, 10-6:In a deep hole after five-game losings streak, Gophers have won seven in a row to emerge as perhaps the league’s most dangerous team heading into March.

3, MICHIGAN STATE (No. 6), 18-11, 10-6: Young Spartans have won four of five and are homing in on 20th straight NCAA bid, which had looked shaky for a while. It’s Tom Izzo. It’s March. We shouldn’t be surprised.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

PUNCH DRUNK

4, WISCONSIN (No. 2), 22-7, 11-5: Relying too hard on Bronson Koenig to shoot three-pointers, and throwing up too many prayers from free-throw woes is not a recipe for success.

5, MARYLAND (No. 3), 22-7, 10-6: Terrapins, a surprise contender despite their youth, have lost five of seven, including their last three since a big win at Northwestern. Young team needs to regroup quickly.

PACKING A PUNCH

6, MICHIGAN (No. 7), 19-10, 9-7: Like Michigan State, the Wolverines’ NCAA hopes had looked wobbly. And now, after a big win over Purdue on Saturday, Wolverines have clawed their way into a promising NCAA turf.

SPARRING PARTNERS

7, NORTHWESTERN (No. 4), 20-9, 9-7: Scottie Lindsey (mono) is back. But the Wildcats have lost their swagger under the weight of pursuing their first NCAA tournament appearance, and have lost five of their last seven games, including two to Illinois and a heart-breaker at Indiana on Saturday. NU likely needs one more win to feel NCAA-safe. Michigan and Purdue won’t be sympathetic.

8, IOWA (No. 10), 16-13, 8-8: Just when we were ready to bury the Hawkeyes, here they come with a pair of nice wins vs. Indiana and at Maryland. With a win at Wisconsin on Thursday, and another in the finale vs. Penn State, the bracketologists will be taking notice.

SHADOW BOXING

9, INDIANA (No. 11), 16-13, 6-10: Deperate for a win, Indiana got a dramatic one vs. Northwestern. In the long run, though, the Hoosiers will need a miracle to salvage something from a season that started with such great promise.

10, ILLINOIS (No. 12), 17-12, 7-9: Not long ago, it seemed a given that fifth-year coach John Groce would be ridden out of Champaign on an Orange and Blue rail. Now Illini Nation is fired up about the possibility of an improbable NCAA run. The next hurdle, vs. Michigan State on Wednesday, is a serious one.

11, NEBRASKA (No. 8), 12-16, 6-10: Aw shucks. If you can figure out why the Cornhuskers have been so up and down, please send me. . . your investment advice.

12, OHIO STATE (No. 13), 16-13, 6-10: Upset of Wisconsin was a rare bright spot in what will be Thad Matta’s first losing record in 13 seasons of Big Ten play. It’s no secret that Matta needs to ramp up recruiting. Buckeyes are tracking for lowest home attendance in their 18 years at Value City Arena.

PUNCHING BAGS

13, PENN STATE (No. 9), 14-15, 6-10: Freshman phenom Tony Carr and the Nittany Lions will try to end their three-game losing streak vs. Ohio State on Tuesday. Too bad these schools aren’t playing football.

14, RUTGERS (No. 14), 13-16, 2-14: Scarlet Knights have lost last five, but last two were by four points each to Northwestern and Michigan. Home date vs. struggling Maryland on Tuesday next. Hmm?[/membership]

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