The first showdown between the Big Ten’s two consistently best men’s basketball teams produced a season-turning result.
Shorthanded and on the road, Michigan State went to Ann Arbor for a Sunday afternoon showdown and came away with an attention-grabbing, 77-70 win against Michigan, dealing a significant blow to the Wolverines’ conference title hopes.
Elsewhere in the league, Purdue remains perched just behind the Spartans, with Maryland and Michigan remaining in the conversation. Indiana has snapped an ugly streak, Rutgers dealt Minnesota’s NCAA Tournament hopes a major blow and Ohio State secured a significant home win against an Iowa team that has been living somewhat of a charmed existence.
* Big risers: Needing a win to solidify their NCAA Tournament hopes, the Buckeyes blew the doors off Iowa in a 20-point win that was their first against a ranked team this season. Ohio State is showing signs of becoming a better-rounded team and could be hitting its stride at just the right time.
* Big fallers: Minnesota continued what has been a trend of playing poorly in February by taking a four-point road loss to Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights continue to prove that they’re no longer pushovers, but that’s a tough late-season loss for a Gophers team fighting for its postseason life.
* Big picture: The Hawkeyes had seen their previous five games decided by a combined 15 points and were 4-1 in that stretch before taking a 20-point loss from the Buckeyes. Are bigger concerns afoot? Coach Fran McCaffery was overheard cursing at officials after a loss in which he received a technical foul.
Here are this week’s rankings (records and statistics through Tuesday’s games):
1. Michigan State (23-5, 14-3): A Final Four bid might be a reach, but a Big Ten title is squarely in the Spartans’ sights. (Last week: 3)
2. Purdue (20-7, 13-3): The Boilermakers keep chugging, but Carsen Edwards’ shooting volume might be reaching a tipping point. (LW: 1)
3. Michigan (24-4, 13-4): Four losses in 11 games doesn’t concern most teams, but Michigan’s recent success hasn’t been like most teams. (LW: 2)
4. Maryland (21-7, 12-5): The Terrapins look like the Big Ten team most likely to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. (LW: 4)
5. Wisconsin (19-9, 11-6): A double-overtime thriller at Indiana gave the Badgers their third loss in five games. (LW: 6)
6. Ohio State (18-10, 8-9): A 20-point win against Iowa validated some recent strong stretches of better play. (LW: 9)
7. Iowa (21-7, 10-7): A charmed life came to a screeching halt with a blowout loss at Ohio State. (LW: 5)
8. Rutgers (13-14, 6-11): Six Big Ten wins match the total conference victories in Steve Pikiell’s first two seasons at Rutgers. (LW: 11)
9. Penn State (11-16, 4-12): Thought to be dead in the water, the Nittany Lions have won two straight and four of their past six. (LW: 10)
10. Minnesota (17-11, 7-10): The Golden Gophers are playing their way onto the wrong side of the tournament bubble. (LW: 7)
11. Indiana (14-14, 5-12): Romeo Langford finally got his signature moment with the game-winner against Wisconsin. (LW: 12)
12. Illinois (10-17, 6-10): Coach Brad Underwood earned a technical foul for kicking a chair into the scorers’ table in a loss to Penn State. (LW: 8)
13. Nebraska (15-13, 5-12): Coach Tim Miles told reporters that “sometimes the game breaks you” after a close loss to Purdue. (LW: 14)
14. Northwestern (12-15, 3-13): The longest active losing streak in the Big Ten has reached eight games. (LW: 13)