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Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings - February 26th

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Only 4 Big Ten teams are locks for the Big Dance, but an automatic bid is still available

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

And so we’ve arrived at the final edition of the Power Rankings. After two months of Big Ten action, we’re ready for the first-ever Big Ten tournament at Madison Square Garden.

As always, there were some surprises among the ranks this season, both positive and negative.

Nebraska came from near the bottom of the preseason rankings to finish in the Top 4. Ohio State was even more impressive, finishing with an incredible 15-3 Big Ten record (24-7 overall). Even Penn State managed to produce a .500 conference record.

On the negative side, Iowa surprisingly fell to near the bottom of the conference. Minnesota crumbled after the Reggie Lynch news broke. Maryland played with too much inconsistency throughout the season.

But the great thing about the conference tournament is everyone still has hope. Even the ones that have been through the ringer this season. The best part of the college sports year is officially upon us.

Remember, these rankings are based on the current strength of the teams, not necessarily where I expect them to finish. Here we go…

1. Michigan State

Michigan State wrapped up the Big Ten title, going 16-2 in conference. As long as they don’t get bounced in their first game at Madison Square Garden, I think the Spartans will be on the top line at the NCAA Tournament.

2. Ohio State

The Buckeyes finished off their surprising regular season with a double-overtime win over Indiana on Saturday. They entered the season predicted to finish in the bottom half of the conference and instead finished in the Top 2. Quite the turnaround.

3. Purdue

After a shaky stretch two weeks ago, Purdue bounced back to win their final three games and finish third in the Big Ten standings. Without a doubt, they have second-weekend potential at the Big Dance. We’ll see what they do with it.

4. Michigan

The Wolverines enter the Big Ten Tournament winners of 7 of their last 8, after two impressive road wins over Penn State and Maryland. I stand by what I said last week – they’re getting hot at the right time.

5. Nebraska

The Cornhuskers are squarely on the bubble at the moment and will be a very interesting story on Selection Sunday. Two wins at the Big Ten Tournament would put them in the field, anything less leaves it up for debate.

6. Penn State

After knocking off Ohio State for the second time this season, Penn State fell off the pace and lost their last three. They now look to be NIT-bound. They had some great moments this season, but ultimately came up a little short.

7. Indiana

Their record may not indicate it, but the Hoosiers were a much better team in February than they had been previously. Unfortunately, they had already dug themselves too big of a hole, but Archie Miller’s program has a promising future.

8. Wisconsin

Despite a subpar season, Wisconsin is putting it together at the right time. They’ve won three of their last four to work their way into a first-round bye at the Big Ten tournament.

9. Maryland

Maryland closed out a subpar regular season with a blowout home loss to Michigan on Saturday. It’s now going to take a string of four wins in four days for the Terps to break into the NCAA Tournament field.

10. Northwestern

The story of the 2017-18 Wildcats will be about how they failed to capitalize on the First Dance team from the previous season. They are about to lose three key seniors to graduation so Chris Collins will have his work cut out for him as the program moves forward.

11. Illinois

After starting 0-8 in Big Ten play, the Illini finished with four wins in their last ten games. Under the circumstances, I thought the coaching staff did a great job of keeping this team motivated after a tough start.

12. Minnesota

Of all the teams on this list, the Golden Gophers are probably the happiest to see the regular season finally come to a close. They managed to pull out a win over Iowa on Wednesday night, but still head to MSG losing 13 of their last 15 games.

13. Iowa

Iowa jumped out of the Big Ten cellar with a win over Northwestern on the last night of the regular season. They also have a winnable first round game at the Big Ten Tournament, which would give them something to feel good about as they close out a disappointing season.

14. Rutgers

Another 3-15 season for the Scarlet Knights in the Big Ten. Disappointing considering how promising they looked after the Seton Hall win. But as I’ve said, there are positive signs for the future and a solid recruiting class that is waiting to contribute right away.