Big Ten Basketball Power Rankings: Week 18 Edition

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Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 18

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten season has been as unpredictable and crazy as any conference's regular season this year. Right when you think you've seen it all, something else happens that shocks you to no end. For example, the Michigan State Spartans lost at home for the fourth time this season and it's starting to look like they are in a downward spiral -- not exactly the ideal time to be in a rut.

Michigan State isn't the only team that's trending downward prior to the NCAA Tournament as the Iowa Hawkeyes are also struggling to stay afloat, going 5-6 in their last 11 games. The two teams will meet this week in a huge confidence-booster prior to the Big Ten Tournament next weekend.

They say March is a month of madness, and that couldn't be any more true. Both Iowa and Michigan State have the talent to make deep runs in March and both have the talent to be conference champions, but it's all about execution at this point. But hey, anything can happen in March.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Michigan Wolverines have now clinched at least a share of the conference title and one more victory could give the Wolverines their first outright Big Ten title in 28 years. It's starting to seem like this is Michigan's year to win the crown as they took down their in-state foe twice during the regular season. However, postseason play is all that counts.

Many would argue that the Big Ten is no longer the best conference in America, but the depth of the conference and the fact that all the teams just beat the snot out of each other is enough reason to think it's easily the deepest conference out there.

Let's take at my week 18 Big Ten power rankings. Let me know what you agree or disagree with.

Hint: there's been a bit of a shake-up near the top.

Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at connor.muldowney@rantsports.com.

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12. Northwestern Wildcats (12-16, 5-11)

northwestern
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

After starting the Big Ten season 1-4, the Wildcats went on to win four of their next five games, but have since lost six straight. Not having won since Feb. 1 has been hard on this inexperienced team and it will continue to search for its first NCAA Tournament berth in team history next season -- unless, of course, it wins the conference tournament title.

Last week: 12

This week: vs. Penn State (13-14, 5-11), at Purdue (15-14, 5-11)

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11. Purdue Boilermakers (15-14, 5-11)

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue was 15-10 not too long ago and winning out would have put it in the discussion for a tournament berth, but four consecutive losses have landed them at the No. 11 spot in my rankings. Since starting conference play with a 3-2 record, the Boilermakers have lost nine of 11 games and they have just won a single road game in Big Ten play this season.

Last week: 9

This week: at No. 9 Wisconsin (24-5), vs. Northwestern (12-17)

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10. Penn State Nittany Lions (13-14, 5-11)

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Beating Ohio State was definitely a huge win for the Penn State program -- especially since it capped a season series sweep of the Buckeyes. While the Nittany Lions are losing a couple of key seniors, the program seems to be headed in the right direction.

Last week: 10

This week: at Northwestern (12-17), at Minnesota (18-12)

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9. Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-12, 7-10)

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota is in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament because of a tumultuous stretch since a 13-2 start. The Gophers have since lost 10 of 15 games and are on the outside looking in when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. Beating Iowa at home last week was huge, but the Gophers followed that up with a tough road loss to Michigan.

Last week: 9

This week: vs. Penn State (13-14)

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8. Illinois Fighting Illini (17-12, 6-10)

illinois
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Winning four of six games, the Fighting Illini seem like the team that they were at the beginning of the season. The Illini beat a tough Nebraska team at home last week as well as a struggling, but talented, Michigan State team on the road. If they end up winning out, they could have a realistic shot at making a run at the tournament.

Last week: 11

This week: vs. No. 12 Michigan (21-7), at No. 24 Iowa (20-9)

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7. Indiana Hoosiers (17-12, 7-9)

indiana
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana had a tough, rare three-game week since the Iowa game was postponed a couple of weeks ago and rescheduled for Feb. 27, resulting in a sandwich of two other games. Going 2-1 in a week like that deserves some recognition as not many college basketball teams have to suffer through a stretch like that. It's especially impressive when all of the teams you play are ranked.

Last week: 8

This week: vs. Nebraska (17-11), at No. 12 Michigan (21-7)

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6. Ohio State Buckeyes (22-8, 9-8)

ohio state
Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State just saw its season series with the Penn State Nittany Lions swept by the opposition and it has not been the most ideal Big Ten conference season for the Buckeyes. They started the conference season 3-5 and then won six of seven before losing the last two games against conference bottom-dwellers.

Last week: 5

This week: vs. No. 22 Michigan State (22-7)

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5. Michigan State Spartans (22-7, 11-5)

michigan state
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State has been the epitome of a struggling team since its injury problems have begun. Well, now that everyone is back, the Spartans should slowly climb out of the whole that they dug for themselves. A loss at home against conference bottom-dweller Illinois hurt, though. It is going to be a crucial couple of weeks for the Spartans.

Last week: 4

This week: vs. No. 24 Iowa (20-9), at Ohio State (22-8)

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4. Iowa Hawkeyes (20-9, 9-7)

iowa
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes, like Indiana, had a tough three-game week in week 17. The Hawkeyes had already been struggling before dropping two of three last week and it took a win against Purdue at home to halt a three-game skid. A big matchup on the road against Michigan State could make or break their confidence.

Last week: 3

This week: at No. 22 Michigan State (22-7), vs. Illinois (17-12)

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3. Nebraska Cornhuskers (17-11, 9-7)

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Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, the Cornhuskers leaped all the way up to No. 3 in my power rankings even after a loss in week 17 to the Illinois Fighting Illini on the road. As one of the hottest teams in the conference, the Cornhuskers have won eight of their last 10 games and are now serious contenders to make the NCAA Tournament.

Last week: 6

This week: at Indiana (17-12), vs. No. 9 Wisconsin (24-5)

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2. Michigan Wolverines (21-7, 13-3)

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan has now clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title and if the Wolverines win one more game, they will have won their first Big Ten title outright since 1986. It took a crucial comeback against Purdue as well as a buzzer-beater in the same game to keep their distance in the conference title race.

Last week: 2

This week: at Illinois (17-12), vs. Indiana (17-12)

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1. Wisconsin Badgers (24-5, 11-5)

wisconsin
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin remains the hottest team in the Big Ten and many experts predict them to be the only Big Ten team to get a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Badgers have won seven straight games after a horrid 4-5 start in Big Ten play.

Last week: 1

This week: vs. Purdue (15-14), at Nebraska (17-11)

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