By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Look who has climbed to sixth in my latest Big Ten power rankings for men’s basketball.
The Iowa Hawkeyes earned a spot in the upper half of the conference standings by winning three games in a row, including two without leading scorer Peter Jok.
Iowa appears to be peaking at the right time with seven conference games remaining. Up next for the Hawkeyes is a game at Minnesota on Wednesday.
To say the game is important for both teams would be an understatement.
Should Iowa prevail in Minneapolis, you actually could make a case for the Hawkeyes being in position to compete for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, whereas Minnesota just needs to win period.
Wisconsin continues to hold down the top spot simply because it continues to win.
1. Wisconsin 20-3, 9-1 – If you connect enough dots, Hayden Fry deserves some credit for Wisconsin’s success in men’s basketball.
2. Purdue 19-5, 8-3 – The Boilermakers are behind Maryland in the conference standings, but were ahead by one point when this past Saturday’s game between the two teams ended in College Park, Md. It wouldn’t seem fair to put Purdue below Maryland just two days after Purdue’s 73-72 victory.
3. Maryland 20-5, 8-2 – The same Maryland team that torched Iowa from 3-point range by making 11-of-23 attempts during an 84-76 victory on Jan. 19 in Iowa City misfired on 15 of 19 treys during the loss to Purdue at home.
4. Northwestern 18-5, 7-3 – Barring the biggest collapse since way back at the the Super Bowl less than 24 hours ago, this Northwestern team will go where no Northwestern team has gone before, which in this case, is the NCAA Tournament.
5. Michigan State 14-9, 6-4 – I believe that Tom Izzo has spent approximately three more minutes inside the coach’s box than I have this season.
6. Iowa 14-10, 6-5 – The burrito isn’t the only thing being lifted at Carver-Hawkeye Arena these days.
7. Indiana 15-9, 5-6 – The next time Indiana plays defense this season will be the first time.
8. Minnesota 16-7, 4-6 – If the Gophers can’t right the ship, it might be time for Rick Pitino to help his son get a different job for which he is under-qualified.
9. Michigan 14-9, 4-6 – John Beilein could stand on a corner naked singing Madonna’s hit song “Holiday” over and over and still not be as strange as the head football coach at Michigan.
10. Ohio State 14-10, 4-7 – Thad Matta’s job probably isn’t in jeopardy yet, but his legacy has taken a serious hit, enough to where Urban Meyer might say it’s even hurting his recruiting.
11. Penn State 12-12, 4-7 – The Bryce Jordan Center would have to rank among the top five most secure places in the United States for use by the witness protection program.
12. Nebraska 10-13, 4-7 – Nebraska fans are coping with the unraveling of their men’s basketball team by reminding themselves that the Cornhuskers in their delusional way of thinking are clearly the favorite to win the 2017 national title in football.
13. Illinois 13-11, 3-8 – Barring a miraculous comeback under head coach John Groce, the Fighting Illini will become the hiring Illini once the season ends.
14. Rutgers 13-11, 2-9 – With Rutgers winning at Penn State this past Saturday, I gave serious consideration to putting the Scarlet Knights ahead of Illinois until remembering that Rutgers was inept against Iowa in its previous game at home, losing 83-63.