Wisconsin surges in final regular-season AP poll
It was an up-and-down week for the Big Ten in the final AP poll of the regular season. Michigan State and Wisconsin peaked at the perfect time, while Penn State and Michigan said goodbye to their Top 25 status.
With Selection Sunday looming this weekend, here are the biggest risers and fallers in college basketball's Top 25 and a glimpse at their odds in both their conference tournament and the Big Dance.
Michigan State Spartans: up seven spots to #9
It’s been a whirlwind of a season for the Spartans, who went from the preseason No. 1 to unranked by mid-February.
Then head coach Tom Izzo worked his March magic and snapped Michigan State back into top form.
Since the Spartans’ 67-60 home loss against then-No. 9 Maryland on Feb. 15, MSU has rolled through then-No. 18 Iowa, Maryland on the road, then-No. 20 Penn State and No. 19 Ohio State.
If asked what one team would I place a wager on to win the national title my response would be:— Brad Evans (@NoisyHuevos) March 8, 2020
Don’t believe there’s another squad playing better basketball at the current moment.
Sparty is now one of the favorites (+1500) to win the NCAA tournament, behind Kansas, Gonzaga, Baylor and Dayton. The team earned a No. 2 seed in the Big Ten conference tournament and will face the winner of seventh seed Ohio State or 10th seed Purdue on Friday.
Wisconsin Badgers: up six spots to #18
Another Big Ten team surging at the moment, Wisconsin finally cracked the Top 25 in early March and continued its climb on Monday, after its eighth straight win.
The Badgers mostly beat up on the bottom half of the conference, with wins over Nebraska, Purdue, Northwestern and Minnesota. Greg Gard’s group also defeated a then-ranked Michigan team 81-74 on the road and handed Ohio State a 70-57 loss at home in early February.
Wisconsin is second to last in the conference in scoring (67.2 points per game), rebounding and steals, but first in free-throw percentage (76.4) and second in three-point shooting (35.2%).
It’ll be interesting to see how the Badgers fare in the Big Ten tournament as the No. 1 seed. They’ll get the winner of No. 8 Rutgers or No. 9 Michigan on Friday, then most likely confront Illinois or Iowa in the semifinal. Wisconsin lost to both the Illini and Hawkeyes in the regular season.
The team is considered a longshot to win the NCAA tournament, with +7000 odds.
Seton Hall Pirates: down eight spots to #16
Just last week, Seton Hall soared to No. 8 in the AP poll, after beating then-No. 21 Butler, St. John’s and Marquette. This week, the Pirates are back on the decline, with back-to-back losses to then-No. 14 Villanova and No. 11 Creighton.
The Pirates’ odds to claim the national title remain steady at +2000. They’re also +250 favorites to win the Big East tournament, though the team has struggled some against the top half of the conference.
Seton Hall takes on Marquette Thursday in the quarterfinals and could meet either second-seeded Villanova or the winner of Xavier vs. DePaul in the semifinal. The Wildcats snuck past the Pirates 79-77 last week. No. 1 seed Creighton also bested Seton Hall twice in the regular season.
Iowa Hawkeyes: down seven spots to #25
The Hawkeyes hit a skid in the final stretch of the regular season, going 1-3 in their past four games. Last week, they fell to Purdue for the second time this year and dropped a road game at then-No. 23 Illinois, 78-76.
Iowa is first in points per game in the conference, behind Big Ten leading scorer Luka Garza’s 23.9 points per outing. The team can shoot the three and rates fifth in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency ranking. Defense, on the other hand, is a concern, as the Hawkeyes allow 72.3 points per contest (257th in Division I). They also rank 130th in defensive rebounding.
Iowa’s odds to hang an NCAA championship banner are +5500. The team is also a +1200 longshot in the Big Ten tournament and will play either No. 12 seed Minnesota or No. 13 Northwestern on Thursday.