Wisconsin and Ohio State kept things stable at the top, churning out wins over Penn State & Michigan respectively. But the middle turned into an even bigger mess, and we are no closer to sorting out who's going to get on the NCAA bubble then we were on Tuesday morning.
Illinois did what they had to do in beating Northwestern. The Illini owned the paint, with a 40-16 rebounding edge. Warren Carter and Shawn Pruitt combined for 30 points and 23 rebounds. The Illini nudged back over .500 in league play (6-5) and have a critical road date in Bloomington with the third-place Hoosiers who have not played since Saturday.
Iowa kept itself in the running, winning easily at Minnesota. The Gophers aren't that good, but everyone in the Big Ten knows not to dismiss how hard it is to win up there. And it's the third straight W for the Hawks, who are perhaps to blame for the muddle. At 6-4, they are clearly the fourth-best team in league play. But at 14-10 overall they would surely get jumped by someone else for an NCAA bid. They need to keep winning. For most teams a road trip to Madison would be frightening. But Iowa has to see Saturday's visit to the Kohl Center as the chance they need to deliver a big blow in their longshot battle for an at-large bid.
While the Hawkeyes may cause the muddle in the big picture, nothing did more short-term damage to the cause of clarity then what happened in West Lafayette. Purdue relied on a series of unexpected events to put a shocking 62-38 win on Michigan State. Not shocking in that the Boilermakers won, but that they did it so dramatically, keeping every Spartan player in single digits offensively. A loss would have been fatal to Purdue's hopes. The win puts them at 5-5 and squarely in the middle of the race. A visit to Columbus on Saturday gives them the same chance as Iowa--the chance to send a message.