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Big Ten Basketball Power Poll: Tom Petty Edition

Who’s Learning to Fly Into March?

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Purdue
It’s a thing of beauty.
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

As I drove to work this morning though the drifts of Northern Indiana (seriously, where the hell have you been, Winter?), I was listening to, well, honestly, The Sports Betting Network (yes, I admit, I’m the resident degen around here). Now, you’re probably asking, what does Tom Petty have to do with covers, spreads, and over/unders. And the answer...nothing. I just started humming a Tom Petty tune in my brain and throughout my day, conjured up this mess below. So, with sincerest apologies to Tom, the Heartbreakers, and all his fans worldwide, let’s get to the Power Poll.

(This ranking was strictly done by myself and I blame MNW for all of it.)

1. Michigan – Yer So Bad

Yer so bad, best thing I ever had. In a world gone mad, yer so bad.”

Michigan was kind of a surprise this year. The talent was definitely there but in a deep B1G, not many (namely, the 4 of us not named Stew) of us ‘writers’ had Michigan leading the pack for the B1G crown heading into the home stretch.

The comparison to Petty’s Yer So Bad to me fits well. It ended up being the last track to be released off Full Moon Fever which usually isn’t a formula for success but ended up hitting #5 on the Album Rock charts and is generally underappreciated.

2. Illinois – Runnin’ Down a Dream

“I felt so good, like anything was possible. Hit cruise control and rubbed my eyes.”

Kind of opposite of Michigan, Illinois was expected to do well. Returning Ayo and Kofi makes me think of Petty and Del singing a little Runaway as the trees fly by. Sure, anytime you dive into Petty’s lyrics, you’ll hit something that might leave you scratching your head, like losing to Maryland or Rutgers, but the end result is so damn good.

3. Iowa – You Wreck Me

“Run with me wherever I go. And just play dumb, whatever you know.”

The Hawkeyes certainly know how to run. #2 in offensive efficiency per KenPom and 38th in pace. But man, do they play dumb on defense at times. They also have a loss to Indiana where you do a double take. The Hawkeyes should have a high seed waiting for them come tourney time but the question remains, will they stay too long in Troubletown and end up broken in two?

4. Purdue – I Won’t Back Down

Hey, baby. There ain’t no easy way out.”

The lyrics for this Petty classic are way too simple, but it works. Especially if drunk and needing a go-to for karaoke. Watching this decade’s version of the Baby Boilers, it certainly helps to have a beverage in hand. Comeback wins at Michigan State, Ohio State, and recently against Minnesota definitely show this team doesn’t want to win the easy way but it’s hard to argue with success.

5. Ohio State – You Don’t Know How It Feels

“There’s someone I used to see but she don’t give a damn for me.”

You know, it’s unfortunate that Ohio State basketball gets robbed of the spotlight by its football big brother. Chris Holtmann has quietly assembled a damn fine program this year and the Buckeyes, minus a couple of losses to Purdue, have racked up some very nice wins at Illinois and Wisconsin along with a neutral court win over a sneaky good UCLA team. Now, it’s time for Ohio State to get to the point or roll another joint. Wait, what?

6. Wisconsin – Leave Virginia Alone

“So leave Virginia alone, she’s not like you or me.”

I struggled with this pick and decided to pay homage to Virgi—, um, Wisconsin’s prodding version of basketball. Some of you are probably thinking, ‘Why did the ‘writer’ go with a Rod Stewart song in a Tom Petty themed poll?’ And the answer is that Petty actually wrote and cut the song but it didn’t make his 1994 album, Wildflowers. It has since been released as part of a box set after Petty’s death. Now, if someone could just kill off Wisconsin’s zombieball. Oh, hi there, Penn State.

7. Rutgers – Refugee

“You see you don’t have to live like a refugee.”

Hey, Rutgers, look at you! It turns out you might just know how to play one or two of these sportsing things. Sure, only MNW recognized your potential to be a problem child in the preseason predictions but you’ve shook off that midseason slump and won some games you were expected to. Welcome to the club, soon you might be dancing.

8. Minnesota – Breakdown

“It’s alright if you love me, it’s alright if you don’t.”

If you’re a Minnesota fan, you love playing in The Barn (11-1) and hate playing games on the road (0-5). To say that the Gophers suffered a bit of a breakdown of late might be an understatement. Since shocking Michigan, Little Ricky’s team has laid an egg against Maryland and let Purdue run them out after leading by 14 in the first half.

9. Indiana – Mary Jane’s Last Dance

“But she grew up tall and she grew up right with them Indiana boys on an Indiana night.”

This is arguably Petty’s most overrated song and Indiana remains a KenPom darling but also remains an overrated team. Archie continues to gather some of the best talent and continues to do next to nothing with it.

10. Maryland – Don’t Do Me Like That

“Then he said you better watch your step or you’re gonna get hurt yourself.”

When you look through Maryland’s schedule, you realize it’s been nothing but brutal with a total of one game against the lower half of the conference. And yet, they’re a dangerous team capable of knocking off a ranked opponent on the road on any given night. The wins in the second half of the schedule will come as things ease up. Just hopefully after they play Purdue Tuesday night.

11. Penn State – Even The Losers

“But it couldn’t have been that easy to forget about me.”

Actually, it has been kind of easy to forget about Penn State. They racked up a win over Wisconsin and an eyebrow raiser over Virginia Tech but other than that, they’ve been pesky to the top half of the league but haven’t found a way to get over the hump.

12. Michigan State – Free Fallin’

“Gonna free fall out into nothin’, gonna leave this world for awhile.”

If this doesn’t epitomize Sparty at the moment, check your pulse.

13. Northwestern – Here Comes My Girl

“You know sometimes, I don’t know why, but this old town just seems so hopeless.”

Sometimes reality comes callin’ at the worst time and in this case, it was a game during holiday break against Iowa.

14. Nebraska – Something In The Air

Sorry. This season is absurd. Had to do it.