With Indiana's home win over Iowa on Thursday night, Maryland now sits in a three-way tie with the Hoosiers and Hawkeyes atop the Big Ten. That sets up for a photo finish in the stretch run between these three teams and it could all come down to one week in early March.
Perhaps it is a tip of the cap to the folks who make the schedule, but two games stand out during that week -- March 1 (Indiana at Iowa) and March 5 (Maryland at Indiana). Let's break it down by team as to what the final weeks of the season look like.
Indiana (20-5, 10-2 Big Ten)
It took a while for the Hoosiers to make believers out of many, but they likely swayed a few after Thursday's victory. The reason? The fact that they could not defend to save their Big Ten lives to start the year, then key guard James Blackmon went down with an injury.
Combine that with the fact that Indiana's schedule was soft to begin the Big Ten season (a lot of Rutgers, Minnesota twice, Illinois, Penn State) and minds weren't changing.
Now, Indiana has to deal with a brutal end of the season. They cleared the Iowa hurdle and No. 8 Michigan State awaits. Then No. 18 Purdue on Feb. 20. Then that Iowa/Maryland combo to end the season. Tough.
Iowa (19-5, 10-2 Big Ten)
Iowa, without a doubt, has the most favorable path to a Big Ten title of these three teams and they've earned it. After emerging 4-1 from a stretch that included Michigan State twice, Purdue, and Maryland on the road, the Hawkeyes will face just one identifiable threat late -- Indiana.
But they get the Hoosiers at home this time.
If anyone has the best shot of winning out in conference play, it is the Hawkeyes. That would force someone else to be flawless. Could Maryland do it?
Maryland (22-3, 10-2 Big Ten)
Six games remain for Maryland. Four they will be favored in (vs. Wisconsin, at Minnesota, vs. Michigan, vs. Illinois). It is the two road games that raise some concern.
On Feb. 27, Maryland goes to Purdue to face a Boilermaker team that they took care of in College Park -- but a team that shot poorly from three and attempted only five free throws in that game. Then March 5 is Indiana on the road and, if Thursday showed us anything, no one is going to waltz into Bloomington and come out with a win without a fight.
Seeding is also in play for Maryland in the final six games. They likely need at least a 5-1 record, plus a run in the Big Ten tournament, to be in the conversation for a No. 1 seed or solidify themselves as a No. 2.