Staff writer Lee Barfknecht ranks the Big Ten men’s basketball teams. National ranking from realtimerpi.com.
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1. Michigan (15-0, 2-0, 3rd): This week: Nebraska, at Ohio State. Only three of the Wolverines’ wins have been by less than 13 points (by five over Pitt, by seven over North Carolina State and by eight over Bradley).
2. Indiana (14-1, 2-0, 17th): This week: Minnesota. Center Cody Zeller was the preseason pick for national player of the year, but he hasn’t even been the best on his team. That title goes to 6-5 wing Victor Oladipo.
3. Minnesota (14-1, 2-0, 7th): This week: at Illinois, at Indiana. This team is for real, but will have a crazy-hard week with these two road games. Still, the Gophers are embracing the thought of winning the Big Ten title. Their only loss is to No. 1 Duke.
4. Illinois (14-2, 1-1, 10th): This week: Minnesota, at Wisconsin. The Illini handled their first “off” game — a loss at Purdue — by hammering Ohio State by 19 points. No way last year’s team would have done that.
5. Michigan State (12-3, 1-1, 23rd): This week: at Iowa, Nebraska. Freshman guard Gary Harris has suffered a left shoulder sprain and had his right shoulder pop out of socket briefly, but he had a career-high 22 points Saturday against Purdue.
6. Ohio State (11-3, 1-1, 45th): This week: at Purdue, Michigan. Other than Big Ten leading scorer Deshaun Thomas (20.2), the Buckeye offense spins in circles. This team needs transition baskets, not half-court possessions.
7. Iowa (11-4, 0-2, 81st): This week: Michigan State, at Northwestern. The Hawkeyes need to plug the holes in their true-road-game defense. They gave up 95 points at Virginia Tech and 95 at Michigan, both losses.
8. Purdue (7-7, 1-1, 144th): This week: Ohio State, Penn State. After some shaky play in the nonconference, the Boilermakers “are feeling better,” coach Matt Painter said, after a strong first week of Big Ten play, which included upsetting Illinois.
9. Wisconsin (11-4, 2-0, 89th): This week: Illinois. After 14 straight years in the NCAA tournament, Badger fans better prepare for a trip to the NIT. This team can’t score enough to get into the league’s upper half.
10. Northwestern (9-6, 0-2, 97th): This week: at Penn State, Iowa. Add the Wildcats to the list of Big Ten teams struggling offensively. Coach Bill Carmody said he’ll slow the pace as much as necessary to try to win.
11. Nebraska (9-6, 0-2, 79th): This week: at Michigan, at Michigan State. Husker coach Tim Miles might want to pass out blindfolds and cigarettes to his beleaguered team with this week’s double-barreled road trip.
12. Penn State (8-6, 0-2, 124th): This week: Northwestern, at Purdue. With the season-ending injury to point guard Tim Frazier, transfer guard D.J. Newbill from Southern Mississippi has been a season saver (15.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists).