Staff writer Lee Barfknecht ranks the Big Ten men’s basketball teams. National ranking from NCAA.com.
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1. Michigan (17-1, 4-1, 5th): This week: Purdue, at Illinois. Momentum has returned quickly after a brief wobble. The win at Minnesota was the Wolverines’ first on the road against a Top 10 team in 17 years.
2. Indiana (16-2, 4-1, 14th): This week: Penn State, Michigan State. Who will coach Tom Crean root for in the Super Bowl? He is married to a sister of John (Ravens) and Jim Harbaugh (49ers), so he has his own Brother-in-Law Bowl going.
3. Michigan State (16-3, 5-1, 16th): This week: at Wisconsin, at Indiana. Where is the ball going when the Spartans are on offense? Inside. MSU is outscoring its opponents in the paint by 10 points a game.
4. Minnesota (15-3, 3-2, 8th): This week: at Northwestern, at Wisconsin. Nagging injuries are slowing down the Gophers. Guards Rodney Williams (hip, groin, knee) and Joe Coleman (ankle) need to get healthy soon.
5. Ohio State (13-4, 3-2, 27th): This week: Iowa, at Penn State. Junior forward Deshaun Thomas is still on fire. His 28 points against Michigan State were a career high in a Big Ten game. He leads the league in scoring at 20.8 a game.
6. Wisconsin (13-5, 4-1, 51st): This week: Michigan State, Minnesota. The Badgers’ were the symbol of the wackiness of the Big Ten last week. They won at preseason national title pick Indiana, then lost to Iowa.
7. Purdue (10-8, 3-2, 122nd): This week: at Michigan, Iowa. The Boilermakers seem to be hitting stride. In going 2-0 last week, they built 20-point leads in the second half against Nebraska and West Virginia.
8. Iowa (13-5, 2-3, 64th): This week: at Ohio State, at Purdue. If the Hawkeyes can hang on for one more week and split these two games, the schedule dramatically turns in their favor after a killer start.
9. Northwestern (11-8, 2-4, 94th): This week: Minnesota, at Nebraska. Football isn’t the only sport that Northwestern has trouble holding a home advantage. In Sunday’s loss to Indiana, about 5,000 in the home crowd of 8,117 cheered for the Hoosiers.
10. Illinois (14-5, 1-4, 31st): This week: at Nebraska, Michigan. The Illini haven’t played since last Thursday, so coach John Groce hopes the rest helps Tuesday against a Nebraska team playing for the fourth time in 10 days.
11. Nebraska (10-9, 1-5, 66th): This week: Illinois, Northwestern. The Huskers, coming off their first conference victory, have two winnable home games this week. But their last home game was a clunker against Purdue.
12. Penn State (8-10, 0-6, 188th): This week: at Indiana, Ohio State. If you think Nebraska struggles to score, watch Penn State try to shoot the ball. Missing five straight free throws at home in the final 25 seconds vs. NU was hide-your-eyes material.