Staff writer Lee Barfknecht ranks the Big Ten men’s basketball teams. National ranking from NCAA.com.
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1. Indiana (25-4, 13-3, 7th): This week: Ohio State, at Michigan. It’s hard to believe that a college basketball “royalty program” such as Indiana hasn’t won a league title outright in 20 years. One win this week will break that streak.
2. Michigan (24-5, 11-5, 10th): This week: at Purdue, Indiana. The Wolverines are the lone Big Ten team with an undefeated home record (17-0). To keep it perfect, they’ll need to beat Indiana on Sunday.
3. Michigan State (22-7, 11-5, 8th): This week: Wisconsin, Northwestern. Guard Gary Harris is one of eight finalists for the Wayman Tisdale freshman of the year award. A nice compliment considering Harris wasn’t on the midseason watch list.
4. Ohio State (21-7, 11-5, 21st): This week: at Indiana, Illinois. The Buckeyes aren’t out of the title race, but earning a share is a long shot. They need to win both games this week and then have Michigan beat Indiana.
5. Wisconsin (20-9, 11-5, 41st): This week: at Michigan St., at Penn State. The one statistic that leaves you shaking your head is the Badgers winning 20 games while being ranked 328th nationally (62.6 percent) in free-throw shooting.
6. Minnesota (20-9, 8-8, 16th): This week: at Nebraska, at Purdue. In the past five games, the Gophers have committed 10, 10, 24, 17 and nine turnovers. They went 3-2 in that stretch. Guess which ones were the Ws.
7. Illinois (21-9, 8-8, 35th): This week: at Iowa, at Ohio State. Just in case, Illinois would do well to split this week’s two games to keep the NCAA selection committee from lingering too long over the Illini résumé.
8. Iowa (18-11, 7-9, 86th): This week: Illinois, Nebraska. The Hawkeyes will be in the NIT for the second straight year unless they rip off two wins this week and at least three more at the Big Ten tourney.
9. Purdue (14-15, 7-9, 117th): This week: Michigan, Minnesota. The Boilermakers haven’t had a losing season since 2005-06. Upsets like they pulled at Wisconsin keep hopes alive to reach .500.
10. Nebraska (13-16, 4-12, 106th): This week: Minnesota, at Iowa. As long as the Huskers stay tied with Northwestern, they will earn the No. 10 seed in the Big Ten tourney and get the 5:30 p.m. game in the first round instead of 8 p.m.
11. Northwestern (13-16, 4-12, 142nd): This week: Penn State, at Michigan State. The Chicago Tribune had a column last week saying it’s time for coach Bill Carmody to go. But with the injuries the Wildcats have had, no one would have succeeded.
12. Penn State (9-19, 1-15, 184th): This week: at Northwestern, Wisconsin. Sportswriters aren’t supposed to cheer, but you’d have trouble finding a scribe anywhere in the league who wasn’t happy for good-guy Pat Chambers to finally win a league game.