World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht ranks the Big Ten men’s basketball teams as published in The World-Herald on Jan. 28. RPI from rpiratings.com.
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1. Michigan (15-4, 7-0, 13th)
This week: Purdue, at Indiana. Wow! The Wolverines lose two players to the first round of the NBA draft and a preseason All-America forward to injury, yet are 7-0 in the league and No. 10 nationally.
2. Michigan State (18-2, 7-1, 9th)
This week: at Iowa, at Georgetown. Forward Adreian Payne (foot strain) is “very doubtful” for Iowa on Tuesday night. MSU coach Tom Izzo said Monday that Payne did some running Sunday, but still doesn’t appear ready.
3. Iowa (16-4, 5-2, 21st)
This week: Michigan State, at Illinois. The Hawkeyes have won 20 in a row at home. And with Michigan State’s injury woes, No. 21 looks like a strong probability.
4. Wisconsin (17-3, 4-3, 3rd)
This week: Northwestern, Ohio State. The Badgers are having a strong season, but it’s still really weird to see them ranked 10th in the Big Ten in field-goal defense and sixth in 3-point defense.
5. Minnesota (15-6, 4-4, 26th)
This week: Northwestern. Even with no game until Saturday, the Gophers still aren’t expecting leading scorer Andre Hollins (sprained ankle) to be ready.
6. Ohio State (16-4, 3-4, 18th)
This week: Penn State, at Wisconsin. The Buckeyes have slipped from No. 3 in the AP poll to No. 24 in three weeks. But they stopped their losing string, and slumping center Amir Williams is showing signs of life again.
7. Indiana (13-7, 3-4, 66th)
This week: at Nebraska, Michigan. A home loss to Northwestern and a road loss to Illinois indicate this isn’t a powerhouse Hoosier squad. But four of the other setbacks were to Top 20 teams.
8. Northwestern (10-11, 3-5, 123rd)
This week: at Wisconsin, at Minnesota. Guard Tre Demps has been the Wildcats’ offensive sparkplug off the bench. His 10.8 points a game put him sixth nationally among scorers who haven’t started a game.
9. Purdue (13-7, 3-4, 106th)
This week: at Michigan, at Penn State. Matt Painter was an unhappy man on Monday’s coaches teleconference. Effort, execution, leadership, want-to — they all are on Painter’s what-to-do list.
10. Nebraska (10-9, 2-5, 74th)
This week: Indiana. The Huskers never trailed in the second half against Minnesota, yet committed 11 fouls. Other than to crush someone to prevent a layup, don’t foul with the lead. It will cost you a game.
11. Illinois (13-8, 2-6, 62nd)
This week: Iowa. The current six-game losing streak is the longest since the Illini dropped seven straight under Lon Kruger in 1999. Points scored in the past five games: 46, 55, 62, 58 and 43.
12. Penn State (10-10, 1-6, 121st)
This week: at Ohio State, Purdue. The win over Nebraska was the Nittany Lions’ first in a game decided by five points or fewer in six tries.