World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht ranks the Big Ten men’s basketball teams as published in The World-Herald on Tuesday, Feb. 12. National ranking from NCAA.com.
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1. Indiana (21-3, 9-2, 11th): This week: Nebraska, Purdue. Bouncing back to drill Ohio State on the road after getting upset by Illinois is what keeps the Hoosiers on top. IU hadn’t won a road game over a Top 10 team in 13 years.
2. Michigan State (20-4, 9-2, 9th): This week: Michigan, at Nebraska. You don’t find many Spartans in the upper-echelon of the individual statistics, but don’t overlook this group as a sleeper to claim a No. 1 NCAA tourney seed.
3. Michigan (21-3, 8-3, 5th): This week: at Michigan State, Penn State. As talented as the Wolverines are, lingering questions remain about if they guard hard enough — they’re eighth in the Big Ten in field-goal defense (.413) — to contend for a national title.
4. Wisconsin (17-7, 8-3, 31st): This week: at Minnesota, Ohio State. The good news? Guard Ryan Evans has drawn enough fouls to shoot about five free throws a game. The bad news? He is shooting 41.4 percent from the line.
5. Ohio State (17-6, 7-4, 23rd): This week: Northwestern, at Wisconsin. The Buckeyes made history last week in losing to No. 3 Michigan and No. 1 Indiana. They hadn’t lost back-to-back games in the previous 121 contests.
6. Illinois (17-8, 4-7, 27th): This week: Purdue, at Northwestern. The magic number for NCAA consideration seems to be 8-10 in the league. The Illini can make that, with five of their final seven games against bottom-half opponents.
7. Minnesota (17-7, 5-6, 13th): This week: Wisconsin, at Iowa. When Rodney Williams (shoulder) missed his first start in 84 games, forward Elliott Eliason of Chadron, Neb., stepped in Sunday with four points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
8. Iowa (15-9, 4-7, 92nd): This week: at Penn State, Minnesota. The time has come for the Hawkeyes to make their move. The seven remaining regular-season opponents have a Big Ten winning percentage of .377.
9. Northwestern (13-11, 4-7, 102nd): This week: at Ohio State, Illinois. The already injury-plagued Wildcats will be without two starters this week. That likely assures that Northwestern won’t break its all-time 0-fer in making the NCAA tournament.
10. Purdue (12-12, 5-6, 130th): This week: at Illinois, at Indiana. Four losses in the past six games have put the Boilermakers’ postseason hopes in doubt, especially with four of the final seven games against top-half-of-the-league opponents.
11. Nebraska (12-12, 3-8, 98th): This week: at Indiana, Michigan State. Of the Huskers’ remaining seven conference games, four are against teams ranked in the Top 25 or who are receiving votes.
12. Penn State (8-15, 0-11, 202nd): This week: Iowa, at Michigan. It’s difficult to believe a power-conference team can shoot this poorly for this long. Of the Nittany Lions’ top eight players, only two are hitting better than 40 percent from the field.