World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht ranks the Big Ten men's basketball teams. National ranking from NCAA.com.
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1. Indiana (24-3, 12-2, 7th): This week: at Minnesota, Iowa. The Hoosiers are two games clear of the field with four to play. Two wins this week and they will claim at least a share of the 21st Big Ten title in school history, but the first since 2002.
2. Michigan (23-4, 10-4, 6th): This week: at Penn State, Michigan State. The Wolverines will be favored in their three games leading up to the March 10 regular-season finale at home with Indiana. Could be a de facto title game if the Hoosiers get upset somewhere.
3. Michigan State (22-6, 11-4, 9th): This week: at Michigan. Two straight substandard games from point guard Keith Appling probably have cost MSU its title hopes and have left coach Tom Izzo puzzled and concerned.
4. Wisconsin (19-8, 10-4, 25th): This week: Nebraska, Purdue. Bo Ryan's teams are like Old Man River in that they just keep rolling along. The Badgers get better the later you go in the season.
5. Ohio State (20-7, 10-5, 20th): This week: at Northwestern. Junior forward Deshaun Thomas still leads the Big Ten in scoring at 19.9 per game. But no other Buckeye is found in the top 30. That second scorer needs to step up soon.
6. Illinois (20-9, 7-8, 33rd): This week: Nebraska. Illinois has scored 70 points or more 16 times in 29 games. Last season, it happened only 12 times in 32 games. The Illini are 14-2 when reaching 70 points.
7. Minnesota (18-9, 6-8, 17th): This week: Indiana, Penn State. The Gophers have a great RPI but a miserable run of bad losses largely because of no point-guard play, which leads to woeful offense. They might need to upset Indiana to stay in the NCAA hunt.
8. Iowa (17-10, 6-8, 91st): This week: Purdue, at Indiana. The blown lead and loss at Nebraska killed the Hawkeyes' hopes for the NCAA tournament, barring a championship run through the Big Ten tourney.
9. Purdue (13-14, 6-8, 125th): This week: at Iowa, at Wisconsin. Sunday's win over Northwestern was just a Band-Aid for this team, which had lost five of six. Two road games this week will be too much.
10. Nebraska (13-14, 4-10, 100th): This week: at Wisconsin, at Illinois. As usual, the Huskers will be big underdogs in this week's games. But that won't stop Tim Miles' ragtag roster from taking full swings at both opponents.
11. Northwestern (13-15, 4-11, 137th): This week: Ohio State. Injuries have the Wildcats limping to the finish line. They have lost seven of their past eight games by 15, 22, 14, 10, 21, 28 and 31 points. It won't get better this week with Ohio State ahead.
12. Penn State (8-18, 0-14, 200th): This week: Michigan, at Minnesota. The Nittany Lions get praise everywhere they play for their effort and hustle. But how about a win? The best chance is March 7 at battered Northwestern.