World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht ranks the Big Ten men’s basketball teams. RPI from rpiratings.com
1. Michigan (16-5, 8-1, 14th)
This week: Nebraska, at Iowa. The Wolverines will face Nebraska on Wednesday coming off their first loss since falling to No. 1 Arizona on Dec. 14.
2. Michigan State (19-3, 8-1, 7th)
This week: Penn State, at Wisconsin. Forward Adreian Payne, out seven games with a foot injury, was scheduled to practice on a limited basis Monday and could see action Thursday against Penn State.
3. Iowa (17-5, 6-3, 22nd)
This week: Ohio State, Michigan. True title contenders win both games in a week like this. It’s the challenge Iowa faces in beating Ohio State a second time and avenging an earlier loss to Michigan.
4. Northwestern (12-11, 5-5, 85th)
This week: Nebraska. Wildcats forward Drew Crawford is eighth in the Big Ten in scoring (16.3), sixth in rebounding (6.8) and first in coach Chris Collins’ heart as a leader.
5. Indiana (14-8, 4-5, 67th)
This week: at Minnesota. The Hoosiers turned their anger from blowing a 16-point lead in a loss at Nebraska into energy to hand Michigan its first league setback.
6. Ohio State (17-5, 4-5, 20th)
This week: at Iowa, Purdue. Center Amir Williams remains a mystery with his lackluster play. The former McDonald’s All-American has scored in single digits in six of nine Big Ten games, with a high of 12 points.
7. Wisconsin (17-5, 4-5, 12th)
This week: at Illinois, Michigan State. The dreaded field-goal drought disease is affecting Wisconsin now. The Badgers, in their one-point loss to Ohio State, went the final 6:42 without a basket.
8. Nebraska (11-9, 3-5, 72nd)
This week: at Michigan, at Northwestern. A lot of progress has been made this season, but the Huskers need a road win this week if they really want to get into the NIT mix.
9. Minnesota (15-7, 4-5, 38th)
This week: at Purdue, Indiana. Senior guard Andre Hollins, out the past three games with a severe ankle sprain, isn’t expected to play Thursday at Purdue, either.
10. Penn State (12-10, 3-6, 98th)
This week: at Michigan State, Illinois. Who has the longest current winning streak in the Big Ten? Believe it or not, it’s the Nittany Lions, who are 3-0 after a 0-6 start.
11. Purdue (13-9, 3-6, 111th)
This week: Minnesota, at Ohio State. The Boilermakers’ four-game skid is the longest since 2005-06, which was coach Matt Painter’s first season. That five-game streak involved two key injuries. No excuses for this one.
12. Illinois (13-9, 2-7, 69th)
This week: Wisconsin, at Penn State. There aren’t many secrets once league play starts. Newcomer Rayvonte Rice averaged 18.2 points in nonconference play, but has dropped to 14.1 in league games only.