1. Michigan State (21-4, 10-2) L @ Wisconsin 58-60, W v Northwestern 85-70
Geez, just imagine if these Spartans were healthy. Seems like there's at least two starters sitting every game, and tonight it was Branden Dawson and Keith Appling (two of the better defenders, btw, so maybe it wasn't surprising that NU had one of their best offensive nights). The good news for Izzo is that neither Dawson or Appling is expected to be out for much longer, and Adriean Payne appears to be healthy again. Look for another deep NCAA run.
2. Michigan (18-6, 10-2) L @ Iowa 67-85, W v OSU 70-60
I'm probably slighting Michigan's in-conference achievements, but from where I sit, MSU is the clearly better team. IU had answers for the Wolverines that it just couldn't find for the Spartans. And the total trainwreck in Iowa City doesn't help matters. Michigan has found a nice stride in conference play, but conference foes will find a way to adjust. Does Beilien have another ace up his sleeve?
3. Iowa (18-6, 7-4) W v MIchigan 85-67, L v OSU 69-76
These Hawkeyes are starting to remind me of Tom Davis' better teams: good, really good, but just can't make the step up to greatness. To be fair, these guys were relatively happy to even be a bubble/NIT team last season, so this just may be a step on the way to McCaffrey's ultimate plan for dominance. Also, I love that Iowa fans are calling reserve center and London native Gabriel Olaseni "London Balling."
4. Wisconsin (20-5, 7-5) w v MSU 60-59, W v Minnesota 78-70
The Badgers may not be as fearsome as they seemed in the pre-conference schedule (they looked Final Four ready, to be honest), but they're still pretty good. They've reeled off three wins, but the schedule gets really tough now with trips to Ann Arbor and Iowa City. If Bo Ryan can voodoo his way to a split, UW should be in good shape as the home stretch looks really smooth for Wisky (IU, @PSU, PU, @Neb).
5. Ohio State (19-6, 6-6) W @ Iowa 76-69, W v Purdue 67-49, L v Michigan 60-70
Hard to believe that the Buckeyes were undefeated in non-conference play, eh? Their road upset of the Hawkeyes and dismantling of the Boilermakers had folks recalling why they were so highly regarded, but OSU's inability to stop Michigan at home shows that they also really aren't a contender. And hey, there's only a few weeks left of Aaron Craft's collegiate career, so we can all feel cheered about that.
6. Minnesota (16-9, 5-7) W v Indiana 64-60, L @ Wisconsin 70-78
The Gophers needed that victory against the Hoosiers bad, and they managed to eke it out. Winning at Wisconsin (Northwestern notwithstanding) is not anything I would hold against them, so for now I would hazard that Minnesota remains the conference's most likely sixth NCAA tourney squad. The story for the Gophers really has to be the turnaround of Maurice Walker, who was talented but out-of-shape under Tubby Smith, but has turned into a serious force off the bench under Richard Pitino.
7. Northwestern (12-13, 5-7) L v. Nebraska 49-53, L @ MSU 70-85
After a pretty terrible week, the Wildcats are here only because they gave a game effort in East Lansing, looking almost competent on offense, and lost because the Spartans caught fire from behind the arc. That home loss to Nebraska felt like the cold hand of history pulling Coach Collins back down to earth, though. There's only so much anyone can do in Evanston.
8. Indiana (14-10, 4-7) L @ Minnesota 60-64, L v. PSU 65-66
The loss at Minnesota I was hoping wouldn't happen, but ever since the younger Pitino showed his guys could compete in the conference, well... I've kinda been expecting a frustrating loss in the Barn. The Penn State loss, though... the Nittany Lions are the closest thing the conference has to a bad defense, and the Hoosiers simply couldn't could score down the stretch, at home, at all. It's technically possible they could rally and get into the NCAA tourney I suppose, but I don't see any evidence to suggest they will.
9. Purdue (14-10, 4-7) W v Minnesota 77-74 (3OT), L @ OSU 49-67
The Boilers are every bit as fed up and frustrated as the Hoosier fans are, and are trying to figure whether to hope or despair. At least they have their hatred of the Hoosiers and Tom Crean to keep them warm. Purdue seems like a pretty decent team on the face of it, AJ Hammons doesn't really take a backseat in the conference right now in the paint (at least not until Adreian Payne gets completely healthy), the Johnsons are a decent backcourt, and there's a lot of depth of the roster. Like IU, it just doesn't seem to fit well together, though. I'm sure Painter is hoping that the home tilt against IU will coalesce the squad for a season-ending run.
10. Nebraska (13-10, 5-6) W @ Northwestern 53-49, W v Illinois 67-58
Coach Tim Miles is doing well lately, and is only a half-game out of 5th place in the conference standings! Shavon Shields looks like he might be putting his injury problems behind him, as he dropped 33 on the Illini. Perhaps some sort of postseason berth isn't out of the question for the Huskers after all.
11. Illinois (14-11, 3-9) W @ Penn State 60-55, L @ Nebraska 58-67
I'm using the streak-breaking win at Penn State to justify lifting the Illini out of the cellar. They'll be lucky to get two more wins this season, so this may be the last time you see them this placed high. Coach Groce knows it, too, and you can now see the freshmen are starting to get heavy minutes.
12. Penn State (13-12, 4-8) L v Illinois 55-60, W @ Indiana 66-65
So, PSU came away with another surprising win in Bloomington, after dropping one to the Illini at home. The Big Ten is tough, and Pat Chambers is trying to make sure his guys are tough enough to compete. I still don't think there's enough talent here to sneak out a NIT bid, but they win the upcoming home match against Iowa, who knows?