It's not been a good week for Indiana basketball. One week ago, we were tied atop the conference. Now, we're two games out, and coming off a bad loss to Purdue. However, we're still in fine shape to finish strong, as long as we play a bit better than we have been.
Anyway, the three games of importance this weekend were harder to pick out than normal. Two games were pretty obvious choices (Wisconsin/Iowa, and the lone Sunday game), but the remaining Saturday games were not particularly spectacular. Couldn't choose Rutgers-IU, because this is supposed to be a look at non-Indiana games. Couldn't choose Penn State-Illinois, because neither of those teams is doing particularly well right now. It came down to Nebraska-Minnesota and Purdue-Northwestern, and I'm going with the game that involves a team tied with us in conference play.
#5 Wisconsin at Iowa, Noon, ESPN
Why this game is important: Despite our fondest hopes and dreams, Wisconsin is still the team to beat in the Big Ten this season. Until more teams than just Rutgers can prove they can beat Wisconsin, they'll probably be appearing here every week, because their games are just that important. In regards to Iowa, either they knock off Wisconsin, or they start falling apart. Both circumstances are good for us.
What can we learn: Can Wisconsin be beaten when Frank Kaminsky is healthy? Is Iowa good enough to defend home court against the best in conference? Will the Hawkeyes be able to keep it closer than the 32 they lost by in Madison?
Purdue at Northwestern, 6pm, ESPNU
Why this game is important: The Boilers will be riding high after knocking off the Hoosiers Wednesday. Northwestern is on a 6 game losing streak. If ever a trap game existed, this is that trap. Let's see if Purdue falls into it.
What can we learn: How well does Purdue handle success? Will Northwestern be able to better deal with the Boilers' size than we were? Will anybody actually be in Welsh-Ryan for this game?
Michigan at Michigan State, 1pm, CBS
Why this game is important: Bitter rivals, just a game apart in conference play, and both of them right around where we are as well. This is, as stated above, also the only Big Ten game on Sunday, and it's on national television, so the entire country (in theory) is watching. Also, it'll give everyone a break from the Super Bowl pregame coverage.
What can we learn: Did we write off Michigan too early? Can Tom Izzo coach this version of the Spartans to heights they probably shouldn't achieve this year? Will defense be the deciding factor in this game (both teams hold their opponents to around 61 points)?