Dienhart: Gems litter the week's slate

 The Big Ten season is halfway over—and the best is yet to come in a conference race that remains in flux. More clarity may come this week, which shapes up as one of the best yet of the season. In particular, this is a big week for Michigan State and Indiana. And matchup-wise, I can’t wait for the battle between the Big Ten’s top freshmen: Michigan’s Trey Burke and Indiana’s Cody Zeller. See my game rankings for this week’s action in this post.

1. Ohio State at Wisconsin, Saturday, Feb. 4. This is why we suffer through long, cold, dark winter days, to enjoy college basketball games like this. Thank you, basketball gods, for this battle between the Big Ten’s hottest teams.

2. Michigan at Michigan State, Sunday, Feb. 5. A nice Super Bowl Sunday matchup! I don’t need to tell Spartan fans that they have lost three in a row to the Wolverines. Michigan is 1-5 in true road games. Watch Keith Appling take on Trey Buke.

3. Michigan State at Illinois, Tuesday, Jan. 31. The Big Ten’s ultimate “box of chocolate” team is looking to recapture the mojo it had on the night the Illini dumped No. 5 Ohio State in Assembly Hall. Caution: wear a helmet while watching this game. Things could get rough.

Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr.

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

4. Indiana at Michigan, Wednesday, Feb. 1. The Wolverines are looking to avenge a narrow loss in Bloomington earlier this year. But since that game, the Hoosiers are 3-4. The victories? Two over Penn State and one vs. Iowa. Can Indiana deal with Michigan’s athletic ability on the perimeter?

5. Indiana at Purdue, Saturday, Feb. 4. The Boilermakers have won the last five meetings and six of the last seven in this intense rivalry. The Hoosiers’ last victory in West Lafayette came in March 2006. Want more? Tom Crean is 2-30 in Big Ten road games. Purdue must protect its turf. An IU win is icing.

6. Northwestern at Illinois, Sunday, Feb. 5. The Wildcats lost 57-56 to the Illini earlier this season. Northwestern’s best hope is to shoot lights out to bolster its wavering NCAA hopes.

7. Minnesota at Iowa, Wednesday, Feb. 1. The Gophers, one of the Big Ten’s biggest surprises, are still thinking of the NCAA tourney. The Hawkeyes? They need to get Melsahn Basabe on track—and play a little defense. Please.

8. Wisconsin at Penn State, Tuesday, Jan. 31. Does it get any better than Jordan Taylor vs. Tim Frazier? I think not. The Nittany Lions have toppled Purdue and Illinois in State College this season, so beware, Badgers.

9. Minnesota at Nebraska, Sunday, Feb. 5. You just don’t saunter into the Devaney Center and walk out with a win, Tubby. Just ask Indiana.

10. Nebraska at Northwestern, Thursday, Feb. 2. If the Wildcats have any NCAA hopes left, they have to win at home vs. the Cornhuskers. Are you listening, John Shurna?

11. Penn State at Iowa, Saturday, Feb. 4. At this point, these teams already may be playing just for pride. The Hawkeyes are 1-3 at home in the Big Ten. The Nits have no Big Ten road victories.

Find all of BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart’s work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow him on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and  subscribe to his RSS feed.

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Show Comments (3 Comments)
3 Post Your Comment
aroznowski on 1/30/2012 @ 4:48pm EDT Said:

ERROR: “this battle between first-place teams”

There cannot possibly be a battle between first-place teams when only one team is in first place in the standings. The Ohio State-Wisconsin game is actually a battle between the first-place team (Ohio State) and the fourth-place team (Wisconsin). (Even though Michigan and WIsconsin are tied in the standings, the Wolverines won the one and only matchup between these two teams.) Hopefully that clears any confusion.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 1/30/2012 @ 4:53pm EDT Said:

    This has been corrected. Thanks.

Doug on 1/30/2012 @ 11:05pm EDT Said:

yep Michigan’s bball schedule is as easy as their football schedule was…

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