1. Michigan State (22-5, 11-3) – Here’s a surprising stat: Branden Dawson has as many double-doubles as Indiana’s Cody Zeller (3). One of the Big Ten’s other fantastic freshmen, Dawson is averaging 9.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.4 blocks in the last eight games. Watch his windmill dunk from Sunday.
Last time: No. 1
This week: at Minnesota (2/22), vs. Nebraska (2/25)
2. Michigan (20-7, 10-4) – Everyone talks about Trey Burke when it comes to Michigan, and deservedly so, but the defense has been another big story. The Wolverines are surrendering 59 points per game the last nine times out — a span that includes three tests against the Big Ten’s highest-scoring teams: Indiana and Ohio State.
Last time: No. 3
This week: at Northwestern (2/21), vs. Purdue (2/25)
3. Ohio State (22-5, 10-4) – As William Buford goes, so go the Buckeyes. In Ohio State’s four Big Ten losses, the senior is shooting 30.6 percent and scoring 8.3 points, compared 45.9 percent and 16.7 points in the Buckeyes’ 10 conference wins.
Last time: No. 2
This week: vs. Illinois (2/21), at Wisconsin (2/26)
4. Wisconsin (20-7, 9-5) – One of the Big Ten’s most underrated and most improved players, Ryan Evans is heating up down the stretch, averaging 13.7 points and 7.8 rebounds in the last six games. The junior hasn’t scored fewer than 11 points during the streak.
Last time: No. 4
This week: at Iowa (2/23), at Ohio State (2/26)
5. Indiana (20-7, 8-7) – It’s hard to decide which Jordan Hulls stat from last week is more surprising: Eight field goal attempts or two points combined in a pair of games? Regardless, the Hoosiers need their best shooter hoisting up more shots and scoring a lot more points.
Last time: No. 5
This week: vs. NC Central (2/22), at Minnesota (2/26)
6. Purdue (17-10, 7-7) – Ryne Smith called Kelsey Barlow’s recent dismissal “addition by subtraction.” Barlow was averaging 8.5 points and 3.1 rebounds in Big Ten play, so there’s still a chance Purdue misses the junior — despite playing well, all things considered, against Michigan State on Sunday.
Last time: No. 6
This week: vs. Nebraska (2/22), at Michigan (2/25)
7. Northwestern (16-10, 6-8) – Congrats go out to John Shurna, who became Northwestern’s all-time leading scorer in Saturday’s win over Minnesota (watch the record-setting 3!). Lost in Shurna’s historical day was the return of injury-riddled JerShon Cobb, who played 24 minutes and tallied five rebounds and five steals. Can he stay on the floor, though?
Last time: No. 8
This week: vs. Michigan (2/21), at Penn State (2/25)
8. Iowa (14-13, 6-8) – Where was this effort all season, Melsahn Basabe? The sophomore played with unreal energy in Sunday’s payback win against then-No. 20 Indiana, and he was rewarded with his best game (13 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 5 blocks).
Last time: T-No. 9
This week: vs. Wisconsin (2/23), at Illinois (2/26)
9. Minnesota (17-10, 5-9) – Slowly fading out of the NCAA tourney picture, the Gophers have lost four of five, including three consecutive. And it doesn’t get any easier, with first-place Michigan State and ranked Indiana coming to The Barn this week.
Last time: No. 7
This week: vs. Michigan State (2/22), vs. Indiana (2/26)
T-10. Nebraska (12-13, 4-10) – Whether Saturday’s blowout win against Illinois was more about what the Huskers did or who they were playing, they’ve never looked better as a Big Ten team. For 40 minutes, Nebraska looked terrific — almost like a Big Ten contender, if you didn’t know any better.
Last time: No. 12
This week: at Purdue (2/22), at Michigan State (2/25)
T-10. Penn State (12-16, 4-11) – Make whatever kind of joke you may about the less-than-stellar atmosphere at the Bryce Jordan Center, the Nittany Lions are a surprising 4-3 in Big Ten home games. You’ve been warned, Northwestern.
Last time: No. 11
This week: vs. Northwestern (2/25)
12. Illinois (16-11, 5-9) – In an attempt to shake things up and get Illinois out of its prolonged funk Saturday at Nebraska, Bruce Weber brought Brandon Paul off the bench. Not only did Paul, the Big Ten’s third-leading scorer in conference games, score only two points, but the Illini suffered the worst loss (80-57) of the Big Ten this season.
Last time: T-No. 9
This week: at Ohio State (2/21), vs. Iowa (2/26)