1. Michigan (23-8, 13-5) – The Wolverines are one of the three teams that tied for the Big Ten title, they registered a season split against the other two champs, Michigan State and Ohio State, and yet they don’t seem to be garnering as much national respect as the Buckeyes or Spartans. Go figure.
Last time: No. 2
This week: vs. Northwestern/Minnesota (3/9)
T-2. Michigan State (24-7, 13-5) – It’s funny how fast things can change. Just a week ago, the Spartans looked nearly untouchable. Two games later, both losses, that’s no longer the case. More than the losses, though, Branden Dawson’s season-ending knee injury is the biggest cause for concern.
Last time: No. 1
This week: vs. Iowa/Illinois (3/9)
T-2. Ohio State (25-6, 13-5) – As terrific as Sunday’s clutch comeback victory at Michigan State was, the Buckeyes still don’t seem right. William Buford is on one night and can’t hit a thing the next, Jared Sullinger is shooting 43 percent in the last five games, and depth remains an issue. That said, this is a dangerous team.
Last time: T-No. 3
This week: vs. Purdue/Nebraska (3/9)
4. Wisconsin (23-8, 12-6) – When talking the Big Ten’s most improved player, Tim Frazier usually dominates the conversation. Here’s another guy: Ryan Evans. The junior has scored in double figures in 10 straight games and is averaging 12.8 points during the span. On the season, he’s good for 10.7 ppg and a team-leading 6.9 rpg.
Last time: T-No. 3
This week: vs. Indiana/Penn State (3/9)
5. Indiana (24-7, 11-7) – The Hoosiers have won seven of their last eight games, one more than they won during the entire 2008-09 season. Sophomore Victor Oladipo is the biggest reason for the hot streak, averaging 14.8 points and six rebounds, this after reaching double figures twice in the previous nine games.
Last time: No. 5
This week: vs. Penn State (3/8)
6. Purdue (20-11, 10-8) – All Terone Johnson needed was an opportunity, and now he’s playing like a guy capable of assuming the lead role next season — if necessary. Someone will have to become Purdue’s go-to scorer, with Robbie Hummel and Lewis Jackson out of eligibility, and Johnson (14.8 ppg in last four games) has the size, strength and penetrating abilities to be a force.
Last time: No. 6
This week: vs. Nebraska (3/8)
7. Northwestern (18-12, 8-10) – Senior John Shurna wrapped up the Big Ten scoring crown last week, as expected. The significance? All but one Big Ten leading scorer has earned first-team All-Big Ten honors since 1948. We’ll find out where Shurna lands Monday night.
Last time: No. 8
This week: vs. Minnesota (3/8)
8. Iowa (16-15, 8-10) – How far has Matt Gatens come in the past few weeks? Put it this way: An ESPN-U announcer said he “only has 14 points” late in the second half of Wednesday’s win at Nebraska. True, it wasn’t close to the 26.5 points he averaged in the previous four games, but you know you’re in a groove when someone calls you out like that.
Last time: No. 7
This week: vs. Illinois (3/8)
9. Illinois (17-14, 6-12) – The Illini have lost eight of nine, and if you heard Bruce Weber’s postgame press conference following Sunday’s loss at Wisconsin, you get the feeling he knows his fate. Illinois is an absolute mess right now — five of its last eight defeats have come by double digits! There’s not much else to say, really.
Last time: No. 9
This week: vs. Iowa (3/8)
10. Minnesota (18-13, 6-12) – The Gophers needed Saturday’s win over Nebraska for a couple of reasons. The obvious: Minnesota enters the Big Ten tourney on a winning note. The not-so obvious: the 81 points against a defensive-minded team proves the Gophers can score. This was a team that averaged a putrid 58.3 points in the previous eight games.
Last time: No. 10
This week: vs. Northwestern (3/8)
11. Penn State (12-19, 4-14) – The fact Penn State stuck with eventual Big Ten champ Michigan on a day that Tim Frazier made four buckets and scored 11 points is a silver lining for the pesky Nittany Lions. The underrated Jermaine Marshall scored a career-high 27 to make things interesting Sunday, and he needs to keep hitting from outside.
Last time: No. 11
This week: vs. Indiana (3/8)
12. Nebraska (12-17, 4-14) – Remember how good Nebraska looked in that dominating win over Illinois on Feb. 18? The Huskers were never able to build any momentum from that all-around great performance, as they have lost their past four games by an average of 16.8 points.
Last time: No. 12
This week: vs. Purdue (3/8)