Dienhart: Ranking this week's games

There are some intriguing matchups this week that will go a long way toward determining the Big Ten race, led by Michigan State’s visit to Indiana on Sunday. Will the Hoosiers lose another game in Assembly Hall?

This is a big week for Wisconsin, which has home dates vs. Michigan State and Minnesota, and the Spartans, who as mentioned play at Indiana in addition to the trip to Madison. And will see how much Iowa has grown with road games at Ohio State and at Purdue.

Here’s my ranking of this week’s Big Ten games, No. 1 through No. 12.

1. Michigan State at Indiana, Sunday. This shapes up as one of the top games on the Big Ten calendar, with mentor (Tom Izzo) matching wits with protégé (Tom Crean). It will be fun to watch the Hoosiers’ Victor Oladipo battle uber Spartans’ freshman Gary Harris. MSU is the hottest team in the conference with five victories in a row.

2. Michigan State at Wisconsin, Tuesday. These teams played a doozy last year in Madison, when Ryan Evans apparent game-tying last-second three-point heave was waved off to allow Michigan State to escape with a 63-60 overtime win. The Badgers saw Indiana and Minnesota fall at home last week. Heck, they beat the Hoosiers. Will Wisconsin be the next top Big Ten team to succumb on its turf? (Read the game preview here.)

Latest RPI Rankings
Rank School Rec
1 Duke 16-1
2 Arizona 16-1
3 Kansas 16-1
4 Miami (FL) 13-3
5 Michigan 17-1
6 Florida 14-2
7 Minnesota 15-3
8 New Mexico 16-2
9 Syracuse 18-1
10 Gonzaga 17-2
View Complete Poll

3. Minnesota at Wisconsin, Saturday. This will be a physical game with the likes of the Badgers’ Jared Berggren banging with the Gophers’ Trevor Mbakwe. If Minnesota wants any shot to leave with a win, it must limit the turnovers as they average 15.6 per game. You can bet the Badgers will be in Minnesota’s face. Here’s hopping Rodney Williams (knee) and Joe Coleman (ankle) are healthy for Minnesota.

4. Iowa at Purdue, Sunday. These are two teams in similar situations, looking to enhance their postseason resume and move up the Big Ten food chain. Each victory is critical. Do the Boilermakers have the ballhandlers to deal with the Hawkeye pressure? Can Purdue slow the pace and make it a halfcourt game?

5. Michigan at Illinois, Sunday. This is a trap game for the white-hot Wolverines, who will be facing an Illini squad that needs a big win to help get it out of a slump. If Illinois is shooting well—and getting good play from point man Tracy Abrams—this one could be interesting. Illinois did beat Ohio State at home so, you never know, right?

6. Iowa at Ohio State, Tuesday. The Hawkeyes opened Big Ten action with three tough foes—Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State—and lost all three. But Iowa has won two in a row, including a big home victory over Wisconsin on Saturday. Check this out, Brutus: In five Big Ten games, Ohio State has had just four double-figure scoring efforts from players not named Deshaun Thomas. (Read the game preview here.)

7. Purdue at Michigan, Thursday. The Boilermakers have won three in a row and continue to get better. The freshman inside-outside tandem of A.J. Hammons and Ronnie Johnson has a bright future. The Wolverines are coming off one of the biggest wins of season—a resounding triumph at Minnesota on Thursday. Glenn Robinson III gets his first crack at the dad’s alma mater.

8. Minnesota at Northwestern, Wednesday. The Golden Gophers have dropped two in a row after ripping off 11 consecutive victories. Beware Northwestern’s Reggie Hearn, a former walk-on who is averaging 14.5 points. Beware that 1-3-1 Northwestern zone, Goldy.

9. Illinois at Nebraska, Tuesday. The Huskers have looked good in defeat (at Michigan State; Wisconsin) and notched their first win in Big Ten action at Penn State on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Fighting Illini are 2-5 in their last seven games and have dropped three in a row.

10. Northwestern at Nebraska, Saturday. You know each thinks it can win this game. But if the Cornhuskers are shooting well, it will be difficult for the Wildcats to keep pace. Six of Nebraska’s next eight games are in Lincoln.

11. Ohio State at Penn State, Saturday. The Buckeyes need to avoid a letdown. The Nittany Lions will play hard, but their lack of firepower is a dilemma. Deshaun Thomas may be able to win this game scoring all by himself.

12. Penn State at Indiana, Wednesday. The Nittany Lions have lost six in a row—all in Big Ten action. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers rebounded from their home loss to Wisconsin with a win at Northwestern and remain a team on the mission.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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