Let's rank the games for this week

This is a relatively light week in the Big Ten with just eight games. But there is plenty of heft on top with tonight’s No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 5 Michigan State game, which will be the first battle of top-five teams in East Lansing. In fact, it’s a big week for the Spartans, who visit No. 18 Ohio State after playing host to the Hoosiers. Here is how I rank this week’s games.

1. Indiana at Michigan State, Tuesday. For the second week in a row, East Lansing is the place to be in the Big Ten. No. 1 Indiana will visit the Breslin Center, where the Hoosiers have lost 17 in a row. No. 5 Michigan State is a big, tough, physical and talented team. The Hoosiers are more skilled. The winner will be in sole possession of first place.

Coaches Poll – 2/18
Rank School Rec
1 Indiana 23-3
2 Miami (FL) 21-3
3 Gonzaga 25-2
4 Florida 21-3
5 Michigan State 22-4
6 Duke 22-3
7 Michigan 22-4
8 Syracuse 21-4
9 Kansas 21-4
10 Louisville 21-5
View Complete Poll

2. Michigan State at Ohio State, Sunday. The Buckeyes have lost three of four—and the lone victory was at home vs. Northwestern. Meanwhile, the Spartans have lost just once in 2013 and beat Ohio State earlier this season, 59-56. Any faint Big Ten title hopes the Buckeyes possess are on the line in this game. Time to show some pride—and play some defense—vs. a Michigan State team pushing for the league championship. Ohio State is 1-5 vs. the RPI Top 25.

3. Illinois at Michigan, Sunday. This will be a great measuring stick for this suddenly hot Fighting Illini squad—four wins in a row–whose NCAA stock continues to rise. The No. 7 Wolverines are one of just two Big Ten teams that are unbeaten at home (Michigan State is the other).

4. Minnesota at Ohio State, Wednesday. Two teams desperate for a win meet, and the Golden Gophers are coming off a loss at Iowa that Tubby Smith termed “embarrassing.” Sounds about right. Minnesota is 3-7 in its last 10 games. Thad Matta didn’t recognize the Buckeye squad that got drummed at Wisconsin. Where was the defense? The sense of urgency? This is one of two home games this week for a No. 18 Ohio State club that needs a big week.

5. Iowa at Nebraska, Thursday. Yes, the Cornhuskers are just 3-10 in the Big Ten, but they are playing with intensity under Tim Miles. Iowa is rolling, having won three in a row in the Big Ten for the first time since 2007. But be careful, Hawkeyes. Be very careful. Lose this game, and Iowa can basically forget about making the Big Dance.

[REMAINING SCHEDULES: Find your team's remaining games in our Big Ten men's hoops schedules section. ]

6. Penn State at Illinois, Thursday. Is there a hotter team in the Big Ten than the Fighting Illini? Hmmm. Illinois probably feels like it could beat the Bulls right now. (Were the Illini really 2-7 at one point in the Big Ten?) The Nittany Lions? They are 0-13 in the Big Ten but pushed Michigan hard on Sunday. Penn State has nothing to lose. And, you know what they say about teams with nothing to lose …

7. Wisconsin at Northwestern, Wednesday. Yes, Bill Carmody is a terrific coach. But the Wildcats are down to seven healthy scholarship players. Xs and Os mean little without key players like Jared Swopshire and Drew Crawford. Will Northwestern score 40 points vs. the hot Badgers who are coming off arguably their best effort of the season in a destruction of Ohio State on Sunday?

8. Northwestern at Purdue, Sunday. Two teams just playing out the string and dreaming about next year. The Boilermakers have lost three in a row and five of six. In that span, Purdue has lost by 37, 15, 13, 20 and 28 points. Northwestern also has lost three in a row and five of six. In that span, the Wildcats have lost by 15, 22, 20, 10 and 21 points. The good news: Someone is gonna win—but probably not by double-digits.

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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