Let the games begin on Week Three of the Big Ten season! On the surface, it doesn’t look like a great week. The headliner? It’s tonight’s Wisconsin at Indiana game, which drips with some interesting storylines.
Here’s my ranking of this week’s games, which I post every week.
1. Wisconsin at Indiana, Tuesday, Jan. 14. Yes, the Hoosiers look like a mid-level Big Ten team. But they always are dangerous at home. And don’t think Tom Crean won’t be motivated. Wisconsin is the only Big Ten school he hasn’t beaten during his tenure in Bloomington (0-10). In fact, Badger boss Bo Ryan is 18-3 against Indiana and 14-3 against Crean.
2. Michigan at Wisconsin, Saturday, Jan. 18. This is a tasty clash between two of the Big Ten’s top five teams. The Badgers enter the week as the Big Ten’s lone unbeaten club, looking to send another message to a Big Ten power. The Wolverines have won at Minnesota and Nebraska but visiting teams wins in the Kohl Center typically come as often as Halley’s Comet. Still, if it happens for Michigan, it would make it a front-runner.
3. Ohio State at Minnesota, Thursday, Jan. 16. The Buckeyes will arrive in the Twin Cities desperate, losers of two in a row. Trying to get better will be difficult at Minnesota, which came close to beating Michigan earlier this season in the Barn. The Gophers are looking for a resume-building win. OSU? It just wants a win to stop the pain.
[BARDO: Iowa up, NU out of cellar in power poll ]
4. Minnesota at Iowa, Sunday, Jan. 19. The Hawkeyes are riding high and need to protect their home court vs. a good Golden Gophers club that’s still looking for their first league road win. Iowa comes at teams in waves. Will Minnesota be overwhelmed by the Hawkeyes size, tempo and depth?
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5. Michigan State at Illinois, Jan. 18. This is a great chance for the Fighting Illini to notch a big win vs. a quality foe. The last time the Spartans visited Chambana, they ranked No. 9 and lost, 42-41, in 2012. It was one of two wins for a free-falling Illinois team that went 2-12 down the stretch to end a miserable 2011-12 season.
6. Purdue at Illinois, Wednesday, Jan. 15. Two teams trying to climb over each other in the Big Ten pecking order. Each club looks like a fringe NCAA tourney squad—at best. The last time the Boilers played in Champaign, they got pummeled 79-59 and Matt Painter got ejected, ending Purdue’s eight-game winning streak vs. Illinois. This game is part of BTN’s Super Wednesday.
7. Penn State at Michigan, Tuesday, Jan. 14. The Nittany Lions have been disappointing, but a win in Ann Arbor would cure some of what ails Penn State. Remember when a PSU team on a 14-game losing bender beat No. 4 Michigan last year? Could it happen again? Probably not, but I just wanted to mention because, well, I could.
8. Michigan State at Northwestern, Wednesday, Jan. 15. This trip to Evanston may not be so cushy after the Wildcats knocked off visiting Illinois on Sunday. But after going into overtime twice last week, the Spartans will be ready for anything. And MSU has shown resiliency and resourcefulness in dealing with myriad injuries and illness.
9. Penn State at Purdue, Saturday, Jan. 18. Two schools that are in need of any victory possible. A win by the Nittany Lions could serve as a spark for a turn around. A win by the Boilermakers could serve as a spark toward a run of wins during a stretch that will see Purdue play four games in 10 days.
10. Northwestern at Indiana, Saturday, Jan. 18. Yes, the Wildcats showed some spunk in that home win vs. Illinois on Sunday. But are they ready for this game in Bloomington? Sure, we all know this isn’t a vintage IU team, but everyone wearing candy cane sweatpants figures to play a lot in this one.
|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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