B1G Whiteboard: Setting the stage for this week

An interesting week awaits, as teams jockey to improve their NCAA resume. As for the Big Ten title chase, Michigan State’s loss at Wisconsin on Sunday made things more interesting. The Spartans don’t have much very heavy lifting this week. Conversely, this will be a big week for Michigan, which is trying to keep pace. Here’s a look at what’s ahead.

Game of the Week: Michigan at Ohio State. Teams seemingly going in opposite directions. This is the only meeting of the season between these rivals. And, it’s a biggie. After losing five of six games, the Buckeyes have come to life with three triumphs in a row. And it has been impressive, as OSU has won at Wisconsin, at Iowa and crushed Purdue in Columbus. Conversely, the Wolverines have lost two of their last three games, falling at Indiana and at Iowa. The lone victory was a home win vs. Nebraska. Now may be a good time for Michigan to start worrying.

[ MORE: Where does your team land on Stephen Bardo's B1G Power Rankings? ]

Big week: Michigan. The Wolverines remain in a battle with Michigan State for Big Ten supremacy. But Michigan is threatening to teeter off the edge of the chase after losing two of three games. The Wolverines (9-2 in the Big Ten) are tied for first with Michigan State, but they can’t worry about what the Spartans do—they play host to Northwestern and Nebraska this week; Michigan just needs to control what it can control. And that begins this week with a game at Ohio State on Tuesday and a visit from Wisconsin on Sunday. With MSU likely to sweep its two games, the Wolverines need to at least notch a split of their games. An 0-2 record would be a tough blow for Michigan.

Don’t overlook this game: Minnesota at Wisconsin on Thursday. The Badgers bring a 6-5 Big Ten record into the week; the Gophers are 5-6. Each is an NCAA team. Each also is looking to improve its NCAA resume, but neither is red hot. The Gophers ended a three-game losing skid with a big home win vs. Indiana on Saturday; the Badgers had lost five of seven games before their big win on Sunday vs. Michigan State. The victory also ended a three-game home losing skid for the Badgers. By the way, Minnesota won earlier this season vs. Wisconsin in Minneapolis, taking an 81-68 decision, and have won five of the last nine in the series.

[ MORE: Check out the latest Big Ten standings ]

Upset alert: Iowa travels to Penn State on Saturday. The Bryce Jordan Center can be a dangerous place. Pat Chambers had his Nittany Lions playing well until their home loss to Illinois on Sunday that preceded a loss at Michigan State on Thursday. Before that, Penn State had won three games in a row. The Hawkeyes look like they may be pulling out of a funk with a resounding 18-point win over Michigan on Saturday. Iowa probably can forget about winning the Big Ten, but it needs to win games like this to show it’s an elite Big Ten team capable of earning a decent NCAA bid.

Individual matchup to watch: How about watching Penn State’s Tim Frazier do battle with Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell on Wednesday in Bloomington? These guys are similar in many ways—cat-quick point men who are deadly off the dribble with the ability to hit from long range. This is gonna be fun.

[ MORE: View the entire week's schedule of games ]

A LOOK BACK AT LAST WEEK

Big winner: Ohio State. Raise your hand if you thought the Buckeyes were circling the drain? I admit it, I did. After a beautifully stunning 15-0 start that pushed Ohio State to No. 3 in the nation, the Buckeyes imploded with four losses in a row. The low point was a 71-70 home overtime loss to Penn State that ended January and capped a dreadful six-game stretch that saw OSU lose five games. Since then, the Buckeyes have ripped off three victories in succession that has included back-to-back wins at Wisconsin and at Iowa.

Big loser: Michigan. On Super Bowl Sunday, the Wolverines suffered their first Big Ten loss of the season by falling at Indiana. Michigan rebounded with a home victory vs. overmatched Nebraska that impressed no one. Then, the Wolverines followed by getting crushed at Iowa, 85-67, on Saturday in what was Michigan’s largest margin of defeat this season. Some self-doubt has to be creeping into the head of the Wolverines. Does this team have what it takes to surge past Michigan State, which is tied for first in the Big Ten with Michigan?

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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