Ranking the games: No surprise at No. 1 this week

Ranking the games: No surprise at No. 1 this week

The spotlight this week swings on Ann Arbor, where Michigan will play host to Michigan State in a battle between Big Ten front-runners this weekend. Each squad is 10-3 in league action. Wisconsin and Iowa are right behind the Wolverines and Spartans. And, ironically, the Badgers and Hawkeyes meet in a big game in Iowa City this week.

Here’s a look at the 10 games this week.

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1. Michigan State at Michigan, Sun., Feb. 23. This is it, the game we’ve all been waiting for. The rivals are tied atop the Big Ten, but neither squad brings much momentum into this showdown. MSU has lost two of three and hasn’t won two games in a row since ripping off an 11-game winning streak from Dec. 14-Jan. 21. Michigan is 2-3 in its last five games. Earlier this season, the Wolverines won in East Lansing, 80-75. It’s just too bad these clubs aren’t both at full strength.

2. Wisconsin at Iowa, Sat., Feb. 22. Each of these teams is hot and right on the heels of Big Ten leaders Michigan and Michigan State. The Hawkeyes are a game behind; the Badgers trail by two. A loss by Wisconsin likely would eliminate it from contention. If the Hawkeyes can protect their home court, it will add to mojo that has seen them win two in a row and three of four. The Badgers beat Iowa earlier this season in Madison. These game could feature lots of points.

3. Minnesota at Ohio State, Sat., Feb. 22. One team plays poor defense (Minnesota); the other plays great defense (Buckeyes). A win here by the Gophers would be a huge boost to their NCAA hopes. Ohio State has been pedestrian at home in Big Ten play, going 3-3. Minnesota beat the Buckeyes by 10 points earlier this season in the Twin Cities.

4. Iowa at Indiana, Tues., Feb. 18. Two teams going in the opposite direction. The Hawkeyes have won two in a row and three of four games. And they have the Big Ten title in their sights. The Hoosiers have lost three in a row and four of five games. IU hasn’t won two games in a row since Jan. 11 and 14, when it won at Penn State and vs. Wisconsin. About now, an NIT bid looks like a pipe dream for Indiana in what has been a maddeningly frustrating season.

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5. Northwestern at Ohio State, Wed., Feb. 19. This game should come with a “warning” label. It won’t be pretty at times for offensive purists. Still, if you like defense, you’ll love this game.

6. Michigan State at Purdue, Thurs., Feb. 20. The Spartans have the best road record in the Big Ten with a 6-1 mark. But they are in a bit of a funk, going 3-4 in their last seven games while dealing with injuries to Keith Appling and Branden Dawson. The Boilermakers are coming off their best effort of the season, an 18-point drubbing of Indiana. Do you smell an upset?

7. Indiana at Northwestern, Sat., Feb. 22. The Hoosiers are 1-5 on the road in Big Ten action. Only Purdue and Illinois have been as bad on the road in league play. Not good. More bad news for IU: It already has lost to Northwestern this season. I know NU will be motivated to win? How about IU?

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8. Purdue at Nebraska, Sun., Feb. 23. No Big Ten team is hotter than the Cornhuskers, who have won three in a row and five of six games as they seemingly have pushed their way onto the NCAA bubble. Amazing. The Boilermakers finished last week on a high note, beating Indiana and winning two of their last three games after a four-game losing streak. Purdue has one Big Ten road win (at Illinois); Nebraska has lost just once at home (Michigan) in league action. Difficult to see the Huskers letting this one get away. PBA will be hopping!

9. Penn State at Nebraska, Thurs., Feb. 20. It’s this simple: If the Cornhuskers are a legit contender for an NCAA bid, they will beat a Nittany Lions team that’s 11th in the Big Ten. But know this: Penn State beat Nebraska, 58-54, earlier this season in State College, Pa. Love those Nittany Lions guards.

10. Illinois at Minnesota, Wed., Feb. 19. This has become a season to forget for the Fighting Illini after a strong debut under John Groce that saw Illinois win an NCAA tourney game last season. Offense? Ugh. Meanwhile, the Golden Gophers have been a Big Ten surprise as they hunt for an NCAA bid.

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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