Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, February 2, 2016

The season has hit the halfway point, and the race for the top remains fast, furious and wide open with Iowa and Indiana leading the pack. Here is a look at the week ahead.

[ MORE: Power Rankings | Big Ten midterm grades | Best of the first half of B1G play | Previewing the week ahead | Ranking the week's games | Bracketology | Scoreboard | Standings | Stats | Polls | Win a trip for two to the Big Ten tourney ]

Game of the week: Michigan State at Michigan, Saturday. Nothing beats a rivalry. And no rivalry is more intense than this one. Too bad this is the only game between these schools this season. Each team looks to be primed to make the NCAA tourney. Winners of four in a row, Michigan is still in the Big Ten title hunt; the Spartans are in a hole with four league losses already. Caris LeVert?s status remains day-to-day. He hasn?t played since Dec. 30 at Illinois, missing the last eight games with injury. Michigan is 6-2 without LeVert. The teams have split the last six meetings, but the Spartans have won the last three encounters.

Don?t overlook this game: Indiana at Michigan, Tuesday. The Hoosiers saw their 12-game winning streak end last week, falling in overtime at Wisconsin. Now, Indiana must wade into Ann Arbor to play a Wolverine squad that continues to improve. This is the only meeting between these schools. This is the start of a challenging finish for the Hoosiers, who also have games left vs. Iowa, at Michigan State, vs. Purdue, at Iowa and vs. Maryland.

Must win: The Terrapins are trying to keep pace among the elite in the Big Ten. In order to do so, they must protect their home court. Purdue comes calling on Saturday. Maryland has yet to lose a Big Ten game at home since joining the league. The Boilermakers? title hopes are listing, but a win here would provide a big boost and be Purdue?s most impressive victory of the season.

Best individual matchup: Iowa?s Jarrod Uthoff vs. Illinois? Malcolm Hill, Sunday. These guys are 1-2 in the Big Ten in scoring, with Uthoff averaging 18.6 points and Hill netting 18.5. Both contribute across the board, and both are an absolute joy to watch.

Upset alert: Iowa at Illinois, Sunday. The Hawkeyes need to be careful when they travel to Champaign on Super Bowl Sunday. The Fighting Illini whipped Purdue by 14 in Champaign earlier this year and dropped an overtime decision to Ohio State. If Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn get rolling, the Hawkeyes could be in trouble. This is the only meeting of the season between these teams.

Big week: Michigan. The Wolverines can make a big statement with a game vs. Indiana on Tuesday and one vs. Michigan State on Saturday. The good news for the Wolverines: both games are in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines have been a bit of a surprise, going 7-2 through the first half of the Big Ten season after going 16-16 overall and 8-10 in the Big Ten last season.


Whatever happened to Lon Kruger?s Big Ten champion Illinois squad? Bob Asmussen of the Champaign News-Gazette gets us caught up.


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