Big Ten primer: Indiana at Michigan State, Ethan Happ vs. Isaac Haas will be fun
With Michigan State losing two of three, Purdue has emerged as the team to beat. But keep an eye on Ohio State, which along with the Boilermakers is the lone unbeaten club in conference play.
Here is what to keep an eye on this week in the Big Ten.
Game of the week: Indiana at Michigan State, Friday. Both teams are a surprising 4-2 in the Big Ten. The away team has won three in a row to make up for a disappointing non-conference season, while the latter has dropped two of its last three after being ranked No. 1 and looking unbeatable. The loser of this game could fall as many as three games behind Big Ten co-leaders Ohio State and Purdue, which both enter the week with perfect 6-0 clips. For what it’s worth, since 1996-97, Michigan State has won 16 of its last 17 games vs. Indiana at the Breslin Center.
Don’t overlook this game: Purdue at Iowa, Saturday. The Boilermakers enter the week on a roll, having won 13 in a row. They haven’t lost since Nov. 23 and are 6-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1989-90. Purdue needs to be careful when it visits Carver-Hawkeye Arena, never any easy place to win. In fact, Purdue hasn’t won there since December 2011. Iowa has struggled this season, off to a 1-5 Big Ten mark. Still, the Hawkeyes have talent, a sense of urgency and nothing to lose.
Must win: Michigan State vs. Indiana, Friday. As mentioned above, the Spartans have lost two of their last three games after ripping off 14 wins in a row and reaching No. 1 in the polls. The lone win in that span was an overtime triumph vs. Rutgers. Turnovers have been an issue. And leadership and toughness seem to be lacking for a team many have described as Tom Izzo’s most talented team ever. Indiana has shown life, winners of three in a row entering the week.
Best individual matchup: Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ vs. Purdue’s Isaac Haas, Tuesday. Two of the Big Ten’s best big men face off in West Lafayette, and it will be fascinating to watch this battle down low. Both could find themselves in foul trouble, but Happ must avoid any such trouble to give the Badgers a shot at carding the upset at Mackey Arena.
Upset alert: Michigan at Nebraska, Thursday. The Wolverines have been one of the surprise teams in the Big Ten this season behind the play of Moritz Wagner and Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews. But the Wolverines could get dumped when they visit Lincoln to play a Cornhuskers team that is at its best in front the home crowd at The Vault. This is one of Tim Miles’ better teams led by James Palmer, Isaac Copeland and Glynn Watson. The Haymarket will be rocking!
Big week: Michigan. The Wolverines, fresh off an upset at then-No. 4 Michigan State, face a three-game week: vs. Maryland, Monday; at Nebraska, Thursday; vs. Rutgers, Sunday. These are winnable games for John Beilein’s improving team, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be challenged. Win this trio of games, and Michigan will enter its game next week at current Big Ten co-leader Purdue with a 7-2 conference clip.
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
Maryland at Michigan
Illinois at Nebraska
Minnesota at Penn State
Wisconsin at Purdue
Iowa at Rutgers
Ohio State at Northwestern
Minnesota at Maryland
Michigan at Nebraska
Indiana at Michigan State
Illinois at Wisconsin
Purdue at Iowa
Penn State at Northwestern
Ohio State at Minnesota
Rutgers at Michigan