Full steam ahead for the Boilermakers, who made a very big statement on New Year's Day that any discussion regarding the possible Final Four favorites can and will include a Big Ten team that doesn't have a single one-and-done product on the roster. Weird as that may sound, in this day and age.
Next up: Tuesday vs. Minnesota
2) No. 17 Wisconsin (12-2, 2-0); LW, 3
Looks like a certain loss in a certain football-happy outpost in Wisconsin lit a fire under the Badgers. They're on a six-game winning streak, and have won each of those contests by at least nine points. More importantly – and more to Bo Ryan's liking – four of those losing opponents haven't reached 50 against the UW defense. No time to pat backs, though. Three of the next four are on the road, and they're all quality teams.
Next up: Wednesday at No. 10 Michigan State; Saturday vs. No. 4 Purdue
3) Minnesota (11-3, 2-0); LW, 5
Last week: won vs. Penn State 75-70, won at Iowa 86-74
Ah, so the Gophers are finding Big Ten competition to put up a little more of a fight than those stallions at Morgan State and South Dakota State, eh? No matter. Minnesota took Penn State's best punch and then went to Iowa, ensuring no bitter upset against the conference's bottom-feeders to start things off. Like Wisconsin, the road ahead is much more treacherous.
Next up: Tuesday at No. 4 Purdue
4) No. 10 Michigan State (11-3, 1-0); LW, 7
Say what you want about the Spartans' soft schedule and disappointing results against top-tier adversaries. (I believe, ahem, I've done more than my fair share of that so far.) But this team is the definition of balance, even with as many stars as Tom Izzo has to choose from; five Spartans are averaging double figures (Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Draymond Green, Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen). Only Villanova can say that among the fraternity of top ten-ranked teams. However, Tom Izzo's recent benching of Lucas for lack of leadership is something to keep an eye on.
Next up: Wednesday vs. No. 17 Wisconsin
5) Ohio State (10-4, 0-2); LW, 2
Last week: lost at Wisconsin 65-43, lost at Michigan 73-64
I kind of wish I had made the trek to Madison last week for the game. Not because it was another exciting victory for the Kohl Center's primary inhabitants. No, I wish I could have been there for the postgame press conference, so I could say to Thad Matta, "You know, Evan Turner looks awfully good in street clothes on the bench, doesn't he?" Here's guessing Matta would have wrinkled his nose and replied, "I couldn't disagree more with that statement." Translation: THE Ohio State University misses Turner, uh, just a thad ... i mean tad.
Next up: Wednesday vs. Indiana
6) Illinois (9-5, 1-0); LW, 6
Last week: won vs. Northwestern 89-83 (OT), lost vs. Gonzaga 85-83 (OT)
You Illini players sure aren't very nice to your coach. Bruce Weber's voice is strained as it is after regulation games. Now you've got to put him through back-to-back overtime affairs? How is Weber's larynx doing this morning? He probably wasn't doing too much shouting at the television during the Bears-Lions game Sunday ... not that there was much to yell about anyhow.
Next up: Tuesday vs. Iowa
7) Northwestern (10-3, 0-2); LW, 4
Last week: lost at Illinois 89-83 (OT), lost vs. No. 11 Michigan State 91-70
The Wildcats were – and still are – a feel-good story by surprising people with their early success. But defensive shortcomings like allowing Mike Tisdale to drop 31 on you are going to make this a long season for depth-challenged NU.
Next up: Thursday vs. Texas-Pan American
8) Indiana (7-6, 1-0); LW, 9
Last week: won vs. Michigan 71-65
Jeremiah Rivers, the Hoosiers' third scoring option at guard, is the son of Doc Rivers, the Celtics' championship-winning coach. ESPN made that abundantly clear when young Rivers had to make a couple of critical free throws against Michigan Thursday, and continued to show Doc's immediate reactions on replay about 18 times. Rivers missed both (although the Hoosiers still won). Way to put a little pressure on the poor kid, ESPN. You big bullies, you.
Next up: Wednesday at Ohio State
9) Michigan (7-6, 1-1); LW, 10
Last week: lost at Indiana 71-65, won vs. No. 15 Ohio State 73-64
The Wolverines continue to be "that" team; that head-scratcher of a team you should never, ever, ever bet on or against (not that gambling, you know, is legal or anything.) They've now lost five – five! – games that could have and should have been victories with this roster. But then they go out and knock off Ohio State to send the Bucks to official "reeling" status. Ho hum.
Next up: Thursday at Penn State
10) Penn State (8-6, 0-2); LW, 8
Last week: lost at Minnesota 75-70, lost vs. Wisconsin 63-46
If there's anything we'll learn this season from Penn State, it's that Talor Battle is something of a special player. Granted, it's not a talented group around him. But he's leading the Nittany Lions in scoring by a giant margin (his 19.1 points are nearly 2.5 times more than No. 2 man Jeff Brooks), while also topping the team in rebounding and assists. How many players can say that? It's probably not much consolation to Battle, however.
Next up: Thursday vs. Michigan
11) Iowa (5-9, 0-2); LW, 11
Last week: lost vs. No. 4 Purdue 67-56, lost vs. Minnesota 86-74
Ah, if only games lasted 20 minutes. The Hawkeyes have played a pair of top-five teams this year, and stuck with both for a half (tied at 38 against Texas, leading 27-26 against Purdue.) The book on Iowa seems to be that in the early goings; they'll play hard enough to keep things interesting for a while, but keep plugging for 40 minutes and the better team should eventually prosper.
Next up: Tuesday at Illinois