No, there won't be a Perfect Purdue this year. But the Boilers don't have much time to feel sorry for themselves (doubting they're doing that anyway.) Ohio State comes calling to West Lafayette tonight, followed by roadies to the two Illinois schools before Purdue gets to stay home for the rest of January.
Next up: Tuesday vs. Ohio State
2) No. 13 Wisconsin (13-3, 3-1); LW, 2
Last week: lost at then-No. 10 Michigan State 54-47, won vs. then-No. 4 Purdue 73-66
Jon Leuer out indefinitely with a broken wrist … and there's been speculation that once defined, he won't play ‘til next fall. In the immortal words of Austin Powers, "Ouch, baby. Very ouch." I thought about placing Michigan State above the Badgers due to the head-to-head win and Leuer's injury, but my one big rule with power polls is: never presume the future when ranking teams. We have to give the Badgers a chance to play some games without the PBIT (Polar Bear In Training) on the floor.
Next up: Wednesday at Northwestern
3) No. 7 Michigan State (13-3, 3-0); LW, 4
Last week: won vs. then-No. 17 Wisconsin 54-47, won at Iowa 71-53
The Spartans have rebounded nicely after each of their disappointing losses to top teams (UNC and Texas) with a pair of four-game winning streaks. The impending schedule is friendly, with a three-game homestand against unranked foes. But the six-game stretch after that, which I'll discuss next Tuesday, is brutal.
Next up: Wednesday vs. Minnesota
4) Minnesota (12-4, 3-1); LW, 3
Last week: lost at then-No. 4 Purdue 79-60, won vs. Ohio State 73-62
Wow, Blake Hoffarber is all grow's up. He scored a career-best 27 points to beat the Buckeyes last time out. And more impressively, none of them came while he was "on his keister." Two of the next three Gopher games are against the Spartans.
Next up: Wednesday at No. 7 Michigan State
5) Illinois (11-5, 3-0); LW, 6
Last week: won vs. Iowa 59-42, won at Indiana 66-60
Just one of two league unbeatens remaining, the Illini have made sure to take care of business in the Big Ten while looking quite average in non-conference affairs. Now let's just hope tonight's game against the Nittany Lions features more than 71 combined points – since, you know, the last time Penn State invaded Champaign, it won 38-33. In a complete, 40-minute game. Yuck.
Next up: Tuesday vs. Penn State
6) Ohio State (11-5, 1-3); LW, 5
Last week: won vs. Indiana 79-54, lost at Minnesota 73-62
Finally Evan Turner is back – and way ahead of schedule – but the Buckeyes still look lost in Big Ten action, losing three of four and not being particularly competitive in the three losses. Things don't get any easier, with Purdue, Wisconsin and West Virginia looming in the next 11 days.
Next up: Tuesday at No. 6 Purdue
7) Northwestern (12-3, 1-2); LW, 7
Last week: won vs. Texas-Pan American 53-44, won at Michigan 68-62
I seem to recall guaranteeing Wisconsin would win at Northwestern last year when the Badgers were mired in what would become a six-game funk. In fact, I had a 24-point manifesto on why Bucky would end its confusing woes in Evanston. I make no such promises this year; with Leuer out, Northwestern is presented a wonderful opportunity to add an impressive win to its decent record.
Next up: Wednesday vs. No. 13 Wisconsin
8) Michigan (8-7, 2-2); LW, 9
Last week: won at Penn State 64-55, lost vs. Northwestern 68-62
The Wolverines continue to puzzle; shortly after beating their biggest rival Ohio State, they drop one at home to Northwestern, which never performs that well on the road. Michigan is too talented not to make the tournament, but it's going to have to put one heck of a run together here – and soon – to go dancing in March.
Next up: Thursday vs. Indiana
9) Indiana (7-8, 1-2); LW, 8
Last week: lost at Ohio State 79-54, lost vs. Illinois 66-60
You just know a win over Illinois would have been another large step for a program that has quietly made strides back to respectability. How's this for a schedule quirk: the Hoosiers' Big Ten opener was a home game with Michigan on the day of New Year's Eve, and Indiana alternates home and away games all the way until March. No multiple-game homestands or road trips. Makes it hard to find a rhythm one way or the other.
Next up: Thursday at Michigan
10) Penn State (8-7, 0-3); LW, 10
Last week: lost vs. Michigan 64-55
Yes, Nittany Lion fans, football season's over. What a downer. But good news: Penn State basketball only lost once last week! Aren't bye weeks great?
Next up: Tuesday at Illinois
11) Iowa (5-11, 0-4); LW, 11
Last week: lost at Illinois 59-42, lost vs. then-No. 10 Michigan State 71-53
Yes, Hawkeye fans, football season's over. What a downer. But good news: Iowa basketball can only lose one Big Ten game this week! Aren't bye weeks great?
Next up: Tuesday vs. Tennessee State