So as of Friday, January 23rd, how do we rate the 11 men's Big Ten basketball teams? Michigan State still leads the standings with a 5-1 record-- and I still have the Spartans ranked first. I have Illinois a narrow second over Purdue, with Ohio State fourth and the Buckeyes have a chance to move up. Ohio State has four of its next five at home, beginning with Michigan State at 3:45pm Sunday. The road game is at Indiana. Wisconsin is a shaky fifth over Minnesota sixth and neither one of them are playing very well. I have Michigan a shaky seventh over eighth place Northwestern. Even though Northwestern has played well in its last three games can the Wildcats keep it going and win at Michigan Saturday night? Penn State is ninth, even though at home Penn State is a pretty good team. Iowa is tenth and another team that clearly plays better at home (see the other night, an overtime win over Wisconsin) and Indiana is a clearcut last. The only Indiana question is will the Hoosiers win a league game this season?
But if Michigan State loses at Ohio State, the Spartans drop back to two losses with others. And the game at Iowa next week is at a site where the Spartans have struggled in the past-- and again, Iowa beat Wisconsin the other night at home to feel good about playing before its friendly crowd. As Tom Izzo says the Spartans have got to start playing better and if for any reason Goran Suton or Raymar Morgan have physical issues which prevent them from playing their best-- well then the rest of the schedule could be a bigger challenge than many of us expected just a week ago. Even though MSU won at Penn State and again at home last Saturday over Illinois, they were by no means solid wins. And the coach is well aware of all of this.