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February 1, 2008

Badgers look to keep Minnesota down

MORE BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Pac-10 | SEC

Purdue at Illinois
Ohio State at Iowa
Michigan State at Penn State
Northwestern at Indiana
Wisconsin at Minnesota
Michigan at Ohio State
Penn State at Purdue
Minnesota at Northwestern
Wisconsin at Iowa
Indiana at Illinois

Best matchup: Wisconsin at Minnesota. In a week largely devoid of exciting matchups, this is the best of the bunch. The Badgers had a hiccup at Purdue last Saturday, but they're still in fine shape to finish in the upper division of the conference and secure an NCAA bid. The Golden Gophers opened the season strongly, winning 12 of their first 15 games. Since then they've lost twice to Michigan State as well as falling to Indiana and at Ohio State. There's no shame in any of those losses, but it would be nice to post a win over a quality team before any hope of playing in the postseason fades from view.

The pressure is on: Indiana freshman Eric Gordon. Indiana plays at Illinois on Thursday, and you can bet Illinois fans circled this one on the calendar the minute Gordon switched his commitment from the Illini to the Hoosiers. Nothing like losing a possible Big Ten Player of the Year to your hated rival after believing you had him locked up. Gordon has helped propel Indiana into first place in the conference by averaging a conference-leading 21.7 ppg. The shooting guard had 17 points in the first meeting, won by Indiana 62-58. Illinois is reeling, losing seven of its last nine to fall to 10-12, 2-7 in the Big Ten. It never would have gotten this bad if Gordon had signed with the Illini.

Upset alert: Purdue at Illinois. Bruce Weber needs a win badly. The Boilermakers (16-5, 7-1) are riding a six-game winning streak, and they're one of the biggest surprises in the nation. Coach Matt Painter is relying heavily on a recruiting class that Rivals.com ranked No. 6 in the country, and they're producing. Illinois' record is a little deceiving: They've played close games during their recent woes. Ohio State is the only conference team to beat Illinois by more than 10 points.

RPI watch: The Big Ten is the land of the haves and have-nots. Four teams (No. 7 Michigan State, No. 19 Ohio State, No. 23 Wisconsin and No. 34 Indiana) all have RPIs in the top 35. Five teams have RPIs outside the top 100 (No. 111 Illinois, No. 146 Iowa, No. 152 Penn State, No. 168 Michigan, and No. 210 Northwestern). Purdue is 59th, and Minnesota is 77th.

Key stat: Six conference teams rank among the nation's top 50 in scoring defense, holding their opponents to less than 62 ppg. Wisconsin leads the Big Ten and is third in the country, holding its opponents to 54.7 points per game.

Freshmen to watch: Purdue guard E'Twaun Moore. Moore has scored in double figures in three consecutive games while shooting 16 of 31 including 6-for-14 from 3-point range during that stretch. Moore also has 14 assists and only four turnovers over his last four games. Michigan guard Manny Harris has scored in double figures in 10 of his last 11 games. Northwestern guard Michael Thompson has scored at least 13 points in three of his last four games. Thompson collected 18 points, seven assists and a career-high seven rebounds Wednesday in a 68-59 victory over Texas-Pan American.

Who's hot: Ohio State guard Jamar Butler has averaged 23.5 points per game in his last two outings. Ohio State forward Othello Hunter has shot 40-for-61 over his last 10 games. Turner also has averaged 8.3 rebounds per game in his last four contests. Wisconsin guard/forward Joe Krabbenhoft has made more than half of his shot attempts in seven consecutive games. He is shooting 23-for-34 during that stretch.

Who's not: Michigan forward DeShawn Sims has shot 5-for-26 in his last two games. Sims also has shot 6-for-14 from the free-throw line in his last five games. Northwestern guard Craig Moore has shot 3-for-16 in his last two games. Ohio State guard/forward David Lighty has shot 4-for-15 and has eight turnovers with two assists in his last two games. Penn State guard Danny Morrissey has shot 8-for-32 in his last five games.

Worth noting: Indiana's Eric Gordon and D. J. White lead the Big Ten in combined points per game among teammates. Ranked first and second in the conference in scoring, Gordon and White are trying to become the first Big Ten teammates to finish first and second in scoring since Michigan's Glen Rice and Gary Grant finished first and second in the conference in 1987-88. Michigan State guard Drew Neitzel is among the nation's leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.27. Spartans coach Tom Izzo, who celebrated his 53rd birthday on Wednesday with a victory over Illinois, is 5-1 on Jan. 30 in his career. Michigan State won despite going 0-for-9 from 3-point range. It was the first time the Spartans did not make a 3-pointer since Feb. 21, 1999, when Michigan State went 0-for-4 from beyond the arc and defeated Wisconsin 56-51 at the Breslin Center. Iowa has won 10 of its last 12 home games against ranked opponents.

MORE BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Pac-10 | SEC

Bob McClellan is the basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.

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