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Posted on Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Michigan State leads pack of four (including Michigan) in Big Ten title race

By Nick Baumgardner

This thing's about to get interesting.

Michigan State shook up the Big Ten basketball standings by dumping Ohio State on the road, moving into a first-place tie and giving Michigan and Wisconsin new life with less than a month to play.

Four teams sit within a game of one another. From here on out, the pressure just keeps increasing.

Here are this week's rankings:


Michigan State's Brandon Wood (30), Keith Appling (11) and Branden Dawson (22) celebrate their 58-48 win at Ohio State on Saturday.

AP Photo

Driver's seat

No. 7 Michigan State (20-5, 9-3)

Last week: W 77-57 vs. Penn State, W 58-48 at No. 3 Ohio State

Up next: vs. No. 15 Wisconsin (Thursday), at Purdue (Sunday)

The Spartans snapped Ohio State's 39-game home-court winning streak and officially moved into sole possession of the wheel with less than a month to go. The good news: MSU's lone remaining bout with Ohio State comes at home. The bad news: The Spartans still have to visit Indiana, Purdue and Minnesota.


No. 6 Ohio State (21-4, 9-3)

Last week: W 87-84 vs. Purdue, L 58-48 vs. No. 11 Michigan State

Up next: at Minnesota (Tuesday), at No. 17 Michigan (Saturday)

Ohio State finally met its match at home last weekend, but not all is lost. Ohio State still has a shot at revenge when it travels to East Lansing on the final day of the regular season (March 4). But first, the Buckeyes will have to survive a week on the road -- including a possible season-changing tilt at rival Michigan on Saturday.

No. 17 Michigan (19-7, 9-4)

Last week: W 62-46 at Nebraska, W 70-61 vs. Illinois

Up next: vs. Ohio State (Saturday)

They're not dead yet. Not even close, actually. Michigan hits its lone off week of the season just one-half game behind Ohio State and Michigan State for the conference lead. And, of the four contenders, the Wolverines have far and away the easiest remaining schedule. Michigan's hardest game (Saturday vs. Ohio State) will come with an ESPN College GameDay home crowd at its back.

No. 15 Wisconsin (19-6, 8-4)

Last week: W 68-61 (OT) at Minnesota

Up next: at No. 7 Michigan State (Thursday), vs. Penn State (Sunday)

Much like Michigan, Wisconsin has a chance to scramble the top of the Big Ten standings Thursday when it visits East Lansing. The Badgers have now won seven of their last eight after suffering a three-game losing skid in early January.

Still tourney bound

No. 23 Indiana (19-6, 7-6)

Last week: W 84-71 vs. Illinois

Up next: vs. Northwestern (Wednesday), at Iowa (Sunday)

The Hoosiers continue to fight for NCAA seeding at this point, and a lopsided win over Illinois last week helps. From here on out, the Hoosiers have an extremely favorable schedule. Outside of a remaining home game against Michigan State, the Hoosiers won't likely face a ranked foe the rest of the way.


Upsetting Michigan State on Sunday would be one way to get Purdue and coach Matt Painter, above, off the NCAA bubble.

AP Photo

Bubbled up

Purdue (16-9, 6-6)

Last week: L 87-84 at Ohio State, W 87-77 vs. Northwestern

Up next: at Illinois (Wednesday), vs. No. 7 Michigan State (Sunday)

Purdue seems to be one really impressive win away from moving off the bubble, and the Boilermakers nearly got it at Ohio State last week. If Purdue can score a road win at Illinois and stun Michigan State at home Sunday, Matt Painter and company will make it extremely difficult for the committee to leave them at home come March.

Minnesota (17-8, 5-7)

Last week: L 68-61 vs. No. 21 Wisconsin

Up next: vs. No. 6 Ohio State (Tuesday), at Northwestern (Saturday)

Minnesota really, really, needed a home win over Wisconsin last week, but couldn't seal the deal in overtime. Now, the Gophers have an uphill climb to NCAA Tournament security. Minnesota still has to play Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Plenty of upset chances, but also very little room for error against top-notch competition.

Illinois (16-9, 5-7)

Last week: L 84-71 at No. 23 Indiana, L 70-61 at No. 22 Michigan

Up next: vs. Purdue (Wednesday), at Nebraska (Saturday)

The Bruce Weber train is now dangerously close to rolling off the tracks. Illinois has dropped six of its last seven and, despite wins over Michigan State and Ohio State, the Illini find themselves firmly on the bubble. Remember, part of the NCAA selection process is how a team finishes the season. If this skid holds up, Illinois might be NIT-bound.

Northwestern (15-9, 5-7)

Last week: W 83-64 vs. Iowa, L 87-77 at Purdue

Up next: at No. 18 Indiana (Wednesday), vs. Minnesota (Saturday)

I've still got the Wildcats on the bubble, but barely. Northwestern still has a top 50 RPI, but the Wildcats just haven't been able to build on their lone signature win over Michigan State. With nine losses already, one signature win might not cut it. Beating Indiana on the road this week would certainly help.

Outside looking in

Iowa (13-12, 5-7)

Last week: L 83-64 at Northwestern

Up next: at Penn State (Thursday), vs. No. 20 Indiana (Sunday)

The Iowa "finish above .500" watch is officially on. And, getting pasted at Northwestern last week certainly did this cause no favors. Earlier this season, I said Iowa still had one upset left in its chamber. I stand by that. So, look out Indiana and Wisconsin.

Penn State (11-15, 3-10)

Last week: L 77-57 at No. 11 Michigan State, W 67-51 vs. Nebraska

Up next: vs. Iowa (Thursday), at No. 15 Wisconsin (Sunday)

Tim Frazier finished one assist shy of a triple-double in a beatdown of Nebraska with 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. At this point, it's the small things that count for Penn State

Nebraska (11-13, 3-10)

Last week: L 62-46 vs. No. 22 Michigan, L 67-51 at Penn State

Up next: vs. Illinois (Saturday)

Has Nebraska quit? That's certainly a topic for debate in Lincoln right now. At least folks will have a week to mull it over, as the Huskers don't return to action until Saturday.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.

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Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 12:06 a.m.

Finally, I don't think one win makes MSU a better team than OSU. OSU has played more consistently against similar competition. MSU has not yet earned a #1 B1G ranking. If they run the table they will have earned it but don't count on it. I do like our #4 seed prediction in Bracketology. To keep it, we can lose to TTDS, win the rest, and win one game in the B1G tourney. That's pretty doable.


Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 6:05 a.m.

It's true, I went to that other school in East Lansing and we never used any of those acronyms. In fact I doubt that anyone who actually WENT to ANY of these schools ever used or uses them.


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 10:48 p.m.

Pretty sure in east lansing they call Michigan michigan and ohio state ohio state . . . they may add f' em afterwards....


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 4:21 a.m.

TTDS = OSU (that team down south) TTIEL = MSU (that team in East Lansing) we are TTUN to Columbus and TTOT to East Lansing


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 3:09 a.m.

Don't want to sound too stupid (easy for me!!)... What is TTIEL? TTDS? Michigan is indeed in the thick of things. I don't see us beating Ohio this weekend, but you never know, and Michigan has played significantly better at home. The road games are winnable. Michigan has itself in a good spot. Thing that hurts most, as I've maintained all year, is that Iowa loss. That separates us from first place right now.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 11:46 p.m.

This has gotten too predictable. For how many straight weeks, we get this article telling us we are better than the national consensus. We Wolverines are as guilty as anyone I know of overconfidence and denial. We drink our own bathwater and don't even know it. Go to the Columbus site and there is very little if any of this nonsense. They are straight shooters, self-critical, and thoughtful. Same for TTIEL. My humble (if there is room for that in this forum) is that we would be better and more competitive if we learned from them. Just my $0.02. Go Blue!


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 11:57 p.m.

*reviewing what I wrote, need to caveat a couple of things, "by and large," go to the Columbus site...." There are always irrational homers. And TTIEL is not as self-critical overall as Columbus but neither do they wear rose-colored glasses. If you spend any amount of time on the TTIEL site you will find an inordinate amount of obnoxious UM homers. I hate the cr*p we get from MSU homers over here but it is much worse over there. I think this accounts for the difference between TTIEL and TTDS as there are very few UM trolls on the Columbus site.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

Nobody got humbled by a one point loss this week?