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March 2, 2007

Big Ten Breakdown: Senior Night spirit

Weekly Big Ten Update
Team Conf. Overall
Ohio State 14-1 26-3
Wisconsin 12-3 26-4
Illinois 9-6 21-9
Indiana 9-6 19-9
Michigan State 8-7 21-9
Iowa 8-7 16-13
Michigan 8-7 20-10
Purdue 8-7 19-10
Minnesota 3-13 9-21
Northwestern 2-13 13-16
Penn State 2-13 11-17
Standings as of 3/1

Best matchup: Illinois at Iowa. The Hawkeyes (16-13, 8-7) did irreparable damage to their NCAA hopes on Wednesday night with a loss at conference cellar dweller Penn State. They can't hurt the Illini's chances to go to the Big Dance because Illinois is in, but Iowa can knock the Illini down a notch or two in the seeding process. It's also senior night for Hawkeyes standout Adam Haluska, who did his part against the Nittany Lions by dropping 30 points on them.

Worst matchup: Northwestern at Purdue. The Wildcats (13-16, 2-13) have won once on the road against a Division I-A team all season. The Boilermakers (19-10, 8-7) have lost once at home all season, to top-ranked Ohio State. You safely can expect both of those trends to continue in West Lafayette on Saturday.

The pressure is on: Wisconsin. It's not pressure to make the NCAA Tournament for the Badgers because they're in. But they enter Saturday's game against Michigan State having dropped two in a row for the first time all season. One of those losses was to the Spartans on Feb. 20 when Drew Neitzel lit them up for 28 points. They'll have revenge on their minds, and they could use a solid win to get their legs under them before the Big Ten tournament.

Upset alert: Ohio State at Michigan. It's probably preposterous to think of this Wolverines team bumping off the top-ranked Buckeyes. Yet, you look around the country and Senior Day has seemed to provide quite the emotional lift to at least a couple of unranked underdogs against highly ranked teams (see Syracuse over No. 9 Georgetown and Tennessee over No. 5 Florida). And Michigan stopped Michigan State's four-game winning streak in its last outing, so maybe

Who's hot: Indiana senior guard Roderick Wilmont has hit 13 of his past 23 3-point attempts, including a school-record 9 at Northwestern on Wednesday night. He scored a career-high 31 points in the 69-65 victory over the Wildcats. Michigan guard Dion Harris has made his last 22 free-throw attempts.

Who's not: Minnesota guard Lawrence McKenzie, in the hot list the past two weeks, ended the season in a deep freeze. In the Golden Gophers' final two regular-season games he shot 3 of 21 (14.3 percent) and had five assists and 15 turnovers. Wisconsin forward Alando Tucker has made just 11-of-30 shots (36.7 percent) during the Badgers' current two-game losing streak Ohio State freshman Daequan Cook, the Buckeyes' second-leading scorer, has made just 8-of-25 shots (32 percent) over the past three games.

Must see TV: Michigan State at Wisconsin, 11 a.m., ESPN.

Key stat: The Big Ten has one team in the top 100 in the nation in scoring (Ohio State is 69th at 74.6 points per game). It has nine teams in the top 100 in the nation in scoring defense, including six in the top 25.

Bench bonus: Sophomore center Goran Suton came off the Michigan State bench and had his fifth double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds) of the season against Michigan.

They said it: "I guess you (the media) rip (Michigan coach Tommy) Amaker when he isn't heated enough and me because I am too heated. You know what? We've both won 20 games and we've both done a helluva job." Michigan State coach Tom Izzo after losing on the road to Michigan

Injury report: Wisconsin forward Brian Butch sustained a dislocated right (shooting) elbow in Sunday's loss to Ohio State. He'll be out 4-6 weeks, meaning a return this season is unlikely. Michigan State guard Drew Neitzel didn't start against Michigan on Tuesday night because of flu-like symptoms, but he still played 29 minutes. He should be 100 percent for the game at Wisconsin. Indiana guard Earl Calloway (right shoulder) missed three games before returning on Wednesday night against Northwestern. He was limited to nine minutes.

Worth noting: Michigan hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 1998. Coincidentally, the last time the Wolverines had won consecutive games at home against rival Michigan State before accomplishing the feat on Tuesday was 1997-98. Minnesota ended the season on an eight-game losing streak. Penn State's victory over Iowa on Wednesday night snapped a 13-game losing streak.

Freshman to watch: Wisconsin guard Jason Bohannon has made 9-of-16 shots over the past three games. He tied his career high of 11 points in Sunday's loss to Ohio State, shooting 4 of 7 including 3 of 3 from 3-point range.

Something you may have missed: Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson said after the Northwestern game that he believes six Big Ten teams should make the NCAA Tournament. "It's supposed to be the best 64 teams," Sampson said. "You can't tell me that we don't have six teams in our league that are among the best 64 teams in the country this year." The Big Ten has four locks Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois. Michigan State is a probable, with Purdue a strong possibility to fill a sixth spot. The Big Ten has put at least five teams into the tournament every year since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985 with the exception of the 2004 season, when it had a record-low three participants.

RPI watch: Ohio State is second and Wisconsin sixth in the latest RPI. Indiana is 22nd, and Michigan State is 23rd (up two spots). Illinois remained 32nd. Purdue is next in line at 40th.

The conference RPI stayed steady at fourth.

More Conference Breakdowns: ACC | Big 12 | SEC | Pac-10 | Big East

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