Big Ten Daily: Time to Start Paying Attention Now

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Editor's Note: This story also runs on our Sports Illustrated Indiana site.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Just when we thought Michigan State might run away and hide with the Big Ten title, the Indiana Hoosiers kicked the door wide open on the Big Ten race Thursday night with their upset win at home over the Spartans.

Now the Big Ten standings are a jumbled mess, and we've got all sorts of teams that suddenly think they are conference title contenders.

What's it mean? Well, with the conference season almost half over, it's time to really start paying attention to the Big Ten race. So every day, I'll give you a daily report on what's going on around the league, not just with Indiana. Because, suddenly, now it really matters again, from top to bottom

It's the same in the middle of the pack, too, where NCAA Tournament bids are at stake. The Big Ten has 12 teams in the top-50, but not all of them are getting in. So we'll keep you updated on that too, plus share some of the best content from my Sports Illustrated colleagues in one spot.

Let me know what you think. Here we go:

Saturday's games: Illinois at Michigan

  • Who: No. 21 Illinois at Michigan, Noon ET (TV: Fox Sports 1)
  • What it means for Illinois: The Fighting Illini (6-2 in the Big Ten, 14-5 overall) suddenly find themselves tied for the conference lead after grabbing their first win in 12 years at Purdue on Tuesday night. That, combined with Michigan State's loss, puts the Illini and Spartans alone at the top at 6-2. Their first road test after reaching the top of the mountain is a tough one, though, and it's going to be interesting to see how they respond on the road. Illinois is 2-2 in road games, but also has played the toughest slate, losing at Maryland and Michigan State, and winning at Purdue and Wisconsin.
  • What it means for Michigan: Winning at home is critical in the Big Ten, so the Wolverines (2-5 in the Big Ten, 11-7 overall) are under the gun Saturday after losing at home to Penn State earlier this week. The Wolverines aren't shooting the ball well, and they aren't the same team without standout forward Isaiah Livers. It's step-up time for Juwan Howard's team, which wasn't expected to hang around near the bottom of the B1G standings.
  • The line: Michigan is favored by 4 points.
  • Illinois must-read stories: Illinois' Kofi Cockburn at his best when he plays angry.
  • Michigan must-read stories: Struggles go beyond Livers' absence.
IllinoisKofiCockburnMichigan
Illinois has worked its way to the top of the Big Ten standings.

Saturday's games: Nebraska at Rutgers

  • Who: Nebraska at No. 24 Rutgers, 2 p.m. ET (TV: Big Ten Network)
  • What it means for Nebraska: The Cornhuskers (2-6 in the Big Ten, 7-12 overall) have been competitive on the road, but can't quite get over the hump to get a win, going 0-4 so far. They also lost at home to Rutgers 79-62 on Jan. 3. Rutgers' thick front line is a bad matchup for them.
  • What it means for Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights (5-3 in the Big Ten, 14-5 overall) have turned the corner and seem to be a legitimate threat in the league now. They shouldn't have a problem Saturday, so this is one they need to win without any anxiety.
  • The line: Rutgers is favored by 14 points

Friday's results: Purdue 70, Wisconsin 51

  • The skinny: Evan Boudreaux got his first start of the season and led the Boilermakers to a big win. He had 10 points and 13 rebounds, leading the charge for Purdue, which dominated on the glass (42-16). Wisconsin only had two offensive rebounds all night.
  • What it means for Purdue: A lot, because the Boilermakers (4-5 in the Big Ten, 11-9 overall) couldn't have afforded a second-straight home loss. They are an NCAA Tournament bubble team at the moment because of the nine losses, but their resume is impressive with two top-5 wins (Virginia, Michigan State) in blowouts. Stacking wins going forward is a must, though.
  • What it means for Wisconsin: This might be a "burn the film and move on'' game for the Badgers (5-4 in the Big Ten, 12-8 overall). After setting a school record Tuesday by hitting 18 3-pointers, the Badgers missed their first 11 attempts against Purdue and was down by 28 points at one time. A bubble team too because of some less-than-impressive November losses, Wisconsin needs to turn it around quickly.
  • The game story: Purdue dominates glass in win over Wisconsin
  • Must-read Purdue story: Evan Boudreaux's family cancer connection makes Friday's win special
  • Must-read Wisconsin story: 3 observations from Wisconsin's loss

Upcoming schedule

SUNDAY

  • No. 17 Maryland at Indiana, 1 p.m. ET (TV: CBS)
  • No. 11 Michigan State at Minnesota, 3 p.m. ET (TV: Fox)
  • Ohio State at Northwestern, 6:30 p.m. ET (TV: Big Ten Network)

Big Ten Standings

Current Big Ten Standings CLICK HERE

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