Scott Richey on Big Ten Basketball: Jan. 19, 2019

Scott Richey on Big Ten Basketball: Jan. 19, 2019

Each Saturday, we'll gauge the progress of Brad Underwood in getting his Illini back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013:

Assessment: Illinois played its most complete game of the Underwood era on Wednesday in blowing the doors off Minnesota. But one game does not a season make. Having that success be repeatable — perhaps noon Sunday at Iowa — means one dominant victory wasn't a fluke.

The standings

TEAM CONF. ALL

Michigan State 7-0 16-2

Michigan 6-0 17-0

Maryland 7-1 16-3

Purdue 4-2 11-6

Iowa 4-3 15-3

Minnesota 3-3 13-4

Indiana 3-3 12-5

Wisconsin 3-3 11-6

Nebraska 3-4 13-5

Ohio State 2-4 12-5

Northwestern 2-5 11-7

Illinois 1-5 5-12

Rutgers 1-6 8-9

Penn State 0-7 7-11

The schedule

The next week's worth of games has multiple Top 25 matchups as the league's best go head-to-head. Beat writer Scott Richey helps you prioritize your watch schedule after he posted an 8-4 record from the last week's Big Ten games:

TODAY'S GAMES

No. 2 Michigan at Wisconsin, 11 a.m., ESPN

The skinny: At this point, how can you pick against John Beilein's Wolverines? Michigan's unlikely to finish the season undefeated, but an inconsistent Wisconsin team won't be loss No. 1.

The pick: Michigan, 73-67

No. 25 Indiana at Purdue, 1 p.m., FOX

The skinny: Now's the time for the Boilermakers to start their surge back to national relevancy. Purdue's nonconference schedule was brutal, but maybe it primed the team for a Big Ten run.

The pick: Purdue, 81-73

Penn State at Minnesota, 7:30 p.m., BTN

The skinny: Can the Nittany Lions win on the road (something they haven't done all year) after coughing up a late lead at home Wednesday in a loss to Iowa? No, probably not this time.

The pick: Minnesota, 79-71

SUNDAY'S GAME

Illinois at No. 23 Iowa, Noon, BTN

The skinny: The status of Tyler Cook's ankle might decide this one. The Illini have loads of momentum after crushing Minnesota on Wednesday, but Iowa with Cook might be enough to avoid the upset.

The pick: Illinois, 84-81

MONDAY'S GAMES

No. 19 Maryland at No. 6 Michigan State, 5:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1

The skinny: The Terps have won a lot of close games to keep themselves near the top of the Big Ten standings. Don't count on this one being close enough for them to notch another win.

The pick: Michigan State, 85-74

Nebraska at Rutgers, 7 p.m., BTN

The skinny: A raucous RAC crowd paved the way for Rutgers' upset against Ohio State. Can lightning strike twice in the same month? Maybe not. Balance of talent tips too far in Nebraska's direction.

The pick: Nebraska, 79-71

TUESDAY'S GAMES

Minnesota at No. 2 Michigan, 6 p.m., BTN

The skinny: The Gophers aren't going to be the first team to beat Michigan, either. The Wolverines are simply too balanced offensively and too strong defensively in basically every way.

The pick: Michigan, 78-63

No. 25 Indiana at Northwestern, 8 p.m., BTN

The skinny: Indiana barely escaped with a two-point win home against Northwestern in December, and somebody other than Romeo Langford or Juwan Morgan really needs to do something.

The pick: Northwestern, 66-63

WEDNESDAY'S GAMES

Purdue at Ohio State, 6 p.m., BTN

The skinny: Purdue's run continues in Columbus. A team that can limit the Buckeyes' Kaleb Wesson (like Iowa did) is the team that can beat Ohio State. Purdue has the bigs to make it happen.

The pick: Purdue, 73-70

Wisconsin at Illinois, 8 p.m., BTN

The skinny: What gives first? A potentially resurgent Illini or the Badgers' dominance in the series? Wisconsin has won its last 13 games against Illinois. And still has Ethan Happ.

The pick: Wisconsin, 69-62

THURSDAY'S GAME

No. 6 Michigan State at No. 23 Iowa, 6 p.m., Fox Sports 1

The skinny: The way things are playing out now, the Spartans are going to make a similar run through the Big Ten as Michigan. They're not even at full strength and can't be slowed down.

The pick: Michigan State 86-74

FRIDAY'S GAME

No. 2 Michigan at No. 25 Indiana, 5:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1

The skinny: Here's where Michigan's unbeaten run to start the season could end. It'll be the Wolverines' third game in seven days and second of three away from the comforts of home.

The pick: Indiana, 81-76

Award watch

How N-G college basketball writer Scott Richey views the race for top Big Ten honors:

Illini MVP

PLAYER, POS. PREV.

Ayo Dosunmu, G 1

Giorgi Bezhanishvili, F 2

Trent Frazier, G 3

Andres Feliz, G —

Tevian Jones, G —

Richey's take: Dosunmu and Bezhanishvili only solidified their place atop the Illinois MVP race when they combined for 43 points in the blowout win against Minnesota. Dosunmu was maybe expected, but Bezhanishvili continues to be a revelation.

Big Ten MVP

PLAYER, SCHOOL PREV.

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin 1

Carsen Edwards, Purdue 2

Cassius Winston, Michigan St. 3

Zavier Simpson, Michigan 5

Nick Ward, Michigan St. —

Richey's take: Winston has not only increased both his scoring (from 12.6 to 17.6 ppg) and assists (from 6.9 to 7.4 apg) this season, but he's still making better than 50 percent of his three-pointers. There's no doubting his importance in East Lansing, Mich.

Freshman of the Year

PLAYER, SCHOOL PREV.

Romeo Langford, Indiana 1

Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois 2

Ignas Brazdeikis, Michigan 3

Jalen Smith, Maryland 4

Joe Wieskamp, Iowa —

Richey's take: How many of those freshmen might wind up one-and-done? Langford's projected to the Wizards at No. 6 in the latest ESPN mock draft, and Dosunmu falls at No. 25 to the Warriors. Smith's not there yet, but he could be with his size and length.

Coach of the Year

COACH, SCHOOL PREV.

John Beilein, Michigan 1

Tom Izzo, Michigan State 2

Mark Turgeon, Maryland 5

Fran McCaffery, Iowa 4

Tim Miles, Nebraska 3

Richey's take: Perhaps you've heard Maryland is the fifth-youngest team in the nation. It's become a popular talking point as the Terrapins have worked their way into the Top 25, but what Turgeon is doing with that group so far is pretty impressive.

Dance cards

SCHOOL STATUS

Michigan NCAA

Michigan State NCAA

Maryland NCAA

Iowa NCAA

Nebraska NCAA

Wisconsin NCAA

Indiana NCAA

Ohio State NCAA

Purdue NCAA

Minnesota NIT

Rutgers CBI

Northwestern Home

Illinois Home

Penn State Home

Richey's take: The Big Ten might not get double-digit NCAA tournament bids, but the league should still sit atop that particular list just in front of the ACC.

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