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Indiana University

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Indiana
at Iowa
When: 4 p.m. today
TV: ESPN2
Radio: 1250 AM, 92.7 FM

Big Ten tips off conference play looking like elite league

– Just how good is the Big Ten?

The Big Ten has five teams ranked in the top 12 in The Associated Press poll. That’s right, top 12. The conference has six teams ranked overall.

The Big Ten leads the nation in the RPI ratings, according to RPIratings.com, and the league is also the top-ranked conference in the Sagarin ratings.

Conference play gets under way today as Indiana opens at Iowa. Hoosiers freshman forward Jeremy Hollowell is expected to play. He missed the last three games as the school awaited a resolution of NCAA compliance issues. The NCAA accepted a self-reported secondary violation involving Hollowell and immediately reinstated his eligibility, the school said in a news release Sunday.

Purdue begins its conference season at home Wednesday against Illinois. Here’s a look at some of the top teams and players:

5 players to watch

Cody Zeller, F, Indiana: The sophomore leads the Big Ten in rebounding (7.9 per game) and is fourth in scoring (16.4). He’s a preseason All-American and National Player of the Year candidate.

Deshaun Thomas, F, Ohio State: The Bishop Luers graduate and preseason All-American leads the conference in scoring (19.8 points per game). The junior also averages 6.9 rebounds.

Brandon Paul, G, Illinois: The senior is averaging 18.7 points to lead the surprising Illini. He had a 35-point performance in a win at Gonzaga.

Trey Burke, G, Michigan: The sophomore – a preseason All-American – leads the Big Ten in assists (7.4) and is third in scoring (17.8 ppg).

Reggie Hearn, G, Northwestern: The Snider graduate ranks 10th in the conference in scoring (14.5). the senior missed the Wildcats’ last game because of an ankle injury.

4 teams to watch

Indiana: The No. 5 Hoosiers spent a large chunk of the non-conference portion of the season at No. 1 in the national rankings. Guard Victor Oladipo – another player to watch – has done a little bit of everything (13.5 points, 2.5 steals) for Indiana.

Michigan: The Wolverines are ranked No. 2 in the country led by the combination of Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. (15.8 ppg. He missed Saturday’s game with an ankle injury).

Ohio State: The No. 10 Buckeyes have two players on the All-Big Ten preseason team in Thomas and guard Aaron Craft.

Michigan State: The No. 19 Spartans have an impressive non-conference win against Kansas.

3 games to watch

Michigan State at Minnesota (today): A great early test for top-20 teams.

Michigan at Indiana (Feb. 2): ESPN GameDay will be there for a potential top-five clash. The teams meet again in the regular-season finale March 10 in Ann Arbor.

Illinois at Ohio State (March 10): Two teams ranked in the top 15. This could play a role in seeding for the NCAA tournament.

Postseason prospects

NCAA: Michigan, Indiana, Ohio State, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin

NIT: Purdue, Northwestern

Dark horse

Minnesota: The Gophers are 12-1 and their only loss is to Duke. Minnesota is healthy and has four players averaging double figures in scoring.

lpope@jg.net

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