This is Amelia Rayno's second season on the Gophers' basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno
How close in talent level are Big Ten champions Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan? Well, nationally, there are just four spots – 7 through 10 -- that separate them in the AP rankings at regular season's end. It should be an interesting Big Ten tournament this year, especially with Indiana jumping up three spots to join Wisconsin in the top 15.
There is less than a month left before the Big Ten tournament now, but there’s still a lot left to shake out. The frenzy leading up to March is in full force and more than half of the Big Ten is in the mix, fighting for spots.
Some quick thoughts as I look around the Big Ten:
Best team of the week: Purdue. With the Boilermakers firmly on the bubble, Purdue is making a case that it belongs. Two wins – against Northwestern and at Illinois (also both bubble teams) were huge for the tough road ahead that features Michigan State, Michigan and Indiana.
Worst team of the week: Minnesota. Sorry, Gophers fans. The hometown team had two opportunities against great teams – taking Wisconsin to overtime and pulling back to striking distance against Ohio State (who knows what could have happened if not for that 21-point hole earlier) – that would have really aided an NCAA tournament resume.
Player who impressed: Cody Zeller. The tougher-than-nails freshman has been huge in Indiana’s three-game winning streak, and has scored at least 22 points in each of the Hoosiers last two games. The performances earned him a finalist spot for the Wayman Tisdale award.
1. The Gophers are still counted in … for now. As of yesterday, CBS sports bracketologist Jerry Palm has the Gophers getting in the tournament as a 10-seed.
2. Indiana could be finding its stroke again -- and at the right time of year, too. The Hoosiers have now won three straight. We’ve talked about them losing games recently, but has anyone forgotten just how impressive this turnaround is?
3. Illinois might be in a worse spot than Minnesota. The records are identical, but the road ahead for the Illini might be even tougher than that of the Gophers. Illinois still has to play games against Michigan and AT Ohio State and Wisconsin. Plus, this team – which was once ranked – has now lost seven of its last eight. Ouch.
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