This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's 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

Some thoughts on Big Ten teams heading into conference play

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: December 31, 2013 - 9:35 AM

These capsules on each Big Ten team were published in today's Star Tribune (along with my story on Wisconsin's success) ahead of the official start of Big Ten season this afternoon, but I thought I'd share them here as well, in order of how I rank the teams in the league right now. Gophers fans should not get overly excited about the fact that I rank Minnesota (gasp!) sixth in the league right now. It doesn't mean I change my final prediction for the Gophers (I don't), and really, it's more of a statement about other teams disappointing rather than Minnesota impressing right now. Of course, these rankings are meant to reflect what has already happened, not what is to come -- and as wel all know, what really matters is January and February.

1. Wisconsin
Record: 13-0
Outlook: It's hard to call the Badgers' non-conference schedule anything but a success, with Wisconsin -- behind very balanced production -- skyrocketing up the AP poll to No. 4.
Player to watch: Sam Dekker 14.5 points, 6.2 rebounds a game. The 6-7 forward has really developed into a complete player in his second year, rooting a frontcourt that lost all of its starters.
Defining stat: Wisconsin's schedule so far is ranked third in the country by ESPN.com.

2. Ohio State: 
Record: 13-0
Outlook: There might not be a star like there was a year ago, with Deshaun Thomas, but the Buckeyes are getting it done with stellar defense and a wide range of scorers.
Player to watch: Lenzelle Smith Jr. 13.4 points, 5.2 rebounds a game. LaQuinton Ross was supposed to run away with the team accolades, but early on, it's Smith who has impressed, also getting to the free-throw line 48 times, where he has made 81 percent of his shots.
Defining stat: The Buckeyes are holding opponents to 24.3 percent of their attempts from three-point range, the best defense behind the arc in the nation.

3. Michigan State:
Record: 11-1
Outlook: The Spartans have dealt with injury issues all season and still the only blip on the radar was an ugly loss to North Carolina. Michigan State, which beat now No. 15 Kentucky in the second game of the year, topped off their non-conference schedule with a very convincing 101-48 win over New Orleans.
Player to watch: Keith Appling: 15.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5 assists a game. The Spartans are brimming with players to watch, but Appling, despite dealing with a sore hip, has been absolutely phenomenal in guiding MSU.
Defining stat: Four of the Spartans' five starters are averaging double-digits.

4. Iowa:
Record: 11-2
Outlook: The Hawkeyes have definitely been the Big Ten's surprise team of the year so far, combining harassing defense with impressive effort on the boards to find early success.
Player to watch: Aaron White: 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds a game. In his junior year, White is becoming everything he's shown the raw talent to be, scoring in a variety of ways and battling in the paint.
Defining stat: Iowa is grabbing 39.8 percent of available offensive rebounds, good for 16th best in the nation according to Kenpom.com.

5. Michigan:
Record: 8-4
Outlook: It's fair to criticize the Wolverines, who recently dropped out of the national AP rankings after landing at No. 7 in the preseason poll. But this young squad has already faced Duke, Arizona, Florida State and Iowa State. They will only learn and grow from here.
Player to watch: Glenn Robinson III: 14.2 points, 5 rebounds a game. With Mitch McGary out with a back injury, and scheduled to have surgery, Robinson will need to be the heart of the frontcourt more than ever.
Defining stat: The Wolverines have posted a 13.8 turnover percentage, seventh best in the country.

6. Gophers:
Record: 11-2
Outlook: Minnesota has faced some good teams this season, and hasn't totally been embarrassed, overcoming glaring shortcomings in the frontcourt, for the most part.
Player to watch: DeAndre Mathieu: 11.9 points, 4.8 assists a game. The JUCO point guard has been a Godsend to new coach Richard Pitino, making his up-tempo, pressing system run with ease. Can Mathieu keep up his impressive production in the Big Ten? It will be a new challenge for the 5-9 guard.
Defining stat: The entire frontcourt is providing just 18.6 rebounds a game. That leaves a lot of work for the guards.

7. Indiana:
Record: 10-3
Outlook: If the Hoosiers are going to compete with the cream of the crop in the league, they've got to learn how to beat good teams. With their only wins coming over cupcakes, the young Indiana might be in for a surprise at the start of league play.
Player to watch: Noah Vonleh: 12 points, 9.5 rebounds a game. The freshman has provided big production so far, and even more will be expected of him. On a young team, players have to grow up fast.
Defining stat: The Hoosiers are 0-3 against the only top-100 teams they've played this season.

8. Illinois:
Record: 11-2
Outlook: A neutral-court win over Missouri has given the Illini something to feel good about as they ease into January. If Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand can take the next step, Illinois could be intriguing in the Big Ten.
Player to watch: Rayvonte Rice: 18.2 points, 5.5 rebounds a game. After sitting out last year after transferring from Drake, Rice has become the go-to player on his new team, shooting .500 from the field.
Defining stat: The Illini have held opponents to 40.2 percent shooting.

9. Purdue: 
Record: 10-3
Outlook: After a few neutral-court losses, perhaps a win over West Virginia on the road gives the Boilermakers a little steam just as things heat up in the conference.
Player to watch: AJ Hammons: 8 points, 6.8 rebounds a game. The 7-foot center hasn't the sophomore leap Purdue fans were hoping for, just yet, but his size will be a commodity in the Big Ten. How quickly can he grow?
Defining stat: Purdue blocks 6.3 shots a game.

10. Penn State:
Record: 9-4
Outlook: It's pretty obvious from once glance at their Kenpom.com page -- the Nittany Lions are highly improved from a year ago, starting with their stellar backcourt, which happens to be one of the best in the country.
Player to watch: Tim Frazier: 18.2 points, 7.5 rebounds per game. He's back and it seems he hasn't missed a beat, rooting a strong backcourt that also includes D.J. Newbill and Pittsburgh transfer John Johnson. 
Defining stat: Penn State is making 54.1 percent of its two-point shots.

11. Nebraska:
Record: 8-4
Outlook: The Huskers might be at least another year away. Early on, they've struggled against good teams and haven't run away with many games, even against very mediocre teams.
Player to watch: Ray Gallegos: 8.7 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists. The senior guard needs to do more for the Huskers, who are far and away being led by sophomore Terran Petteway. 
Defining stat: Opponents are grabbing 1.4 rebounds a game more than Nebraska.

12. Northwestern:
Record: 7-6
Outlook: New head coach Chris Collins has a ways to go with his crew, which is firmly in transition mode after becoming accustomed to Bill Carmody's Princeton offense.
Player to watch: Drew Crawford: 16.4 points, 7.8 rebounds a game. After returning from season-ending shoulder surgery a year ago, the fifth-year senior has been a force when he's been able to stay on the court. This year, Crawford has been dealing with back spasms.
Defining stat: The Wildcats are making just 41.5 percent of their shots from the field.

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Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 33 FINAL
Dallas 10
Seattle 19 FINAL
San Francisco 3
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Edmonton 0 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 1
ULM 54 FINAL
Robert Morris 71
Santa Clara 57 FINAL
Tennessee 64
Oklahoma 59 FINAL
Butler 46
Austin Peay 79 FINAL
Brown 58
Princeton 56 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 62
Coastal Carolina 67 FINAL
Chattanooga 78
Kansas 76 FINAL
Rhode Island 60
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
Georgetown 65
FIU 53 FINAL
USC Upstate 68
Long Island 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 73
San Diego 71 FINAL
Xavier 82
Illinois 88 FINAL
Indiana State 62
Cal State Fullerton 67 FINAL
Wright State 62
Western Ky 62 FINAL
Saint Josephs 59
Michigan State 77 FINAL
Rider 45
UCLA 56 FINAL
North Carolina 78
Long Beach State 73 FINAL
Western Mich 55
Marquette 72 FINAL
Georgia Tech 70
Stephen F Austin 73 FINAL
Prairie View 61
UAB 47 FINAL
Florida 56
Rice 71 FINAL
Mercer 77
San Jose St 56 FINAL
Washington 78
Washington St 43 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 71
Baylor 71 FINAL
Memphis 47
LSU 23 FINAL
Texas A&M 17
(6) TCU 48 FINAL
Texas 10
Northern Ill 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Hartford 43 FINAL
Furman 53
Clemson 77 FINAL
Ohio State 86
Idaho State 53 FINAL
San Diego State 68
East Carolina 58 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 69
Santa Clara 0 Cancelled
Texas-El Paso 0
Florida State 68 FINAL
Washington 80
Wichita State 39 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 56
Wisconsin 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 67
Kansas State 0 Cancelled
LSU 0
BYU 73 FINAL
BYU-Hawaii 52
Charlotte 58 FINAL
Montana 67
Illinois 77 FINAL
(9) Kentucky 71
Central Michigan 61 FINAL
Richmond 56
Oklahoma 68 FINAL
South Florida 83
Princeton 72 FINAL
Wake Forest 55
(19) Oregon State 85 FINAL
Butler 53
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pm

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