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

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

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 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.


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Milwaukee 115 FINAL
Orlando 100
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 103
Denver 69 FINAL
Memphis 99
Chicago 27 2nd Qtr 9:37
LA Lakers 34
Montreal 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 0
Winnipeg 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Boston 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Arizona 3 FINAL
Toronto 1
Dallas 6 FINAL
Ottawa 3
Detroit 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 5
Columbus 2 FINAL
Florida 3
Nashville 4 FINAL(SO)
St. Louis 5
Minnesota 1 3rd Prd 16:34
Calgary 0
Buffalo 1 3rd Prd
Edmonton 2
Anaheim 1 2nd Prd
San Jose 1
DePaul 72 FINAL
Providence 83
Michigan State 71 FINAL
Rutgers 51
Boston Univ 67 FINAL
Army 71
Fla Atlantic 61 FINAL
Charlotte 86
Youngstown St 87 FINAL
Detroit 93
East Tenn St 55 FINAL
Furman 59
Saint Louis 60 FINAL
George Mason 68
USC Upstate 78 FINAL
Jacksonville 65
High Point 72 FINAL
Liberty 53
Central Conn St 55 FINAL
Long Island 67
Western Ky 56 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 69
Dayton 64 FINAL
Massachusetts 66
Chattanooga 72 FINAL
Mercer 75
Wofford 58 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 42
Maryland 56 FINAL
Ohio State 80
Old Dominion 71
Fair-Dickinson 65 FINAL
Robert Morris 87
Mount St Marys 67 FINAL
St Francis-NY 73
Bryant 68 FINAL
St Francis-PA 75
Northern Ky 75 FINAL
Stetson 85
Coll of Charleston 70 FINAL
Towson 74
Western Carolina 85 FINAL
Va Military 70
Sacred Heart 64 FINAL
Wagner 75
Lipscomb 62 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 78
Kennesaw St 67 FINAL
North Florida 86
Appalachian St 46 FINAL
Ga Southern 83
Holy Cross 54 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 64
Eastern Ill 51 FINAL
UT Martin 81
Jacksonville St 82 FINAL
Belmont 103
Connecticut 58 FINAL
Cincinnati 70
Rider 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 49
SIU Edwardsville 75 FINAL
SE Missouri St 61
Marshall 69 FINAL
Southern Miss 54
Tenn Tech 56 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Middle Tennessee 58 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 69
Ill-Chicago 65 FINAL
Milwaukee 71
Weber State 67 FINAL
North Dakota 60
Denver 54 FINAL
North Dakota St 61
IUPU-Ft Wayne 66 FINAL
South Dakota 55
Louisiana 85 FINAL
South Alabama 89
Ark-Little Rock 75 FINAL
Arkansas State 65
Georgia State 88 FINAL
Texas-Arlington 74
Troy 55
Portland 46 FINAL
Gonzaga 64
Kentucky 64 2nd Half 3:03
Missouri 46
Eastern Ky 70 2nd Half 0:25
Murray State 70
UAB 66 2nd Half 0:12
Texas-El Paso 70
Idaho State 76 FINAL
Northern Colorado 79
UMKC 53 2nd Half 3:48
Grand Canyon 70
Chicago State 60 2nd Half 0:40
Utah Valley U 78
Colorado 59 2nd Half 9:38
USC 50
Cal Poly 25 2nd Half
UC Irvine 34
Hawaii 50 2nd Half
CS-Northridge 34
Pepperdine 24 2nd Half 18:35
Pacific 27
Santa Clara 22 2nd Half
San Diego 32
Utah 30 2nd Half
UC Santa Barbara 35 2nd Half
UC Davis 37
Montana 36 2nd Half 18:23
Portland State 33
Montana State 35 2nd Half 18:43
Sacramento St 38
Long Beach State 20 1st Half 7:35
Cal State Fullerton 25
Loyola Marymount 27 1st Half 6:22
St Marys-CA 22
San Francisco 10:00 PM
California 10:00 PM
Washington St
Louisiana 47 FINAL
South Alabama 57
Saint Josephs 51 FINAL
Saint Louis 52
Appalachian St 77 FINAL
Georgia Southern 74
Niagara 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 65
Old Dominion 80 FINAL
FIU 67
Southern Miss 65 FINAL
Marshall 67
Georgia State 45 FINAL
TX-Arlington 57
Ark-Little Rock 69 FINAL
Arkansas State 70
Troy 90
Pittsburgh 45 FINAL
(17) Duke 62
(6) Tennessee 73 FINAL
(10) Kentucky 72
(24) Oklahoma 81 FINAL
(14) Texas 84
Nebraska Omaha 59 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 70
UC-Riverside 68 FINAL
CS-Northridge 56
Army 65 FINAL
Boston U 40
New Orleans 40 FINAL
Nicholls 56
Charlotte 68 FINAL
Florida Atlantic 71
Towson 54 FINAL
Delaware 72
Hofstra 66 FINAL
Northeastern 45
New Hampshire 56 FINAL
Maine 87
Albany 89 FINAL
Vermont 48
Hartford 60 FINAL
Stony Brook 58
UNC-Wilmington 62 FINAL
William & Mary 67
Clemson 62 FINAL
Wake Forest 64
Alabama 54 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 85
(23) Syracuse 58 FINAL
(8) Louisville 78
Missouri 68 FINAL
Florida 52
Iona 66 FINAL
Fairfield 77
Manhattan 38 FINAL
Marist 77
NC State 63 FINAL
Virginia 71
(4) Notre Dame 74 FINAL
Virginia Tech 50
(22) Rutgers 58 FINAL
Purdue 49
(5) Maryland 91 FINAL
Michigan 65
Milwaukee 58 FINAL
Cleveland State 67
Wright State 108 FINAL
Oakland 89
Jacksonville 64 FINAL
USC Upstate 66
North Florida 40 FINAL
Kennesaw St 46
Stetson 62 FINAL
Northern Ky 68
Loyola-Maryland 57 FINAL
Holy Cross 51
Lamar 87 FINAL
Sam Houston St 68
Fla Gulf Coast 71 FINAL
Lipscomb 49
Vanderbilt 44 FINAL
(18) Miss State 69
Western Ill 73
Abilene Christian 53 FINAL
Houston Baptist 50
Incarnate Word 54 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 63
McNeese State 78 FINAL
SE Louisiana 57
Oral Roberts 46 FINAL
South Dakota St 71
Louisiana Tech 66 FINAL
Western Ky 82
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 73
Texas-El Paso 52 FINAL
UAB 67
Auburn 47 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Grand Canyon 65 FINAL
Illinois 57 FINAL
(15) Nebraska 59
(20) Iowa 102 FINAL
Northwestern 99
Utah Valley U 55 FINAL
Chicago State 60
Green Bay 67 FINAL
Valparaiso 52
Ole Miss 41 FINAL
LSU 70
Portland State 31 FINAL
Montana 72
Sacramento St 64 FINAL
Montana State 91
North Dakota 55 FINAL
Weber State 48
Ohio State 85 FINAL
Wisconsin 73
Northern Colorado 61 FINAL
Idaho State 70
BYU 37 2nd Half 16:25
San Francisco 29
St Marys-CA 31 2nd Half 20:00
Loyola Marymount 23
Pacific 41 2nd Half 18:33
Pepperdine 31
Cal-Irvine 29 2nd Half
UC Santa Barbara 23
San Diego 38 2nd Half
Santa Clara 28
UC Davis 30 2nd Half 16:57
Cal Poly 44
Long Beach St 10:59 PM
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