Five points essentially separate the two premier teams in the Big Ten.
Tom Crean's top-ranked Indiana Hoosiers can hold that title for now due to their 75-70 win in Bloomington over Tom Izzo's No. 8-ranked Michigan State Spartans, but B1G followers will see which team is the true king of the league Feb. 19 when the pair of heavyweights square off in East Lansing.
The Spartans (21-4, 10-2) are fresh off a Senior Day 2000-like thrashing of the No. 4-ranked Michigan Wolverines, who left the Breslin Center on the losing end of a 75-52 decision.
For all intents and purposes, the score misleads those who didn't witness the drama unfold. The score might as well have been 114-63—Michigan State was that dominant.
The Hoosiers (21-3, 9-2) went to Columbus and clobbered the Buckeyes, 81-68, showing that they can go on the road and impose their will on just about anyone.
The pair of wins speak volumes as to just how effective and dangerous Indiana and Michigan State are becoming, and just how lethal both teams will be during the B1G's home stretch.
It's clear that Crean and Izzo coach the conference's favorites. However, the Spartans may hold a slight advantage. Manhandling a bitter rival in a masterful performance does wonders for confidence and drive.
Izzo was impressed by his team's effort Tuesday against Michigan, although he wasn't too fired up about the pummeling. Michigan is a well-coached team that hit a Green and White bump in the road.
"We probably played our best game in three years and they [the Wolverines] probably played one of their worst," Izzo said during a post-game interview (via the Detroit Free Press).
The Spartans are nearing their apex. Typically a late-blooming team under Izzo, Michigan State is looking like a national juggernaut more and more each day.
But can Michigan State maintain its momentum?
That's one of the biggest questions facing Izzo and Co. as they look to finish as the Big Ten regular-season champions and evolve into a favorite come March Madness.