Big Ten basketball begins conference action today, but unfortunately, the conference's football bowl games might overshadow a lot of great match-ups.
The league won the Big Ten-ACC Challenge and appeared to be stronger this year than they have in the recent past. Teams have only played a dozen games against uneven competition, so there are still a few unanswered questions for teams.
There have been a few surprises, like the great early-season play by Northwestern, but there have also been some disappointments, like Ohio State's Evan Turner breaking bones in his back.
As conference play begins, teams look to fully establish their identities.
Purdue vs Iowa
When : Tuesday, 7:05 PM EST
Where : Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, IA.
What Channel : Big Ten Network
Iowa will have its hands full with their Big Ten opener this season when the fourth-ranked Purdue Boilermakers (11-0) come to Iowa City to play the struggling Hawkeyes (5-7). The Hawkeyes are a far cry away from the 10-3 mark they had entering Big Ten play last year, but they look to cash in on recent momentum.
"Big Ten's coming, it's coming full force. There's no time to take off," proclaimed Iowa's Jarryd Cole to an Iowa newspaper.
Iowa went 5-4 at home in the Big Ten last season, but will have a hard time topping that mark this year. The Hawkeyes will be playing without Anthony Tucker, who was suspended indefinitely following an incident with a cabbie. Sophomore Matt Gatens and freshman Cully Payne will pick up the slack.
The Boilermakers will use their tough defense and leave-leading tournover margin to to make it three straight victories over the Hawkeyes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Penn State vs Minnesota
When : Tuesday, 9:00 PM EST
Where : Williams Arena in Minneapolis, MN
What Channel : ESPN2
Penn State (8-4) has won its last three Big Ten season openers, but will be looking for just their second win in 17 tries against Minnesota (9-3). The Golden Gophers are 8-0 at home this season and look to continue that streak.
The Nittany Lions are coming off back-to-back wins over smaller schools, but shot better than 53 percent in each game. The Gophers are averaging 80 points a game and are shooting almost 50 percent from the floor on the year.
Northwestern vs Illinois
When : Wednesday, 9:00 PM EST
Where : Assembly Hall in Champaign, IL
What Channel: BTN
Northwestern (10-1) moved into the No. 25 spot in the most recent polls, their first appearance since January 1969. Ranked for the first time in 41 years, the Wildcats look to record their first 10-game winning streak in nearly eight decades when they open their Big Ten schedule with a visit to Illinois (8-4).
But, they've lost 10 straight to the Illini and have dropped their last seven in Champaign by an average of almost 23 points. The Wildcats have also lost three straight conference openers.
Illinois is coming off two straight losing efforts, falling to Georgia and Missouri.
Michigan vs Indiana
When : Thursday, 12:00 PM EST
Where : Assembly Hall in Bloomington, IN
What Channel : ESPN2
Michigan (6-5) will be looking for its first road win of the year when they head to Bloomington to face Indiana (6-6) and they will be doing so without associate head coach Jerry Dunn, who is taking a leave of absence to deal with family matters.
The Wolverines will need another big game from Manny Harris, who is averaging 20.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game this year.
Hoosier's freshman Maurice Creek would have been a key factor in this game, but he will be out with injury. He is averaging 17.6 points a game and is shooting 53 percent from the floor and will be missed.
Ohio State vs Wisconsin
When : Thursday, 2:00 PM EST
Where : Kohl Center in Madison, WI
What Channel : ESPN2
No. 15 Ohio State (10-2) will start their Big Ten schedule against No. 23 Wisconsin (10-2) without Evan Turner. Before the injury, he was averaging 20.6 points and 12.9 rebounds a game.
The Badgers look to celebrate New Year's Eve with a victory over the Buckeyes and will look to Trevon Hughes and Jon Leuer to carry the offense.
Michigan State vs Northwestern
When : Saturday, 6:30 PM EST
Where : Welsh-Ryan Arena in Champaign, IL
What Channel : BTN
Michigan State (9-3), the defending Big Ten champion, will be looking for its first consecutive conference championship since 2001, as it enters conference play at Northwestern (10-1).
The Spartans have been having trouble lately with top-tier opponents, but head into conference action looking to repeat last years success. But they will have to do so on the road against a tough Wildcats team having their best year in over 40 years.
All three of Michigan State's losses have come on the road.