January 25, 2012; East Lansing, MI, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers forward/center Ralph Sampson III (50) looks to pass against the Michigan State Spartans center Derrick Nix (25) during the first half at Jack Breslin Students Events Center. MSU won 68-52. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten Basketball What to Watch: Week of December 31st


This week, the Big Ten has six conference games scheduled over five days that features twelve Big Ten teams. Here are my six things to look at over this week in the Big Ten.

December 29, 2012; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes forward Deshaun Thomas (1) scores as Chicago State Cougars guard Nate Duhon (32) defends at Value City Arena. Ohio State won the game 87-44. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

1) Six out of the twelve Big Ten teams are ranked coming into this week of play. These teams are the #2 Michigan Wolverines, the #5 Indiana Hoosiers, the #10 Ohio State Buckeyes, the #11 Minnesota Golden Gophers, the #12 Illinois Fighting Illini, and the #19 Michigan State Spartans.

2) The #2 Michigan Wolverines come into this week with a perfect 13-0 record. They will begin their Big Ten Conference schedule on Thursday night against the Northwestern Wildcats in Evanston, Illinois.

3) It is clear as day that the Michigan State/Minnesota game is the game of the week in the Big Ten. Both teams are coming into their New Year’s Eve game being ranked in the Top 25. This is going to be a defensive match-up. The Spartans have one of the best defenses in the Big Ten while the Golden Gophers are the best in the conference with 6.5 blocks per game.

4) Indiana has the best scoring offense in the nation. They are averaging 89.4 points per game coming into their New Year’s Eve game against Iowa. The Hoosiers also have the best 3-point field goal percentage in the Big Ten (.421) while Iowa has the best defense against 3-pointers (opponents average .278).

5) The Big Ten’s two leading scorers will be on display this Wednesday. Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State) and Brandon Paul (Illinois) will both play as #12 Illinois will play Purdue and #10 Ohio State will play Nebraska. Thomas leads the Big Ten with 19.8 points per game and Paul is second with 18.7 points per game.

6) The #11 Minnesota Golden Gophers are simply the best defensive team in the Big Ten. They are not just leading the conference with 6.5 blocks per game, but also lead the Big Ten with 10.2 steals per game.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @RickyWidmer.

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Basketball Big Ten Illinois Fighting Illini Michigan State Spartans Minnesota Golden Gophers