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Rod Beard ranks the Big Ten basketball teams for the week beginning Monday, Jan. 19:

1. Maryland (17-2, 5-1): The Terrapins are one of the surprises in the conference, with two seven-game winning streaks, and their current three-game streak. The tough part of the schedule still remains, though.

2. Wisconsin (16-2, 4-1): It's no surprise that the Badgers are near the top, but the one shocker was their loss at Rutgers last week. Losing point guard Traevon Jackson hurts, but if he can return before the end of the year, they'll still be an NCAA title contender.

3. Indiana (14-4, 4-1): The Hoosiers have built an NCAA-worthy resume with wins at Nebraska and Illinois and against Ohio State. This week will be a bigger test, hosting Maryland and at Ohio State. Freshman James Blackmon Jr. has been excellent.

4. Iowa (13-5, 4-1): After getting some good wins in the first five conference games, they'll face Wisconsin twice in an 11-day span. A split could set them up for a decent run in the second half of the conference schedule.

5. Ohio State (14-5, 3-3): Following an 11-2 start in the nonconference, the Buckeyes have stumbled a bit in Big Ten play, with two losses to Iowa and one at Indiana. Freshman D'Angelo Russell (18.6 points) has been their best player.

6. Michigan (11-7, 4-2): The season-ending injury to Caris LeVert puts a damper on a seesaw season, but it presents an opportunity for other key players to make their mark. The bad news: The toughest part of the Wolverines' schedule is ahead.

7. Michigan State (12-6, 3-2): The Spartans are struggling to find an identity and midway through the season, have more questions than answers. They've notched wins over Indiana and Iowa but lost twice to Maryland.

8. Purdue (11-7, 3-2): They're searching for consistency, as A.J. Hammons (10.7 points) tries to find a bigger role in the offense. Their only two conference losses are to Maryland and Wisconsin and they've avoided bad defeats.

9. Rutgers (10-9. 2-4): In their first year in the Big Ten, the Scarlet Knights already have the biggest win, a 67-62 upset of then-No. 4 Wisconsin. They have been competitive in almost every game and came close to an upset at Maryland last week.

10. Nebraska (10-7, 2-3): After losing only once at home last season, the Huskers have fallen on hard times and are in danger of not getting back to the NCAA Tournament. Terran Petteway (19.4 points) and Shavon Shields (16.5) need scoring help.

11. Illinois (12-7, 2-4): An up-and-down conference season netted an upset, dealing Maryland its only league loss. But the Illini have lost three of four on the road and they'll have to cope without one of their best players, Rayvonte Rice.

12. Northwestern (10-8, 1-4): The Wildcats won their conference opener at Rutgers but have dropped the last four, with Ohio State and Maryland coming this week. Unless there's some magical turnaround, the NCAA Tournament wait will continue.

13. Minnesota (12-7, 1-5): After an 11-2 start in the nonconference season, the Gophers have faltered in league play, ending their five-game skid by beating Rutgers. A tough stretch looms, with a pair of games against Nebraska and home against Illinois.

14. Penn State (12-6, 0-5): The 12-1 nonconference record was just a mirage, as the Big Ten schedule has injected a dose of reality. The Nittany Lions have lost four of their five league games by single digits, including an overtime loss to Purdue on Sunday.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter.com/detnewsRodBeard

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