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Top of the Arc - January 21, 2009

Jan. 21, 8:30 a.m.: It’s still hard to know what to make of the Big Ten. Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois have all been better than expected. Seven teams are in the running for at-large bids, but chances are that number may become six teams in the coming weeks as conference teams knock one another off. Here is a quick rundown of last night’s games across the country:

Taking a step forward: Illinois (16-3, 4-2 Big Ten) got a much needed victory over Ohio State to bounce back from Saturday’s loss at Michigan State. This is a difficult stretch for Illinois, which will play Wisconsin on Saturday, followed with a road game at Minnesota on Jan. 29.

Taking a step back: After making headlines with victories over Duke and UCLA early in the season, Michigan is now edging closer to the so-called NCAA tournament bubble. The Wolverines have lost three consecutive conference games, including last night’s 73-58 loss at Penn State. They still have six games remaining against ranked teams, including a Feb. 7 game at Connecticut. An NCAA tourney bid is no lock.

Standout performances: Penn State’s Jamelle Cornley had 17 points and 11 rebounds … Ohio State freshman B.J. Mullens had 14 points, 7 rebounds. He is starting to emerge as a player after a particularly slow start to the season. He made 6 of 8 shots last night … Duke’s Gerald Henderson scored 21 points in a victory over North Carolina State … South Florida’s Dominique Jones has been on a tear; he scored 26 points in last night’s victory over DePaul … Tennessee’s Wayne Chism had 20 points and 7 rebounds in a win over Vanderbilt … Maryland’s Eric Hayes had 11 assists and 0 turnovers.

Keep an eye on: Villanova at Connecticut … George Mason at Northeastern … Clemson at North Carolina.

By Eric Prisbell  |  January 21, 2009; 8:37 AM ET
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