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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 02/ 9/2011

NCAA tournament 2011: Sizing up the Big Ten

By Eric Prisbell

Many people, including myself, expected the Big Ten to be the nation's best conference. But it has been overtaken by the Big East. Let's take a closer look at the Big Ten:

Big Ten

Conference RPI rank: 2

NCAA tournament bids: 5-6

Locks: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin

Probable: Illinois, Minnesota

Bubble: Michigan State, Penn State

Most likely to fade: Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are in the NCAA tournament at the moment, but injuries are catching up with Tubby Smith's team in a hurry. There is a chance the league winds up with just four bids.

Sleeper: Wisconsin. Calling the Badgers a sleeper means they are a sleeper Final Four pick. But they may not be a sleeper for long because they have a real chance to knock off No. 1 Ohio State on Saturday in Madison. In addition to Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer, there is a lot to like about this team as a whole. They lead the country in free throw percentage and assist/turnover ratio and rank eighth in fewest fouls per game. They won't beat themselves.

Player to watch: Jared Sullinger. Watch him while you can. He is shooting 57 percent from the floor for the Buckeyes.

Most impressive coaching job: Ed DeChellis. Penn State has beaten Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan State to recover from a shaky nonleague showing to give it a remote chance to make the NCAA tournament. But the Nittany Lions have lost two straight and are badly in need of another road win.

Biggest disappointment: Michigan State. Did I even have to ask? The one-season demise of the Spartans (so far) has been the most jaw-dropping story of the year in college basketball. But the season is not done yet and it would be foolish to count out a talented Izzo-coach team.

Most compelling story line: Can Ohio State finish the regular season undefeated? Don't count on it. Don't even examine the remainder of the Buckeyes' schedule unless they figure out a way to get a win in Madison on Saturday.

By Eric Prisbell  | February 9, 2011; 10:30 AM ET
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