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Wednesday, June 19
The Indiana Daily Student

Down the Big Ten stretch

With only two weeks remaining in the Big Ten season, the Hoosiers find themselves in the thick of a three-team race for the conference championship with little room for error. If not for a Brian Butch banker, IU would be leading the pack, but considering the Sampson-sized distractions that have plagued the team the last couple weeks, it’s an accomplishment for the Hoosiers just to be in this position. Here’s a forecast of the remainder of the season for the Big Ten’s contenders:

The Front Runner – Wisconsin (23-4, 13-2)\nSunday’s win at Ohio State puts Wisconsin in an excellent position to run the table and claim at least a share of the Big Ten crown. The Badgers only have three conference games remaining and boast the most manageable schedule of the three contenders. Their toughest remaining game comes at home against Michigan State and is followed by two patsy opponents in Penn State and Northwestern.\nPurdue is the only Big Ten team to have beaten the Badgers this year (twice) and it appears that’s how it will stay. Wisconsin will win at least a share of the Big Ten crown.

The Party Crasher – Purdue (21-6, 12-2)\nConsidering their youth and inexperience, the Boilermakers have been the most surprising team this year. Everyone knew the Boilermakers would be a force to be reckoned with one day with their formidable freshmen class, but no one expected that day to arrive so soon. Matt Painter deserves to win Big Ten Coach of the Year honors for the way he has positioned this young squad heading into March.\nThe Boilermakers have four games in the last two weeks of the regular season; none, however, come against the cream of the Big Ten crop. A home game against Minnesota and a roadie at Ohio State, two teams trying to squeeze into the NCAA tournament, remain the most likely stumbling blocks – and they are modest hurdles at that. Expect the Boilermakers to go at least 3-1 to finish out the season – 4-0 if they handle the Buckeyes in Columbus.

The Drama Queen – IU (23-4, 12-2)\nTo say the Hoosiers have been distracted lately would be an understatement. The basketball games have taken a backseat to the off-court soap opera that surfaced after the NCAA’s major violations charges became public. Things should settle down a bit now that Dan Dakich has taken over, and maybe, just maybe, the focus will shift back to the hardwood.\nIU has the toughest row to hoe of the three conference contenders with tonight’s game against the Buckeyes and another grudge match against Michigan State in East Lansing, but if this team has proven anything in the last two weeks, it is resiliency. Several of IU’s best wins this season have come with the drama-o-meter stuck on overload. It’s going to take a similar flair for the dramatic if the Hoosiers are to win out and claim their first stake on the Big Ten title in six years.

The Underachiever – Michigan State (22-5, 10-4)\nUgly losses to Iowa and Penn State doomed any chances the Spartans had at living up to their preseason selection as the conference favorite. With games to be played against IU and Wisconsin, however, Michigan State still has a lot of influence over who takes home the hardware. \nCoach Tom Izzo said that, while this year’s Spartans have lacked the toughness of past teams, what they’ve really lacked is an outside shot. MSU ranks last in the conference by far in three-point field goals made. Despite their shooting woes, the Spartans have yet to lose at home this season, a fact that should concern the Hoosier faithful heading into the backstretch of the season.

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