A look at things to watch this week in the Big Ten:
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 13 Wisconsin at No. 20 Purdue. The Badgers (13-2, 2-0 Big Ten) have been mighty impressive while winning nine straight games, with Nigel Hayes averaging 15.8 points and Ethan Happ and Bronson Koenig 14 apiece during the streak. Purdue (12-3, 1-1) plays at Ohio State on Thursday night before returning home for Sunday’s game. Before losing in overtime to Minnesota on New Year’s Day, the Boilermakers hadn’t lost at Mackey Arena in 364 days. Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan is a leading candidate for Big Ten player of the year and is coming off a 28-point, 22-rebound outing against Minnesota.
LOOKING AHEAD: Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska — yes, Nebraska — are the only remaining unbeaten teams in conference play. The Cornhuskers, coming off surprising road wins over Indiana and Maryland, will show if they are for real when they return home to play Iowa on Thursday and Northwestern on Sunday. Tai Webster and Glynn Watson make up one of the top backcourts in the conference, and Ed Morrow Jr. and Michael Jacobson have been tough inside.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Minnesota’s turnaround from last season’s 8-23 record to this season’s current 13-2 can be attributed to defense. Opponents are shooting 37.7 percent from the field and 28.7 percent from 3-point range. Reggie Lynch is fifth in the country with 3.4 blocks a game, and the Gophers are swatting away an average of 6.5. All those numbers are among the best in the country.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Michigan State’s Miles Bridges returned for the Spartans’ 93-65 win over Rutgers on Wednesday night after missing seven games with an ankle injury. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound freshman, who averaged 16.6 points and 8.8 rebounds before getting hurt, came off the bench and had six points and six rebounds in 17 minutes. It bears watching how much playing time Bridges gets Saturday when the Spartans play Penn State in Philadelphia.
ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: Third-ranked Maryland (14-1, 2-0), the two-time defending Big Ten champion and favorite to win the title again, opened conference play with road wins over Minnesota and Nebraska. The Terrapins’ average scoring margin is 32 points, second in the nation behind Baylor’s 44.5. Brionna Jones has been a force inside with five straight double-doubles, and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough is shooting 41 percent on 3-pointers.
Compiled by AP Sports Writer Eric Olson in Omaha, Nebraska.