Tiers have been clearly established in the Big Ten men's basketball standings. The pecking order within each group could use some Windex.
With three weeks remaining in league play before the conference tournament in Indianapolis Mar. 8-11, it would appear Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin are ripe to nab byes through to the quarterfinals. That quartet is separated by one game, with the regular-season title up for grabs.
Then just go ahead and try weeding out the next six-pack of middle-class Big Ten squads. They're all saddled with either six or seven losses, meaning it's nearly impossible to project seedings and ensuing matchups for the season-ending tournament.
"It's all going to lie on who you play right here and being able to pull out some victories," Purdue coach Matt Painter said on Monday's teleconference. "I think (tournament matchups) play a big role. That's your opponent, and what happened during the year means a lot at times, and means nothing at times. It's hard to beat somebody three times."
In Iowa's case, it swept Minnesota and was swept by Painter's Boilermakers. Those three teams, plus Indiana, Illinois and Northwestern, could each realistically end up anywhere from five through 10.
"It's important that all the teams get a tremendous amount of notoriety for what they're doing inside of this league," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "It's unique preparation every time you play somebody."
Only once in the event's 14 years has a team outside the top four seeds went on to win the whole thing - the 2001 Hawkeyes, also the only team to win four games in one Big Ten Tournament.
"The bye only makes a difference as far as winning the championship," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "It's more about being in position to get in the NCAA Tournament by being at the top of one of these BCS leagues."
With a pair of three-game losing streaks in the last month plummeting Illinois from first place to a losing conference record, the Fighting Illini's almost-automatic NCAA bid might not be the only item in jeopardy.
Ninth-year coach Bruce Weber probably has the hottest seat of any Big Ten head man, and his boss didn't exactly protect him over the weekend. In an hourlong radio appearance, Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas didn't make any guarantees past this season.
"As I've always said, I will assess the situation at the end of the season no different than I do with the other 18 sports, no different than I did for the football program," Thomas said, as quoted by ESPNChicago.com. "I need to look at the total body of work and all of the things that come into play as far as making those decisions."
Weber shrugged off the comments, but acknowledged he and his team must rebound quickly to avoid missing the tournament for the third time in five years.
"From my understanding, it was kind of taken out of context," Weber said. "We have to win games. Plain and simple, we're trying to get into the NCAA Tournament."
In Joe Lunardi's Monday Bracketology on ESPN.com, the Illini were listed as a No. 12 seed, near the bottom of the at-large bids. Eight Big Ten teams are projected to hear their name on Selection Sunday.
Forget home cooking
Much has been made of Wisconsin's prowess at home in the Kohl Center, but it's been pretty good on the road, too.
After Thursday's overtime win at Minnesota, the Badgers are 7-2 away from Madison (5-2 in a road venue) this year and 50-48 in coach Bo Ryan's 11 seasons. Both figures lead the Big Ten.
"It's just trying to make sure you have a chance when there's 5 minutes to go," Ryan said. "That's the only way you can get anything done on the road."
Two coaches were asked about the idea of Wisconsin's 6-foot-1 senior point guard Jordan Taylor in the NBA, and both Wisconsin's previous opponent (Tubby Smith) and upcoming one, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, were in agreement.
"Everybody talks about his speed or size, but you forget about his intelligence," Izzo said. "I picture him as a gym rat - if he is, I think he's definitely got a chance to be very successful at the next level."
Little respect, please
Falling just one helper short of a triple-double (23 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists) in Penn State's 67-51 win over Nebraska, Nittany Lions guard Tim Frazier still didn't get his due in his coach's eyes.
"I'm not going to promote my player - I probably should, but I don't - but you watch Big Ten Network or ESPN, and the fact he doesn't even get a mention, it's mind-blowing," Patrick Chambers said. "It's because we're 3-10, he doesn't get enough exposure or notoriety. He's earned the right to be in the same breath with the great point guards in the country."
Yes, Tubby Smith has taken notice of former Golden Gopher Royce White leading Iowa State to new heights in the Big 12.
"He's as talented a player as we would have on our team," Smith said. "He's a top-35 player in the country. He's obviously worked on his outside shooting. I'm happy for him."