A look at the upcoming week around the Big Ten Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 8 Ohio State (22-5, 13-1) at No. 22 Michigan (21-7, 10-5), Sunday. The first-place Buckeyes overcame a 20-point first-half deficit to win the first meeting in Columbus on Dec. 4. The Wolverines were playing their 10th game in 24 days last time. They’re fresh after beating Iowa 74-59 on Wednesday night for their 14th win in 15 home games. Ohio State has won four straight heading into its game at Penn State on Thursday night.
LOOKING AHEAD: As of Wednesday, bracketologists project the Big Ten will have four teams in the NCAA Tournament. That would be the fewest since 2008. Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State are as good as in. It would appear Michigan (No. 39 RPI) and Nebraska (No. 53) are next in line. The Huskers beat Michigan by 20 points in Lincoln a month ago. Barring upsets, they’re on course for a rematch in the Big Ten Tournament in two weeks.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Maryland freshman Bruno Fernando took another step in his maturation with his performance against Nebraska on Tuesday. The 6-foot-10, 245-pound Fernando tied his season high with 21 points, but equally impressive was how he adjusted to double-teams thrown at him. He passed for a season-high five assists. Fernando has the look of a star once he becomes more consistent offensively. He scored 20 against Purdue and 13 against Penn State in his previous road games but managed only six against Wisconsin and two against Northwestern at home.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Purdue’s four losses are by a combined 11 points (three vs. Tennessee, four vs. Western Kentucky, one vs. Ohio State and three vs. Michigan State). … Chris Holtmann has the most wins (22) of any first-year Ohio State coach. Thad Matta won 20 in 2005 and Gary Williams won 20 in 1987. … Michigan State’s 25-3 record is its best after 28 games in program history. … Penn State, at 8-6, is two games over .500 in the Big Ten this late in the season for the first time since 2008-09. The Nittany Lions’ three conference road wins are tied for their most since joining the Big Ten in 1992-93.
ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: Iowa has won four in a row to reach 20 or more wins for the ninth time in 11 seasons. Hawkeyes junior center Megan Gustafson, with 25 points and 16 rebounds, recorded her 24th double-double of the season in Sunday’s win over Northwestern. … Gustafson leads the nation with 24.8 points per game. Three of the top five scorers are from the Big Ten. Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell is second at 24.6 and Michigan’s Katelynn Flaherty is fifth at 23.6. … Maryland (22-3, 11-1) goes into the last 10 days of the regular season with a 1 1/2-game lead over Ohio State (21-6, 10-3) and two-game lead over Nebraska (18-7, 9-3). The Terps have a challenging closing schedule, with Purdue (home), Minnesota (road), Michigan (road) and Nebraska (home).
More AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-Top25