Hawkeyes can spare no pity Thursday at Penn State

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No Big Ten men's basketball team has gone winless in conference play since Northwestern 13 years ago. The Wildcats were 0-16 in 1999-2000.

Only three teams won just one Big Ten game since then, Penn State in 2005, Northwestern in 2008, and Indiana in 2009. That's right, the No. 1 team in the nation today was 1-17 in its conference just four seasons ago.

Thursday could be Penn State's best chance to avoid 0-18. The 0-11 Nittany Lions host Iowa, in a game that starts at 9 p.m., Eastern time. That's nice. Bad team, 9 p.m. tipoff, a crowd that could reach three figures.

The Hawkeyes are 7 1/2-point favorites. That sounds about right.

If Penn State loses this one, here are its final six chances to get a 'W' before calling it a season:

Sun., Feb. 17 at Michigan * Ann Arbor, Mich. 12:00 p.m. ET

Thu., Feb. 21 at Illinois * Champaign, Illinois 8:15 p.m. ET

Wed., Feb. 27 vs. Michigan * University Park, Pa. 6:30 p.m. ET

Sat., Mar. 2 at Minnesota * Minneapolis, Minn. 3:00 p.m. ET

Thu., Mar. 7 at Northwestern * Evanston, Ill. 7:00 p.m. ET

Sun., Mar. 10 vs. Wisconsin * University Park, Pa. 12:00 p.m. ET

At Michigan? No chance. At Illinois? Next to none. Michigan at home? Forget it. At Minnesota? Nope. At Northwestern? Possible, given the Wildcats' ever-shrinking roster because of injury. Wisconsin at home? Unlikely, at best.

Penn State will be better next season, maybe even capable of winning eight or nine conference games. You have to kick teams like these when they're down, because no one in Big Ten basketball stays down forever. Ask Indiana.

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