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Michigan State's loss highlights that the Big Ten is a mess -- and boring

The Big Ten is hard to watch these days.

Before Michigan State suffered an 80-64 loss at Ohio State on Sunday -- a loss against a Buckeyes team with a new coach and just nine scholarship players -- the league had failed to give its fans a reason to care.

Beyond Michigan State and Purdue, a pair of powerhouses that will meet just once this season on Feb. 10 in East Lansing, Michigan, the league had few attractive matchups to offer.

Sunday's game only extended the boredom.

Michigan State and Purdue will still fight one another for the Big Ten throne. But with just one meeting between the two top teams, the Spartans' inconsistency and a conference filled with teams vying for tournament berths while boasting few significant games, the Big Ten will not generate the drama that has defined the league and entertained its supporters in recent seasons.

Some of this is connected to the serious injuries and off-court problems within the conference.

Minnesota's Reggie Lynch is suspended indefinitely for an alleged violation of the school's sexual misconduct policy -- he's appealing the ruling -- and the program just lost Amir Coffey for a significant stretch due to a shoulder injury. The school announced Coffey's injury prior to a Saturday home loss to Indiana, which entered the game without De'Ron Davis and Collin Hartman.

Both Bryant McIntosh and Vic Law have dealt with injuries at Northwestern. Justin Jackson is out for the season at Maryland. D'Mitrik Trice hasn't played since early December for Wisconsin, and Kobe King will miss the rest of the season.

But those teams had opportunities to compete for important wins in healthier times.

Law would not have saved Northwestern in its 30-point loss to Oklahoma last month. Jackson wouldn't have been the difference in Maryland's 30-point loss to Michigan State last week. The Golden Gophers had already suffered double-digit losses to Nebraska and Arkansas before their latest drama.

Joe Lunardi's most recent bracketology projects just four NCAA tournament berths for the Big Ten. Last year, the league sent seven teams to the tournament.

I'm from Big Ten country. And I live in Big Ten country now.

The historic beauty of the league has been its perennial grind: the tough road games, the dangerous teams at the bottom of the pack and the elite coaching.

It lacks that edge this season.

Ohio State is a great story, and Sunday's victory will help Chris Holtmann establish his brand and vision in Columbus. He can rebuild the Buckeyes, who are now 4-0 in Big Ten play. Archie Miller's leading a short-handed Indiana team into Minneapolis on Saturday and leaving with a win was a fun story, too.

The Boilermakers boast a squad full of hungry vets who have already led the program to wins over Arizona, Louisville and Butler. Michigan is intriguing and has a pair of solid wins over Texas and UCLA.

I'm still excited to see what happens when Purdue and Michigan State meet next month.

But Minnesota is in the middle of a sexual assault scandal and falling from its preseason position as a Big Ten sleeper. Northwestern made history last season with its first NCAA tournament team but might not earn an invitation this season if its problems persist. Ethan Happ is carrying a heavy load in what might become the worst Wisconsin season in years.

The league started the day with half its squads sitting outside the top 50 in ESPN's BPI.

That's a surprise because the Big Ten is usually must-see TV, a league with riveting storylines, high-level talent and with multiple programs contending for NCAA tournament invitations.

On Sunday, however, the league gave people only a reason to change the channel.