By Dan D’Addona.
The Big Ten season is gearing up for a full month of conference showdowns.
The first one begins Saturday as Indiana faces Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Much of the focus has been on the Michigan women this year, who have been near the top of the national rankings for most of the season. They are still ranked No. 4, while Indiana is ranked No. 10 and the top-10 battle will include stars like Lilly King and Siobhan Haughey, both Olympians.
But the focus will shift to the men’s meet. The Hoosiers have been a top-10 staple the past few years and are No. 4, while the Wolverines, full of stellar sophomores, are No. 8. This is another top-10 battle, but an even more intriguing one.
The Hoosiers are led by Ian Finnerty, who grew up right in town in Bloomington, Indiana. Ali Khalafalla has been big and of course Olympian Blake Pieroni is back.
For the Wolverines, distance specialist Felix Aubock of Austria is back for this sophomore season after earning All-American honors. Fellow sophomore Jake Herremans has been big on the diving boards. Meanwhile, seniors Paul Powers and PJ Ransford have been big in the sprints and distance races, respectively, balancing out the Wolverines lineup.
This meet has the potential to be the best dual meet in the Big Ten for both the men and the women, and it could be a forecast of what is to come at the Big Ten Championships.
The Friday Big Ten meets include Michigan State at Purdue, which is senior night for the Boilermakers, as well as Iowa hosting Notre Dam and Illinois. Rutgers will also host Yale.
On Saturday, the Iowa-Notre Dame-Illinois meet continues. Minnesota hosts Denver, while Nebraska swims at Omaha and Penn State travels with Navy to face North Carolina.
On Monday, Wisconsin will face USC in a non-conference battle on Martin Luther King Day. The USC women are ranked No. 8, while the Badgers are No. 18. The USC men are No. 7 but the Badger men are not ranked currently.