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Big Ten shaping up to be brutally tough in 2012-13

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    Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, center, sits next to Derrick Nix, left, on the bench during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012, in East Lansing, Mich. At right is associate head coach Dwayne Stephens. Michigan State won 67-56. (AP Photo/Al Goldis) (The Associated Press)

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    Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery watches as one of his players drives towards the net during the second half an NCAA college basketball game against the Coppin State, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/The Gazette, Kyle Grillot) (The Associated Press)

Anyone wondering how tough the Big Ten will be this season should take a look at Iowa's plight.

The Hawkeyes (11-2) have won six straight games for their best start in eight years. They've got a pair of emerging stars in Aaron White and Devyn Marble and their league opener is already sold out.

And yet the Hawkeyes will probably be underdogs in each of their first three Big Ten games, starting Monday when they face No. 5 Indiana.

Such is life in the Big Ten in 2012-13. The Big Ten is first in overall RPI nationally. Five league teams are ranked in the top 12 of the latest AP poll and at least eight have a good shot at reaching the NCAA tournament.