Judgement week is here in the Big Ten.

The race for the conference title is quite the jumble, with 4 teams a game behind first-place Illinois in the loss column. All 4 — Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin and Ohio State — are in realistic title contention.

There’s another interesting element in play for those 5 contenders when it comes to seeding for the Big Ten tournament. Only 4 of them will get double-byes into the quarterfinals, and needless to say, winning 3 games in 3 days is a much easier task than winning 4 in 4 days. Tiebreakers could be huge.

Thanks to a pair of important head-to-head matchups, the upcoming week will likely thin the herd.

Title-race Tuesday

Tuesday, Feb. 8 will be the most consequential day on the calendar in this year’s Big Ten race.

Michigan State hosts Wisconsin at 7 p.m. in the undercard, followed by what feels like a title bout between Purdue and Illinois at Mackey Arena.

For the Illini, it’s a serious opportunity to put the rest of the league in their rearview mirror.

Purdue and either Michigan State or Wisconsin would be a full 2 games behind Illinois. After Tuesday, there are no more than 3 games you can envision Illinois losing — road trips to Michigan State, Michigan and Rutgers. And it is extremely unlikely the Illini will drop all 3 of those games. Which makes a 2-game deficit pretty difficult for the others to overcome at this stage in the game.

If Purdue wins, the Boilermakers will of course be the primary beneficiaries. They’ll have a tiebreaker over Illinois thanks to a season sweep. But Purdue won’t be the lone beneficiary.

The loser of the Wisconsin-Michigan State game is essentially toast if Illinois wins. But if Illinois loses, it’s just a minor hiccup. The Badgers or Spartans will remain where they are at this moment — a game out of first place.

The Wisconsin-Michigan State winner will be sitting pretty, of course. It’s just a matter of how pretty. The Badgers or Spartans will either be in a potential 4-way tie with Illinois, Purdue and Ohio State, or a game back of the Illini.

Keeping close to Illinois is probably more important for Wisconsin than Michigan State. The Spartans can make up ground because they still have another crack at the Illini at Breslin Center. The Badgers lost their lone matchup with Illinois and will need to rely on others to topple the Illini.

Rutgers: The B1G spoiler?

Rutgers is too far back to harbor a realistic chance at its first conference basketball title since winning the Atlantic 10 in 1991. Yet the Scarlet Knights have the potential to impact the outcome of the Big Ten title race as much as the teams actually in contention.

That process is already underway.

The Scarlet Knights fileted Michigan State, dominating the second half for an 83-64 win that knocked the Spartans out of first place. And Rutgers is a veteran team that desperately needs to start stacking together similar wins if it’s going to build a respectable NCAA tournament resume.

The Scarlet Knights have one of the most genuinely awful losses in the country this season, falling to a Lafayette team that’s currently No. 318 in the NCAA NET rankings. It’s going to take a lot of quality wins to make the stench of that one go away.

There are 2 such opportunities on the schedule this week.

A day after Tuesday’s 2 titanic clashes, Ohio State will try to keep pace with the conference leaders when it visits Rutgers. If Illinois wins at Purdue, a loss puts the Buckeyes 3 games out of the lead — pretty much over and done with.

Rutgers then travels to Wisconsin on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights have exactly 1 road win this season — at Maryland — so the benefit of getting another against a Quad 1 opponent is massive.

Depending on how things play out Tuesday, a Wisconsin loss in that game could jettison the Badgers from the title race.

Next week, Rutgers plays its fourth consecutive game that will have an impact on the Big Ten race.

The Scarlet Knights host Illinois on Feb. 16. Illinois center Kofi Cockburn is a matchup issue for everyone, but that’s especially true for the Scarlet Knights. Michigan center Hunter Dickinson scored 25 on Rutgers, and Cockburn could drop 30 or more. But Rutgers still won that game against Michigan and might find a similar path to downing the Fighting Illini.

Improbably, Rutgers’ next game after that will mark its 5th straight against a conference title contender. The Scarlet Knights visit Purdue on Feb. 20.

Rutgers downed the Boilermakers at Jersey Mike’s Arena in December, so anything is possible. But given its road struggles and the likelihood Purdue will be salty over the previous outcome, the rematch could very well get lopsided.

Regardless of how these games do turn out, one thing is certain — no team in the Big Ten is better positioned to play spoiler the next 2 weeks than Rutgers.