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Ohio State has won its second straight Big Ten Tournament against the heavy underdog Penn State 71-60. Ohio State broke free from the tough defense and methodical pace of the Nittany Lions in the second half, scoring 42 points after the break and leaving Penn State without a viable counter punch.
Ohio State was led by three of the players that have carried the team all year, seniors Jon Diebler and William Buford had 15 and 18 points respectively, while the dependable and dominant freshman Jared Sullinger nabbed 15 points and 11 rebounds, his third straight double-double of the weekend.
Penn State's seniors had a valiant effort against the regular season Big Ten Champions, Jeff Brooks had a gutty 19 points and 6 rebounds in his 39 minutes, while tournament sensation Talor Battle led his team with 24 points and 5 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes The Nittany Lions may not have won their conference tournament, but they have probably done enough with their late push to secure themselves a long sought after NCAA tournament bid.
For Thad Matta and the Buckeyes, the victory is nothing more than what was exactly expected of them, as they March toward being a No. 1 overall seed and a likely trip deep into the tournament. With a roster that is loaded with both experienced seniors and very talented underclassmen, this Ohio State team is a serious contender for this year's National Championship.
If Ed Dechellis' strategy for beating the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes was to slow the pace, limit the number of possessions and keep things close until the end, his team is executing it to perfection.
Ohio State, which put over 80 points on the Nittany Lions when they last met, has more or less struggled to impose their will on the lesser talented PSU squad, and have not had the normally crisp offense they have had throughout the regular season. Jon Diebler has been the difference for Thad Matta's team though, scoring 10 points in the first half, including a halftime buzzer beating three to push the lead to 29-23.
Talor Battle, the senior leader of Penn State, has 10 points thus far, but if his games against MSU and Wisconsin are any indication, he will probably get most of his points here in the second half.
While not exactly a high flying affair, Penn State is going to do all it can to keep Ohio State from breaking away in this game, and if they can manage to keep the game within a possession or two into the last minute, it could make for a very exciting conclusion to this tournament.
One player is a freshman who has seen success immediately as a college player, leading his team to a No.1 national ranking, and likely a No.1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. The other is a grizzled senior, who has led his team for years, but never been in the big dance. These two players Jared Sullinger and Talor Battle, will battle for the Big Ten Tournament today in Indianapolis, along with their teams, the Ohio State Buckeyes and Penn State Nittany Lions.
As important as this game is for Penn State, they have likely already done more than enough to assure their first NCAA Tournament bid in a decade. And the same goes for Ohio State, even if they lose today, it is unlikely the Buckeyes will end up with anything other than a No.1 seed and a first round trip to Cleveland.
Nonetheless, this should be a very competitive and exciting end to a competitive and exciting tournament. This weekend has seen come from behind wins, low scoring slug fests, overtimes, and upsets, the championship game is not likely to disappoint.
Talor Battle has been playing these past three days for a chance to make the first and only NCAA tournament of his career. Saturday afternoon in Indianapolis, the senior guard broke the record for all time minutes in the Big Ten , breaking Dee Brown's record. None of those minutes have come in an NCAA tournament game. With the gutty victory over Michigan State, that might very well change.
Talor Battle led his team in a spectacular 25 point performance, with 7 assists and 3 rebounds to boot. Battle's play has been key in all three of the Nittany Lions' victories in Indianapolis, and his legend could grow even more when he takes the court against Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament Championship Game tomorrow afternoon.
For the Spartans, the Big Ten season will not end in a championship, but they can probably be more confident in their tournament chances with the two wins they did earn. Kalin Lucas was the most consistent player for the Spartans again today, but his 16 points and 4 rebounds were not enough to compensate for the smothering Penn State post defense.
Tomorrow's championship game will be an even greater challenge for Penn State though, as only one team has ever won the tournament playing all four days, and last year's six seed contender, Minnesota, was blown out by these same Buckeyes. One thing fans in Indianapolis have learned well this weekend though, is to never count a team out when they have Talor Battle playing for them. propels
it looks like there is going to be yet another Big Ten Tournament going down right to the wire here in Indianapolis, as Michigan State and Penn State are playing tight tied at 26 apiece heading into the second half.
Michigan State jumped to an early ten point lead over the Nittany Lions, but hit a scoring drought midway through the first half and couldn't pull away from their scrappy, defensive minded opponents.
Penn State is slowing the game down once again today and not letting the Spartans get out an running in transition, the factor that most fueled their win over Purdue in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Kalin Lucas, who scored 30 against the Boilers, has just three points and four turnovers so far, and will need to pick it up in the second half to keep from being ground down again.
The winner of this game will advance to tomorrow's Big Ten Tournament Championship game to face heavily favored Ohio State.
Nobody expected either of these teams to be playing on Saturday, but in March, in the Big Ten Tournament, all it takes is the right combination of luck and big plays and any team can win and advance.
Michigan State had by far the more convincing of wins, getting a thirty point performance from stand out senior point guard Kalin Lucas and railroading No. 9 Purdue out of the tournament 74 to 56. Michigan State has probably already done enough to get themselves firmly in the field of 68, but they are out for much more than that, a Big Ten Tournament championship to wash away what has been a disappointing season in East Lansing.
Penn State got here by winning one of the ugliest games in Big Ten Tournament history, a 36-33 slug fest over No. 13 Wisconsin, where neither team looked particularly well. The Nittany Lions still probably need to make the championship game to move them into the field confidently.
Whoever wins this game, for the second year in a row, a team who played on Thursday will have a shot at the tournament championship, just another reason why the Big Ten Tournament is so exciting, and so hard to predict.
Things got a little dicey for the No.1 ranked Buckeyes in the second half. Ohio State led for most of the game, but could not quite shake the pesky Wolverines, letting the lead dwindle all the way to 47-45. It was at this point though that the No.1 Buckeyes flexed their muscle on their bitter rivals, going on a 16-0 run that very nearly took Michigan out of the game entirely.
Michigan made one final push going from ten points down with a minute to go to within four points, it would be too little too late though, as the Buckeyes managed to get a key stop in the final 30 seconds, to put the Wolverines away for good, 68-61.
Jared Sullinger had his 16th double-double in the winning effort, scoring 14 points and grabbing 13 boards. Sullinger over powered nearly every double and triple team that Michigan threw at him down low, and once again seemed like the one Buckeye weapon other teams do not have an answer for.
For Michigan it was a very hard fought effort that just didn't seem to have enough at the end, despite the best efforts of Darius Morris, 16 points, and Tim Hardaway Jr., 15 points. It was a disappointing loss for the Wolverines to be sure, but UM fans should head home from Indianapolis confident in their chances of making the NCAA tournament, something that was nearly out of the question at the beginning of this season.
Jon Diebler is leading the Ohio State Buckeyes over the Michigan Wolverines at halftime in Indianapolis, with 12 points and 3 rebounds. Freshman phenomenon Jared Sullinger is having his way with the Wolverines down low, with 7 points and 8 rebounds already. Given the size advantage the Buckeyes hold over Michigan, Sullinger may approach 20 rebounds again today.
The Wolverines have kept it close with the Buckeyes in this high scoring game by hitting four three pointers as a team, and getting good scoring production from Darius Morris. Tim Hardaway jr. has played well so far as well, with 6 points. For the Wolverines to stay in this game though, they are going to need to hit many more of their three point shots, because they are already being out rebounded 18-9, and wont have many shots at second chance points.
The winner today will advance to the championship game tomorrow afternoon against the winner of the Penn State and Michigan State game later today.
When Michigan and Ohio State play, in any sport, it is always sure to be a heated and competitive game. Today the winner of that game will advance to the Big Ten Championship tomorrow afternoon.
Ohio State needed overtime yesterday to dispatch the pesky Northwestern Wildcats, but will probably be playing with renewed motivation today as they take the opportunity to beat their old rival for a third time this season.
Michigan came back from twelve points down in the second half yesterday against No. 5 seed Illinois, and in doing so likely locked up a tournament bid.
Standout Buckeye Jared Sullinger is coming off of a 20 point 18 rebound game and will be looking to carry his team to a second straight Big Ten Tournament Championship.
It was not a good day to be the favorite in the Big Ten Tournament. After Northwestern pushed Ohio State to overtime, Illinois squandered a double digit second half lead, and Purdue was railroaded by Michigan State, Wisconsin came out and laid an egg against the heavy underdog Penn State.
It was the sort of game that seemed like nobody wanted to win. After a spurt at tip off Penn State's scoring fell into oblivion, and Wisconsin only barely found competence midway through the second half. The Badgers and the Nittany Lions are the leagues two slowest, most methodical teams, and it showed tonight, as poor shooting compounded a snail's pace game from both offenses. PSU, the winning team, had 36 points off of 39 shots, with 8 turnovers, going 3-12. Wisconsin somehow managed to fair even worse, netting 33 points on 51 shots, and going 2-21 from beyond the arc.
Wisconsin's production came almost entirely from its stand out players, Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer, who together totaled 26 points, but this was still a relatively poor performance for the duo, as they took the lion's share of shots for the Badgers as well, (35 of the total 51.)
Like Purdue, Wisconsin ends its season with back to back losses, which could hurt the Badgers come Selection Sunday. Penn State on the other hand, boosted their tournament resume significantly with this win, and could be pushing for an at large bid if they manage to take down MSU tomorrow.
For a while, it seemed like the Badgers might never score, and for the first seven minutes or so, they didn't. The Nittany Lions jumped out quickly in front of Wisconsin scoring the games first 14 points.
From there though, it was Penn State who went into the scoring drought, scoring just six more points in the final twelve minutes of the half, while Wisconsin managed to cut the deficit down significantly as the minutes wound down.
The shooting numbers, are not pretty, Penn State is 8-22, 36%, while Wisconsin is an even uglier 7-24 29% from the floor. Somehow, even though his team totaled only sixteen points for the half, Jordan Taylor managed to get ten of them.
This game will go to whichever team either breaks the other team's defense or figures out how to hit an open jump shot. Penn State needs this game badly to have a shot at the tournament, we will see if they are motivated to put up more points in the second half.
Kalin Lucas played like the former Big Ten Player of the Year that he is Friday night, leading the Michigan State Spartans to their second win in two days at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. Lucas had 30 points off of 15 shots and simply tore through the Boilermaker defense in both halves.
Aside from the scoring of Kalin Lucas though, the Spartans enjoy a very large rebounding advantage over Purdue, pulling down 41 boards to their 28, with eight offensive grabs to boot.
For Purdue, it was a valiant effort for JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore, who played 38 minutes each and combined for 38 points, and 14 rebounds. The All Big Ten players played well, but the supporting cast didn't do much in the way of supporting, totaling just 18 points and going 3-16 from deep as a team.
This is the second straight disappointing loss for Purdue, and heading into Selection Sunday with two straight losses is never optimal. This loss very well could knock Purdue out of a chance for a two seed, and could keep them from playing in a close by regional location.
Maybe there is some carry over from the Boilermakers' loss to Iowa after all. Maybe also, after just doing enough yesterday the Spartans realized that a win today would move them firmly off of the bubble and into an at large bid. Or, maybe Kalin Lucas just doesn't want to lose.
The MSU senior point guard took the game over in the first half, scoring 18 points on 10 shots, including going 4-4 from three point range. From deep and in the lane, Purdue did not seem to have an answer for the former Big Ten Player of the Year.
For Purdue, it was simply a question of not being able to make their shots. Going 9-26 from the half, and just 1-10 from deep Purdue fell behind early and lost ground for most of the half. It hasn't been for lack of touches by All Big Ten seniors JaJuan Johnson and Etwaun Moore, the pair have fifteen shots between the two of them, but they have only been able to total 14 points. The rest of the Boilers aren't fairing much better going a combined 2-11.
The Boilers are going need to get themselves in gear in the second half, or they can probably forget about any chances at nabbing a two seed in the NCAA tournament.
After the two afternoon contests were both hotly contested down to the final minute, tonight's games between Michigan State and Purdue and Wisconsin and Penn State are sure to be fantastic games as well.
Michigan State is still on the bubble after clawing past Iowa last night, and now must face the No. 2 seed Purdue Boilermakers, who just blew them out in East Lansing, with their tournament hopes on the line.
Purdue's senior standouts JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore were both named First Team All Big Ten earlier this week, with Johnson earning player of the year honors, and are out to win the Big Ten Tournament Championship and reestablish themselves for a two seed in the NCAA tournament, after losing to Iowa in their Big Ten finale last Saturday.
For Michigan State, Kalin Lucas and Draymond Green must try and match the intensity of Purdue's powerful twosome, and hope to slow down an offensive attack that beat the Spartans by 20 during their last game. Green's 24 points and 14 rebounds were crucial in the Spartan's win over Iowa last night, but the Hawkeyes don't have JaJuan Johnson, and unfortunately Purdue does.
The last time we saw Purdue in this tournament, we should point out, was when they scored a mere 11 points in the first half before ultimately losing to Minnesota 69-42. There is no doubt that the Boilermakers will be looking to make a statement with the Spartans.
Should Tom Izzo and his team manage this upset, his team will be firmly reestablished in the field of 68, with a shot at another highly ranked team. Should MSU lose, they may end up in the tournament, but certainly wont be with the comfort Spartans fans have come to expect on Selection Sunday.
Illinois dictated the pace for most of the game, but Michigan made a late 18-4 run to earn a critical 60-55 win over the Fighting Ilini in the second quarterfinal of the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. Illinois led 51-42 with under eight minutes to play, but the Wolverines picked the right time to make a key move. With the win, michigan moves into the semifinals against bitter rival Ohio State tomorrow afternoon.
Darius Morris finished with 17 points for the Wolverines and Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a huge late 3-pointer to give the Wolverines a resume-boosting win. Illinois must now wait until Selection Sunday to find out its fate, while the Wolverines hit the magical 20-win plateau.
Illinois got 10 points each from Mike Tisdale, Demetri McCamey, and Brandon Paul, but could not get enough scoring in the end to stop the Michigan run. Illinois connected on just one field goal in the last eight and a half minutes.
A three point shooting contest has broken out in Indiana as the Illini and Wolverines battle to stay in the NCAA Tournament field. The Wolverines have hoisted eleven deep shots, connecting on four of them, while the Illini have sunk six of their fourteen three point shots, including two each from seniors Bill Cole and Mike Tisdale.
The biggest effort has come from the bench though, as sophomore guard Brandon Paul has 7 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and an astounding 4 steals in relief minutes.
Michigan needs to hit from a much higher percentage in order to make up for their turnovers (7) and being beat on the boards (16-12.) Their best production has come from their lone big man, Darius Morris, who has 9 points 3 assists and 2 rebounds.
The Illini will be looking to continue locking down the Wolverines from three, and using their height inside in the second half, and will try and avoid giving up too many turnovers like they did in their last meeting.
The Fighting Illini have a the same record in conference, and the same record overall, but in terms of NCAA resume, they are in different boats altogether. Due to strength of schedule and RPI Illinois, according to most projections is solidly in the field, while Michigan may have some work to do.
Make no mistake though, both teams want to win this game very badly.
Michigan has been the surprise team in the Big Ten this year, starting off conference play at 1-6, before getting very hot down the stretch winning eight of eleven, including two huge wins over instate rival and fellow bubble team Michigan State. John Beilein's team is led by several stand out young players, including sophomore guard Darius Morris who is averaging 15 points per game, and freshman Tim Hardaway jr. who is averaging nearly 14 points per game.
The Wolverines are guard heavy and take a lot of three's and can put up quite a few points when players like forward Zac Novak are hitting from deep. In the lone game between UM and Illinois this season though, the Wolverines hit just 2-18 from deep in the two point loss to the Illini, something that is unlikely to happen again.
The Illini are led by their seniors, point guard Demetri McCamey with 15 points and 6 assists per game, and forward Mike Davis with 12 points and 7 rebounds per game. If the Illini can get good offensive production out of those two as well as a solid post game from senior center Mike Davis they could be too much for the Wolverines to handle. As we have seen all season though, if the Illini are not hitting their shots at a high percentage, or turn the ball over too much, they can lose to anyone.
Jared Sullinger had a chance to be this year's Evan Turner, with the ball in his hands as the final seconds ticked off the clock in regulation. Evan Turner's half court buzzer beater in last year's Big Ten Tournament cemented his legacy as an Ohio State Buckeye, Sullingers's missed fall away jumper left the freshman with some work to do. And work he did scoring 9 points in the overtime period and being generally unstoppable down low. His late game heroics may not be as spectacular as Turner's but his 18 points, 18 rebounds definitely makes him a force to be reckoned with.
Sullinger it seems was just about the only Buckeye that Northwestern couldn't stop. The Northwestern Wildcats lost by just one point earlier this year to Ohio State and didn't miss a beat in Indianapolis as the Wildcat defense, dogged the Buckeyes all afternoon, holding them to less than 33% from the field in regulation and just 2-13 from three.
The Buckeyes poor shooting led to several opportunities for Northwestern to pull away and win the game in regulation, but credit must go to Thad Matta's players who were absolutely suffocating on defense, especially down the stretch.
What may be forgotten from this game, due to the eventual outcome, was just how well John Shurna played, scoring 23 points off of 13 shots, and draining some of the most difficult jumpers seen so far in this tournament.
Ohio State advances to the Big Ten semi finals tomorrow, while Northwestern must once again wait for their first invitation to the NCAA tournament.
One day after Juice Thompson's record setting 35 point performance in the win over Minnesota, the Northwestern Wildcats are dogging the No. 1 Buckeyes, 28-23 at the half.
Neither team is shooting particularly well, and defense for both sides has been very tough, as we have come to expect at the Big Ten Tournament. Whether it is because of the week long lay off or the Northwestern defense the Buckeyes are having one of their worst shooting games of the year, making only 35% from the field, and going just 1-9 from three, including 0-3 from the normally reliable Jon Diebler. This is in stark contrast to when they made 90% against Wisconsin last Sunday.
If Northwestern can avoid a Buckeye shooting resurgence in the second half, and they can keep it close into the final minutes, they may have a chance at upsetting the No 1 team in America. It wont be easy though, the Buckeyes average 77 points per game and don't turn the ball over much at all, so it may take another inspired effort by Juice Thompson or John Shurna to pull this one out for the Wildcats.
Day two of the Big Ten Tournament always provides plenty of drama. Last year it was Evan Turner hitting a near half court shot to beat Michigan. In 2008 Adam Hoffarber’s miracle shot allowed Minnesota to shock Indiana. This year features one team that needs to win the Big Ten Tournament in order to advance to the NCAA’s, four that are on the Bubble, two trying to improve their seed, and one that will possibly be the #1 overall seed. It should be a heck of a day.
Game1: Northwestern (18-12, 7-11) vs. Ohio State (29-2, 16-2)
the Wildcats won over a depleted Minnesota team yesterday, but they have never advanced beyond the quarterfinals. Michael Thompson had a record setting day with 35 points, but he’ll need to be on even more against the #1 team int he country. Northwestern did nearly upset the Buckeyes in Evanston back in January, but Ohio State prevailed by a point. From Along the Olentangy:
Whether it was voodoo magic or just a string of lucky bounces, the Wildcats could sure use more of it today. Ohio State ranks 79th in the country and 5th in the Big Ten in offensive rebounding percentage, and forward Jared Sullinger is one of the premier rebounders in the country, averaging 9.7 per game. Northwestern’s leading rebounder, center Luka Mirkovic, only averages 5.4 per game and is more effective on the defensive end of the floor. Mirkovic averages two offensive rebounds per game to Sullinger’s 3.1.
Northwestern’s an effective shooting team, and they displayed that proficiency against Minnesota in the first round. They shot a 50% effective field goal percentage, most of which came on the back of senior guard Michael Thompson who put together a truly incredible performance. Thompson hit 50% from the field and had 35 points, knocking down five 3-pointers in the process. Against Ohio State in January, Thompson was the leading scorer with 16 points, but he did not dominate like he did against the Golden Gophers. Minnesota does not have the guard play that Ohio State does, so some of Thompson’s performance can be attributed to the opponent, but he’s shown that he’s capable of going off if allowed.
Illinois (19-12, 9-9) vs. Michigan (19-12, 9-9)
These teams are nearly identical, so it is natural their only meeting during the regular season came down tot he final possession. both are fighting for an NCAA Tournament bid. The winner will be probably be safely int he field, but what about the loser? Illinois’ profile can likely take a hit more than Michigan’s because the Fighting Illini have a quality victory over North Carolina. The Wolverines do not. From Maize N’ Brew:
Looking at the numbers, Michigan’s RPI of 56 isn’t great, but it’s not that bad either. While you’d prefer it to be in the top 50, it’s still in the top 68 in the country and no one can complain on that end. Here are the rest of them:
Record against Top 50 RPI: 3-8
Record against Top 100 RPI: 9-11
Performance in last Ten Games: 7-3 (losses by a total of 12 points)
If we’re being honest it’s a good, but not great resume. But then again we’re talking about getting into the Tournament, not talking seeding. As for intangibles, Michigan is arguably one of the hottest teams in the country. They’re balanced and they’re obviously well coached. They’ve beaten several other bubble teams during their push toward the Tournament.
Certainly were biased here, but this resume should be enough to get Michigan into the tournament as it stands. But nothing is guaranteed.
Michigan State (18-13, 9-9) vs. Purdue (25-6, 14-4)
The Boilemakers won both regular season meetings in convincing fashion, while Michigan State is squarely on the Bubble. Some think that its victory yesterday over Iowa was enough, as the Spartans are back int he top 50 of the RPI, but a win over top 10 Purdue would likely seal their place. The Boilermakers are still seeking a #2 seed to the NCAA Tournament, and some think they have an outside chance at a #1 seed. From Hammer & Rails:
I am very wary of playing the Spartans for a third time, but I am encouraged that we drilled them both times. The second half of our game in East Lansing is about the best we have played all year, especially with Lewis Jackson tearing them apart. They have yet to prove this season they can stop LewJack, or JaJuan Johnson for that matter. I think our guys have been itching for another game all week to get the bad taste of that Iowa game out of their mouths. It is good that Michigan State won, because if we had lost to Iowa again we would have probably dropped to a four seed. Now I think we have a three seed even if we lose to Michigan State because they are good, desperate team trying to get into the NCAA’s. a win makes a two seed a very strong possibility, especially if some other things go our way.
Penn State (17-13, 9-9) vs. Wisconsin (23-7, 13-5)
As good as the Badgers have been at home,t hey have been merely average on the road. They are just 7-7 away from the Kohl Center this year, with two wins coming on last second shots or in overtime. The Nittany Lions still have an outside shot at the NCAA Tourney, but they absolutely need this one. Penn State won in Happy Valley during the regular season, but Wisconsin won at home to earn a split between the teams. From Bucky’s 5th Quarter:
Are you wondering what to expect out of Wisconsin this weekend in the Big Ten Tournament? If the past decade has taught us anything, you should know by Friday night.
If the Badgers win their first game, clear your schedule. Wisconsin has won four times on Friday in the last 10 years and all four times the Badgers have advanced to the championship game. Wisconsin has won it all twice (2004, 2008) and finished second twice (2005, 2007). The Badgers have never played on Thursdays under Bo Ryan and that streak continues with the team’s No. 3 seed this season.
Unfortunately, there is also an ugly flip side. Wisconsin has been bounced immediately from the tourney the other six times during the past decade, including Ryan’s first two seasons in Madison when UW lost back-to-back years as the top seed (2002-03). That is not totally unusual though, since the No. 1 seed actually lost its first game four of the first six years since the Big Ten Tournament started in 1998.
The Big Ten season began with a 69-60 loss to Penn State at Assembly Hall. it ended with an 61-55 loss to the Nittany Lions just an hour up the road in Indianapolis. the Hoosiers were 9-4 the first time around, but finished the year just 12-20 and with no wins away from Assembly Hall.
Penn State picked up just its seventh ever win in the Big Ten Tournament, but they have only made it past the quarterfinal round twice in 2000 and 2001. They likely need at least one more victory to have any chance at making the NCAA Tournament, while an appearance in the final would help even more. The Nittany Lions will face Wisconsin in Friday’s quarterfinals, and Penn State split the season series with the Badgers. Each team won at home.
Christian Watford was the only Indiana player in double figures with 15 points. Hulls finished with nine points, but was 0 for 4 on 3-pointers.
Michigan State has made a habit of pulling out tough games in March, and they did it again today as they kept a pesky Iowa Hawkeyes team from beating them for a second time this season, and possibly putting their tournament bid in jeopardy.
With 1:37 left in the game Iowa's Zach McCabe sunk a three pointer to pull the Hawkeyes within 1 point at 61-62. Michigan State's senior Durrell Summers though stepped up huge for the Spartans in the final minute, draining four straight freethrows and grabbing a key rebound to finally dispatch Iowa 66-61.
This game was anything but easy for Tom Izzo's crew though, who fell behind by as much as seven points with 10:41 to go. Draymond Green's 21 points and 14 rebounds proved to be the difference for the Spartans though as Iowa's front line could not stop the 6'7" 230 junior.
With this victory, however ugly it may be, Michigan State survives to get a crack at No.9 Purdue tomorrow, and keeps their tournament hopes alive for at least another day. Given the Spartans' reputation for winning close ugly games, they should not be counted out against the Boilermakers, and could still make some noise yet this March,
It has been a long season for the Indiana Hoosiers, but they have one last chance to redeem themselves in the Big Ten Tournament. Indiana and Penn State met only once this year, and it was to open Big Ten play in Assembly Hall. At the time, Indiana was 9-4 and had dreams of playing in the postseason for the first time in three years. The Nittany Lions were coming off of a lackluster non-conference season, so the 69-60 Penn State win was a shock at the time.
Afterward, the teams headed in opposite directions. Penn State pulled off multiple upsets over Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Illinois to finish a very respectable 9-9 in league play. Indiana struggled mightily, beating only Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota to finish 3-15 in last place. The Hoosiers have been a solid home team under coach Tom Crean, but it is away from Assembly Hall where they have really struggled. Indiana is just 3-40 in games away from Bloomington since Crean took over three seasons ago. Indiana's Christian Watford leads the Hoosiers at 16 points per game and 5.4 rebounds per game. Verdell Jones III also averages 12.7 per game.
Penn State is led by Talor Battle, who earned second team all-Big Ten honors a week ago. He is second in the league in scoring at 20.4 points per game, only a tenth of a point behind Purdue's JaJuan Johnson. Jeff Brooks helps with 12.7 points per game for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State comes in tied for the worst overall record in the Big Ten Tournament, as they are only 6-13 all-time. Indiana is 8-13, but has not won a game since 2006 in the event. Penn State defeated Indiana in the 6/11 two years ago, but lost as the 11 seed to Minnesota last season.
Given what is on the line for the Spartans, it is surprising they have not come out with more energy against the scrappy Iowa Hawkeyes. With their tournament hopes very much dependent upon their performance in this tournament, the Spartans have been unable to shake Iowa, missing open looks and committing eight turnovers.
Particularly puzzling for Tom Izzo must be the play of senior point guard and team captain, Kalin Lucas, who is only 1-7 from the field, with 7 points to show for it. A bright spot for the Spartans has been the play of Draymond Green, who was 7-11 for 15 points and 6 rebounds.
For Iowa, Matt Gatens and Bryce Cartwright, who both had big games against MSU in Iowa City, are once again having success against the Spartans. Gatens is 4-8 for 9 points, while Cartwright is 4-8 for 10 points, and 4 assists. The Hawkeyes are once again getting their work done inside, but have connected on three of their four three point attempts.
It will be interesting to see which team comes out with more energy in the second half, with both of their seasons on the line.
If you look at the current Bracket Projections, Michigan State is one of the very last teams in, possibly playing the opening round in Dayton. This is a very precarious position for the once very highly ranked Spartans, and may not be able to afford losing to a No. 10 seeded Iowa team that has already beaten them by 20 this season.
Knowledgeable people have argued that Tom Izzo's team needs not only to beat the Hawkeyes, but also probably beat Purdue on Friday to feel really confident about making the field of 68 as an at large. It would be strange indeed to have a March Madness without Michigan State, who have made two straight Final Fours, and a sad way for the careers of Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers to end.
Iowa by contrast is a young team that is hoping to build for the future, and to build off of their program defining win against No.9 Purdue in Iowa City last week. Fran McCaffrey has done a lot with the Hawkeyes in his first year on the job, and with the NCAA Tournament almost completely out of reach, making some noise in the Big Ten Tournament would be a great alternative.
The Hawkeyes are led by junior guard Matt Gatens, who is averaging nearly 13 points per game, and stand out freshman forward Melsahn Basabe, who is averaging 11 points and nearly 7 rebounds per game this season. In the blowout win over Michigan State earlier this season, junior guard Bryce Cartwright scored 12 points and pulled down 10 boards.
It will be a very interesting match up to be sure, as one program seems to be on the upswing, while another may be taking a step back after several years of dominance.
Minnesota's long Big Ten season is over, mostly as a result of Michael Thompson. The savvy senior guard, affectionately known as Juice, broke Brian Cardinal's Big Ten Tournament single game scoring record by dropping 35 points on the Golden Gophers, sending Northwestern into the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals with a 75-65 win. Cardinal scored 33 in a Big Ten Tournament game For Purdue in 1998.
The win was Northwestern's sixth ever in the Big Ten Tournament, as the Wildcats came into the event with the worst record of the eleven teams in the 14-year old event. The Wildcats are now a step closer to their first ever NCAA Tournament berth, but they likely need to win the tournament and take the automatic bid.
Minnesota struggled to keep up with Northwestern's guard play, as the loss of Al Nolen and Devoe Joseph at midseason sent the Golden Gophers into a tailspin from which they could not recover. By the end, Northwestern's speed and shooting ability overcame Minnesota's superior size. Trevor Mbakwe finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds, including several rim-rattling dunks, but it was not enough to keep the Gophers alive in the tournament. Blake Hoffarber finished with 13 points for Minnesota, who closed at 17-14.
Drew Carawford had 15 points for the Wildcats, while Alex Mercotullio had 13 points. The Wildcats will now face top ranked Ohio State in the quarterfinals. Northwestern only lost by a point at 58-57 to Ohio State during their only meeting of the regular season.
At halftime of the opening game of the Big Ten Tournament Northwestern holds a slim 32-30 over Minnesota thanks to some timely three-point shooting and defense. Trevor Mbakwe started the game off with an easy dunk within the first five seconds of the game, but that was the only thing that has come easy for the Golden Gophers. Northwestern has connected on 5 of 18 from long range to lead by two at the break, with Michael Thompson Scoring 13 points.
Ralph Sampson III has scored 10 for Minnesota, but the Golden Gophers have hit on only 11 of 28 shots from the field. Both teams are getting to the free throw line with regularity, as Northwestern is 5 of 6 from the line and Minnesota is 6 of 8. Minnesota has 21 rebounds, using its size to gain an advantage over the smaller Wildcats. Northwestern has only 16 rebounds at the break.
It is a battle of two teams that need a Big Ten Tournament Championship in order to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. One team could end their season today, the victor gets to meet No.1 Ohio State tomorrow.
Minnesota is playing with a loaded front line featuring Trevor Mbakwe, Ralph Sampson and Colton Iverson, while the Wildcats will be hoping to get hot from the outside with Juice Thompson, John Shurna and Drew Crawford.
Both Minnesota and Northwestern have had a rough go of things down the stretch of the conference season, and would like to go out on a high note in Indianapolis.
It is sure to be a hotly contested game with two coaches that want desperately to play in the NCAA tournament.
Both teams may end up being in the NIT, and this game could mean the difference between having a home game in that tournament, and playing on the road throughout.
There has been a lot of discussion about which of the top teams can pull an upset over Ohio State and possibly take home the Big Ten Championship trophy. Travis Miller of Hammer and Rails and I, Joe Kutsunis of Hail to the Orange, today discussed which bottom tier Big Ten teams have the best chance of making a run in the Big Ten Tournament and stealing a bid from one of the conference's other teams.
Travis argues that Iowa is set up nicely for a dark horse Big Ten Championship run, with matchups against very familiar teams.
Bryce Cartwright, Melsahn Basabe, and Jarryd Cole are heavy underdogs in Indianapolis, but do not totally count them out. They open against a Michigan State team that is struggling and that lost to Iowa by 20 in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes would then play the same Purdue team they just shocked last week. Should they pull both upsets, it is likely that Wisconsin would await. Iowa took the Badgers to overtime in Iowa City, so it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that they could beat a team that just isn’t the same outside the Kohl Center.
Even if it gets to the final Iowa would have to win it in order to go to the NCAA’s, and the old fatigue factor that has killed so many Thursday teams could kick in. The Hawkeyes are specialists at this though. They have twice made it to the final from Thursday, a feat only matched by Illinois in 1999 and 2008.
I feel that Penn State though, could be in even better position to steal a bid from one of the at-large teams.
PSU ended up the season at 9-9, tied for fourth with Illinois, Michigan and Michigan State, but unlike all of those other teams, PSU has been left out of nearly all of the projected fields. PSU will draw a very down Indiana in the 6/11 game, then face a Wisconsin team that was just blown out by Ohio State, and would then draw a Purdue team that beat them by a mere one point in January. Making the championship game, likely against Ohio State might be enough to over take at least one of the Big Ten teams in front of the Nittany Lions, and enough for them to squeak into the field of 68.
Even more than that Penn State has the player that could make a tournament run like that a reality in Talor Battle. Battle is averaging 20 points per game for a team that only scores around 60 per game. If Battle gets hot this weekend in Indianapolis, there might not be anything that opposing teams can do to stop the senior point guard.
A six seed or an 11 seed going home with the Big Ten trophy? Its not crazy, it has nearly happened five times, and did happen in 2001 when Iowa won the whole thing as a six seed.
Illinois Fighting Illini – #5 seed – 19-2, 9-9
NCAA chances: 75%
Likely NCAA seed 8/9
What is there to play for – I think the Fighting Illini are safe, but I thought that last year too. They could be a very dangerous 8/9 seed if they play to their potential. If they want to remove all doubt they’ll beat Michigan. Wins over North Carolina and Wisconsin are solid, while Michigan State is also a top 50 win. I think they cancel out the bad loss at Indiana and awful loss to Illinois-Chicago. Illinois is probably playing for a seed unless they look really bad in a loss to Michigan. This team is a threat to win the tournament, but I don’t know if they can beat Ohio State in a semi-final matchup.
Northwestern Wildcats – #8 seed – 17-12, 7-11
NCAA chances: 1% (only if they win the auto-bid)
Likely NCAA seed: none
What is there to play for – Well, the Wildcats get a rematch of their last game, when they beat Minnesota by 11. They would then face Ohio State, whom they battled closely but lost to in the final seconds. Northwestern is just 5-13 all-time in this event, and one of those wins was over Indiana last year. They have never made it past a Friday of the tournament, either. If they were to shock OSU, an easier game against Michigan or Illinois could put them into the final and give them a small chance at an at large bid. I just don’t see it happening though. Likely they can win one game and that would be it.
The Big Ten this afternoon announced its tournament bracket, and the seedings are as follows:
Ohio State gets the No. 1 seed for the fifth time in its history, after being the outright Big Ten regular season champion with a 16-2 conference record. Purdue is No. 2, Wisconsin No. 3, Michigan No. 4 and Illinois No. 5. All of those teams will get first-round byes.
The tournament begins on Thursday at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The first game will be at 1:30 p.m. CST, matching No. 8 Northwestern vs. No. 9 Minnesota; that game will be televised on ESPN2. That will be followed by No. 7 Michigan State facing No. 10 Iowa, also on ESPN2. The third and final game of the day will be between No. 6 Penn State and No. 11 Indiana. That one will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
Stay with this SB Nation Chicago StoryStream™ for all the details and analysis of the 2011 Big Ten Tournament.
The regular season is at an end, and fans across the Big Ten are gearing up for the final push into March Madness. Only a few regular season games and the Big Ten Tournament remain for the teams to shore up their tournament resumes, and while this hasn't quite been the dominant basketball season the Big Ten expected, there are still eight teams that are in the running for tournament bids.
According to SB Nation's excellent bracketologist, Chris Dobbertean, if the season ended today, six teams from the Big Ten would make the field, but of those teams only three are absolute locks.
Ohio State Buckeyes: Holding the No.1 ranking for most of the season and clinching your second straight Big Ten championship must be nice, so also must be knowing that even if the Buckeyes lose to Wisconsin on Sunday, they are still probably a shoe in for a No.1 seed in the NCAA tournament, most likely in the very Buckeye friendly friendly venue of Cleveland. The Buckeyes would have to lose to both Wisconsin at home, and lose their first round match up in the Big Ten tournament for any of this to be in jeopardy, and who here really thinks that will happen?
Purdue Boilermakers: Matt Painter is garnering serious Coach of the Year talk right now after bringing the Boilers to a No.6 national ranking and within a game of a Big Ten Championship, all after his team was left for dead last fall, having lost Robbie Hummel for the season. While playing with three All American caliber seniors would have been nice Painter and the Boilers have made do with just two, E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson, winning seven in a row to close the season, including huge home wins over Wisconsin and Ohio State. Purdue still has its sights set high for the NCAA tournament though, and believes that it is still alive for a No.1 seed. For that to happen, Purdue would need to win out the season, beating Iowa this weekend and winning the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, all the while having Duke or BYU slip up along the way.
Wisconsin Badgers: Bo Ryan's team has finished in the top three of the Big Ten yet again, overcoming low expectations to guide his team to likely another high seed in the NCAA tournament, possibly a 4 or even a 3. Wisconsin has a lot more to lose right now than it has to gain, and with games left against Indiana and Ohio State, the Badgers could secure themselves a 3 seed but likely no higher. Let this be a lesson to all of you, even if Bo Ryan comes out of the gate with the Washington Generals, he will find a way to make the season a successful one.
The second tier, teams who cannot be confident that they are in the field of 68. After the top three teams, there is a very large bulge of mediocrity in the Big Ten conference with four teams all hovering around a .500 record in conference, and fighting over three conference bids that could easily shrink to two with upsets in other leagues. Each of these five teams need to win some games in the Big Ten tournament, or failing that hope that the other four don't, to feel at all confident about making the dance this year.
Illinois Fighting Illini: Quite possibly the definition of backing into the post season, the Illini started the year with a top 20 ranking, but have lost an astonishing nine of their last fourteen games in conference, bringing them to an 8-9 conference record. The Illini have one regular season game remaining, Saturday against bitter rival but probably over matched Indiana on Saturday, and then a Friday match up in the Big Ten tournament. Currently predicted by Dobbertean as a No.9 seed, conventional wisdom tells us that if the Illini beat Indiana, they will likely still be safely in the field, with their RPI of 40, their 3-8 record against the RPI top 50, and No. 11 ranked strength of schedule. Illinois fans were confident last year too, thinking that a winning conference record and a win against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament were enough to get them to the dance, but it wasn't. Illinois would be best served to not only win against Indiana on Saturday but also win one or two games in the Big Ten Tournament, if they really want to be comfortable.
Michigan State Spartans: What a difficult season this must be for MSU fans, coming off of two straight Final Fours and heading into the season as the consensus No.2 ranked team, the eight losses in conference isn't at all what was expected. At 16-12 the Spartans are relying on the fact that there are two winnable games in front of them, Iowa and Michigan and that their No. 5 SOS and their 4-10 record against the RPI top 50 should be enough for them to squeak in. Dobbertean has the Spartans as a No. 11 seed, but don't be surprised if this team makes a run in the Big Ten Tournament to cement their place in the field.
Michigan Wolverines: Picked as a bottom feeder before the season, John Beilein's Wolverines have made a very good showing in the Big Ten, despite losing stars Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims in the off season. Still Michigan is the quintessential bubble team this year, currently projected as one of the four teams playing in the "First Round" in Dayton Ohio. The Wolverines have had their chances this year, with heartbreaking last second losses to Kansas, Illinois and Wisconsin probably hurting all the worse given the small margin of error on their resume. Michigan needs to beat MSU on Saturday to get to .500 in conference and if they want to make sure a bid isn't stolen out from under them they will need to win in the Big Ten Tournament.
Penn State Nittany Lions: It will be one of the great tragedies of basketball if standout PSU guard Talor Battle never plays an NCAA tournament game. Right now Penn State is on the outside looking in, but could still find itself with a .500 conference record and a No.4 or 5 seed in the Big Ten tournament, if they win that game and the other teams on the Big Ten bubble flounder, it could be enough to finally let the Nittany Lions into the dance, unfortunately their resume on its own might not be enough.
Minnesota Golden Gophers: Tubby Smith has had an up and down tenure at Minnesota, losing players like Al Nolen to injury and Devoe Joseph to transfer, but having outstanding play from players like Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson III. With ten conference losses already, the tournament bubble for the Gophers may already have burst, but poor showings by the other four teams here mentioned and a decently deep Big Ten tournament run might be enough for Minnesota to sneak in again this year.
The Rest: Northwestern, Iowa, and Indiana.
The tournament dreams of these teams died long ago, unfortunately, and each would need to win the Big Ten tournament for that to happen. These teams shouldn't despair too much though, because out of the twelve Big Ten tournaments that have been held, six teams that played on Thursday managed to make the championship game on Sunday, with Iowa winning the thing in 2001. In a conference tournament, you never know what could happen.
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