INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 13: Jon Diebler #33 of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the championship game of the 2011 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 13, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Ohio State Wins 2011 Big Ten Tournament Final 71-60 Over Penn State

The end of the Big Ten season is here and the Big Ten Tournament starts Thursday. Stay with this SB Nation Chicago StoryStream™ for complete tournament coverage.

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Ohio State Wins 2011 Big Ten Tournament, 71-60 Over Penn State

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.


2011 Big Ten Tournament: Talor Battle Propels Penn State Past Michigan State 61-48, Will Face OSU in Championship

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


2011 Big Ten Tournament: Michigan State And Penn State Square Off In Surprise Semi-Final

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.


2011 Big Ten Tournament: Buckeyes Overpower Michigan - Advance To Championship

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.

Also playing well for OSU were seniors William Buford and Jon Diebler, who pulled down 16 points each.

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.


Ohio State Leads Michigan 31-27 At Halftime Of Big Ten Semi-Final

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.


Penn State Upsets Wisconsin 36-33 In Painfully Slow Big Ten Night Cap

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.


2011 Big Ten Tournament: Penn State Leads Wisconsin 20-16 in Defensive Struggle

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.


Michigan State Upsets Purdue In Lopsided 74-56 Romp

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.


2011 Big Ten Tournament: Michigan State Out And Running Over Purdue 37-23 Halftime

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.


2011 Big Ten Tournament: Bracket For Evening Games Set For Purdue And Michigan State

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.


2011 Big Ten Tournament Bracket: Michigan Earns Major Bubble Boost With 60-55 Win Over Illinois

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.


2011 Big Ten Tournament Bracket: Illini Michigan 34-23 At The Half

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.


Illinois and Michigan Face Off In NCAA Tournament Bubble Battle

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.

You can follow the Illini at the SB Nation Blog Hail To The Orange, and the Wolverines at Maize'nbrew.


Northwestern Takes No. 1 Ohio State To Overtime Before Falling 67-61

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.


Northwestern Hanging Tough With No. 1 Ohio State, Trail 28-23

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.


2011: Big Ten Tournament: Day 2 Will Separate Contenders And Pretenders

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:

Good Wins [RPI]: Harvard 34; Michigan St. 47 (twice); Penn St. 55 (twice); Oakland 52; @ Clemson 61

Bad losses [RPI]: @ Indiana 182; @ Northwestern 91

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.


2011 Big Ten Tournament: Indiana Ends Season with 61-55 loss to Penn State

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.

The Hoosiers did a good job in limiting the Big Ten’s second leading scorer in Talor Battle. he was held to just 13 points, but Jeff Brooks finished with 15 points for the Nittany Lions.

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.


2011 Big Ten Tournament: Spartans Hold Off Hawkeyes 66-61 To Advance to Big Ten Quarterfinals

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,


2011 Big Ten Tournament: Michigan State And Iowa Playing Close 33-31

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.


2011 Big Ten Tournament: Michigan State Plays Iowa To Keep Their Tournament Hopes Alive

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.


2011 Big Ten Tournament: Juice Thompson sets Big Ten Record With 35, Northwestern Upends Minnesota 75-65


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.


Hammer & Rails Breaks Down The Seeds

As the Manager of Purdue’s SBNation site, Hammer & Rails, I recently broke down each seed in the Big Ten Tournament and what each team has to play for. Here is an excerpt:

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.

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