The calendar is flipping to 2014, and that means it’s time to rank the top 10 Big Ten men’s basketball games of 2013. Talk about a difficult list! This is like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. Anyway, here’s my list of the 10 best games from the 2013 calendar year.
10. Michigan State 78, Kentucky 74, Nov. 12. The game’s earliest meeting between No. 1 and No. 2 ever and just the fifth of its kind since 1999, No. 2 Michigan State’s narrow victory over top-ranked Kentucky was the perfect start to what many feel is certain to be another fantastic Big Ten season. This game not only pitted Tom Izzo vs. John Calipari, it featured future pros all over the court. The Spartans, behind stout defense and strong transition offense, led by as many as 13 points before having to hold on late for the exciting four-point win over No. 1 at the United Center.
9. Indiana 72, Michigan State 68, Feb. 19. This was one of the Hoosiers’ finest hours, as they waded into East Lansing and left with their first win since 1991—a string of 17 losses in a row at Michigan State. Credit Victor Oladipo, whose full array of skills was on display in this win over No. 4 Michigan State. In the final minute, the junior hit the go-ahead put-back dunk and free throws to finish with 19 points, nine rebounds, five steals and a block. It was simply a stunning effort, and it all came on a bum ankle he had twisted in the previous game.
8. Minnesota 77, Indiana 73, Feb. 26. Led by Trevor Mbakwe, the Golden Gophers muscled up on the No. 1 Hoosiers in one of the biggest upsets of the season. Minnesota entered the game listing, having lost eight of 11 games and slipping onto the NCAA bubble. But Mbakwe notched 21 points and 12 boards to dominate Cody Zeller (nine points; four turnovers) in Williams Arena.
7. Penn State 84, Michigan 78, Feb. 27. The Nittany Lions authored the upset of the year with this stunner, roaring back from 15 points down to the No. 4 Wolverines to notch their first Big Ten win after opening 0-14 in the conference. It was Penn State’s first victory over a top-five team since downing No. 5 North Carolina, 82-74, in the second round of the 2001 NCAA tourney, and the highest-ranked foe that the Nittany Lions had beaten since moving to the Bryce Jordan Center in 1996.
6. Michigan 76, Ohio State 74, Feb. 5. These schools’ iconic football rivalry also has a lot of juice on the hardwood. This overtime thriller was proof in the first top-10 meeting between Michigan and Ohio State. The end was dramatic, as Tim Hardaway Jr., of No. 3 Michigan, blocked Ohio State’s Aaron Craft shot on the final play of the game to preserve the victory over the No. 10 Buckeyes. It was fitting that Hardaway made a key play at the end, as he kept the Wolverines in this one with a litany of 3-pointers en route to tallying 23 points.
5. Michigan 58, Michigan State 57, March 3. This was Trey Burke at his best, lunging in and stealing the ball from Keith Appling and going in for the game-winning dunk with 22 seconds left. Burke, who finished with 21 points and eight assists, sealed the victory by stealing a Gary Harris pass with 4.9 seconds left, much to the delight of the Ann Arbor crowd.
4. Wisconsin 65, Michigan 62, OT, Feb. 9. This one had the nation buzzing after the Badgers’ Ben Brust drilled a shot from just inside midcourt as the buzzer sounded to force overtime. Wisconsin took over from there, downing the No. 3 Wolverines who thought they had it won in regulation after Tim Hardaway Jr., nailed a three-pointer with less than three seconds left to put Michigan up, 60-57, in Madison.
3. Illinois 74, Indiana 72, Feb. 7. The Illini’s Tyler Griffey capped this thriller by hitting a game-winning layup following an inbounds pass with 0.9 seconds left to knock off No. 1 Indiana. The stunning win in Champaign ended a horrible stretch for Illinois, which had lost eight of 11 games and trailed this game, 41-29, at halftime.
2. Michigan 87, Kansas 85 (OT), March 29. It didn’t look good for Michigan and Trey Burke at halftime of their Sweet 16 matchup with top-seed Kansas. Not only were the Wolverines trailing, 40-34, but Burke, everybody’s national player of the year, was scoreless. Then came the second half – and overtime – and it was all about Burke. The star point guard drained a DEEP trey in the final seconds to force overtime, and he finished with 23 points to seal Michigan’s deepest NCAA run since the Fab 5. The Wolverines, of course, went on to make the national title game.
1. Indiana 72, Michigan 71, March 10. The Big Ten saved the best for last. This game became an instant classic the moment Jordan Morgan’s potential game-winning putback spun out of the cylinder and the final buzzer sounded. The Wolverines inexplicably blew a five-point lead with 52 seconds left at home on Senior Day, costing themselves, Ohio State and Michigan State a share of the Big Ten title. Missed free throws and monster plays by Indiana’s Cody Zeller—who finished with 25 points–during the last heart-stopping minute led the Hoosiers to their first outright Big Ten title since 1992-93. In the process, IU likely sewed up the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. Whew!
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.