Merriman: Top 10 B1G performances in the NCAA Tourney
Wisconsin’s season came to a close after a heartbreaking 74-73 loss to Kentucky in Saturday’s national semifinal matchup. The Badgers were the last team standing from the Big Ten, capping what was a memorable 2013-14 season for the conference.
As a whole, Big Ten teams finished the NCAA Tournament with a combined record of 10-6. In those 16 games, there were plenty of standout individual performances.
Here is a look at the 10 best individual performances from Big Ten teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
10. Frank Kaminsky vs. Oregon. The Badgers’ big man scored a team-high 19 points and grabbed five rebounds in Wisconsin’s 85-77 come-from-behind win over Oregon in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Trailing by double-digits in the second half, Kaminsky helped fuel a memorable Wisconsin comeback en route to a Sweet 16 appearance.
9. Gary Harris vs. UConn. Harris was one of the lone bright spots in Michigan State’s 60-54 loss to UConn in an Elite Eight matchup. The Spartans’ stud shooting guard scored a team-best 22 points while shooting 8-of-14 from the floor and 4-of-9 from 3-point range.
8. Traevon Jackson vs. Oregon. This guy was outstanding in the Badgers’ third round win over Oregon. He totaled 16 points, eight rebounds, five assists and shot 9-of-11 from the free-throw line. Jackson helped the Badgers outscore Oregon by 20 points in the second half en route to an 85-77 victory.
7. Nik Stauskas vs. Kentucky. Stauskas was the best player on the court in this game, but it wasn’t enough as Michigan’s season came to an end with a 75-72 loss to Kentucky in the Elite Eight. The Big Ten Player of the Year scored a game-high 24 points while playing all but one minute in this game.
6. Jordan Morgan vs. Texas. The unsung hero of this Michigan team was nothing short of phenomenal in the Wolverines’ 79-65 win over Texas in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. The senior captain notched a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while shooting 4-of-7 from the field and knocking down 7-of-8 from the free throw line. But Morgan’s biggest impact came on the defensive side of the ball, where he held Texas big man Cameron Ridley to just six points, despite Ridley’s huge size advantage down low.
5. Frank Kaminsky vs. Baylor. This game will be remembered for Wisconsin’s ability to shred Baylor’s zone defense, and that was thanks in part to the play of Kaminsky. The All-Big Ten performer scored a game-high 19 points while shooting an impressive 8-of-11 from the field. He was also outstanding on the defensive end, totaling six blocks while holding Baylor’s run-and-gun offense to a measly .316 shooting clip.
4. Branden Dawson vs. Harvard. The Spartans’ junior forward was near unstoppable in this game, scoring a career-high 26 points and grabbing nine rebounds in MSU’s 80-73 victory over Harvard. Dawson made 12 of his 15 shot attempts en route to leading the Spartans onto the Sweet 16 for the 12th time in the last 17 seasons.
3. Branden Dawson vs. Virginia. Dawson was dominant in this game, as well, recording a double-double with an impressive 24 points and 10 rebounds. But even more impressive was his defense as he helped hold the No. 1-seeded Cavaliers to a measly 35 percent shooting clip from the field, far off from the 54 percent they shot in their two previous NCAA Tournament games. Dawson helped the Spartans advance to their eighth Elite Eight since 1999, all under Tom Izzo.
2. Adreian Payne vs. Delaware. Payne had what will be remembered as one of the greatest individual performances in recent NCAA Tournament memory. The Spartans’ big man scored a career-high 41 points to lead MSU to an impressive 93-78 opening round win over Delaware. Payne’s 41 points was a school tournament scoring record and the first 40-point outing in an NCAA Tournament game since Steph Curry did it for Davidson back in 2008. Payne shot 10-of-15 from the field, 4-of-5 from 3-point range, and 17-of-17 from the free-throw line, which was an NCAA Tournament record. What a stud.
1. Frank Kaminsky vs. Arizona. Payne’s overall numbers were more impressive, but what Frank Kaminsky did in this Elite Eight matchup against Arizona will be talked about for a long time in Madison. Kaminsky scored a game-high 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in leading the Badgers to an unforgettable 64-63 overtime win over No. 1-seeded Arizona. The win marked the Badgers first Final Four appearance since 2000.