Illinois’ bubble hopes are over after a last-second floater from Tracy Abrams came up short to hand Michigan the victory.
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We sit a mere two days from Selection Sunday, yet much is still to be determined in Indianapolis. Thursday’s quarterfinals saw Minnesota and Illinois keep hope alive. How much more do these teams, along with Nebraska, need to do to get into the Big Dance?
Iowa’s tailspin to close the regular season has carried into the postseason in the form of a stunning loss to Northwestern, 67-62.
Needing a victory to keep its at-large hopes alive, Minnesota gutted one out against a persistent Penn State squad. Although the Gophers’ lead touched double digits at times, the Nittany Lions kept fighting and had opportunities down the stretch to make a real game of it. An Andre Hollins three with 12 seconds left would ice it, and Minnesota fans could finally exhale.
In a game that featured three-fifths of the recently-selected Big Ten All-Defensive Team, it was indeed defense that ruled the day as Ohio State held off a stiff challenge from Purdue. This was a ragged affair, with both teams scoring under a point per trip and combining for 29 turnovers. The squads combined to shoot 3-for-24 from downtown, a number that stung even more for the Boilermakers when Terone Johnson’s would-be game-winning three at the buzzer came up short.
Illinois rode a strong defensive effort to a victory over Indiana in the opening game of the 2014 Big Ten tournament. From the outset, it was clear that the Illini were going to aggressively double-team Indiana freshman Noah Vonleh on every touch, with the idea that a packed-in defense would force the Hoosiers to win the game from the perimeter.
The Big Ten tournament tips off Thursday at noon ET, and it appears to be a wide open field, at least if you trust efficiency margin as a predictive tool. The last time the conference had only one team ranked in the KenPom top 10 was in 2010, when 6-seed Minnesota made a run to the tournament final to secure an unlikely at-large bid. Might we see something similar this time around?
Well, it’s that time again—time to highlight all of our correct predictions, and whitewash all of the things we got wrong! See our Big Ten Geeks Josh Reed and Mike Portscheller wrap up the regular season and hand out hardware in this post.
Nebraska secured perhaps the best win ever at Pinnacle Bank Arena when it took down the Badgers last night. The Huskers got 26 points from each of Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway, the latter of which is making a push to be included on the All-Big Ten 1st team.
Michigan State used a run out of intermission to create separation from Iowa in an eventual 10-point win. Both teams scored nearly at will in this one, but the Spartans’ outstanding three-point shooting masked a high turnover rate that is becoming worrisome.
Michigan won the Big Ten title outright last night on the strength of a shockingly easy win at Illinois. Sure, the Illini don’t have an impressive record, but John Groce’s team came into the matchup on a three-game winning streak, during which no opponent broke 0.9 points per trip. This was a hot team whose defense was absolutely stifling conference opponents. Talk had even begun of this Illinois team somehow sneaking back onto the bubble in the season’s final week.
Michigan clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title this weekend, as it took care of business against Minnesota at home while Michigan State was upset by Illinois in East Lansing.
Penn State celebrated an early senior night (the Nittany Lions still have another home game remaining, but I guess they didn’t like their chances against Wisconsin) by rallying from an 11-point first half deficit to take down Ohio State. PSU got a big game out of junior guard D.J. Newbill (23 points, 9 shots), who had a better game than LaQuinton Ross (19 points, 12 shots). I mention those two because, outside of them, there was not a lot of offense. Tim Frazier had 16 points, but it took 12 shots to get there and it came with 6 turnovers.
Minnesota propelled itself back into the field of 68 with a decisive win over Iowa at home. The Gopher defense has been much-maligned this season (this is the second-worst defense in the Big Ten), but that doesn’t matter when you shoot 58 percent from 3 and 63 percent on 2s.
First, a recap of the weekend’s games. But jump to the end for our take on the Big Ten’s best defensive players so far this season. Or as I’ve come to know it—Our Annual Solicitation of Hate Mail from Buckeye Fans.
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Before a very important weekend of games, let’s take a quick look at where Big Ten teams currently rank in KenPom relative to where they were ranked in the preseason.
Illinois shocked Minnesota in the Barn on Wednesday, dealing a serious blow to the Gophers’ NCAA tournament hopes. Minnesota actually got off to a great start in this game, leading 14-3 after eight minutes, but it was all Illinois after that. The Gophers had a terrible night from the outside (4-for-25, 16 percent), and the turnovers mounted as they tried to make plays going to the basket.
We’re in the home stretch of conference play, so it feels an appropriate time to check in on the play of the Big Ten’s freshmen. Who has the inside track on freshman of the year? What youngsters are doing more than you realized? Let’s find out.
Indiana’s season reached a new low in Saturday’s drubbing at Purdue. The Boilermakers busted the game open after intermission, and the one thing that had been a relative constant for the Hoosiers–a solid defense–went by the wayside. To be fair, some of this was just Purdue having a fantastic afternoon from the perimeter (10-for-18 on threes), but Indiana didn’t offer much resistance either.
On Wednesday night, Penn State stamped out any remaining Indiana tournament hopes with a shocking road upset. The Hoosiers seemingly had this game in hand the entire way, and it felt all but over when Indiana held an 11-point lead with three minutes remaining. Somehow, the Nittany Lions roared back, and they took their first lead of the entire game on a Tim Frazier layup with six seconds remaining. Yogi Ferrell missed a tough jumper at the horn, and the upset was complete.
Michigan came up with big road win over Ohio State thanks to a second-half surge. The Buckeyes seemed to be in control of this game, as they led for nearly all of the game’s first 29 minutes, but the Wolverines then ripped off a 12-0 run fueled by Aaron Craft turnovers and Michigan layups to take a lead they would not relinquish.
Iowa pummeled Michigan on Saturday with an offensive attack that’s as good as we’ve seen this season.
Michigan State welcomed back Adreian Payne in a blowout of Penn State. The big man played very well in 18 minutes off the bench, and the Spartans performed much better than the final margin suggests. Penn State made a big run in garbage time to turn a 25-point deficit into a 15-point loss, but it was done entirely on a lineup that included guys like Colby Wollenman, Keenan Wetzel, and Dan Chapman.
Ohio State picked up a big road win at Iowa thanks to surprisingly hot shooting. The Buckeyes shot 44 percent on threes, a number that stood in stark contrast to the Hawkeyes’ unusually cold outside shooting (3-for-20, 15 percent). Iowa dominated the glass and shot 60 percent on twos, but the three-point shot is the great equalizer, and it carried Ohio State to a huge win.
We’re now at the official halfway point of the conference season, so it seems an appropriate time to glance at player stats. We’ve already thrown around some Big Ten POY discussion, but we have enough data now that we can start to look a little deeper.