Minnesota avoided a crushing end to the season by pulling out a tight win over Florida State in Tuesday’s NIT semifinal.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Michigan State pulled out an impressive overtime win at Iowa despite the continued absence of Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson. The gritty win was all about defense for the Spartans, as they held one of the nation’s top offenses to 1.01 points per trip at home.
Michigan’s offense continued its surge into the nation’s elite in an impressive win over Iowa. In true Beilein-ball fashion, it was a high conversion rate on twos and a low turnover rate that propelled the Wolverines.
Michigan State continues to rack up wins despite the absence of Adreian Payne, with Indiana serving as the latest victim. This one didn’t come easy, as the Hoosiers’ defense kept them in it for most of the game. Indiana even held a five-point lead with 11 minutes remaining, but it wouldn’t last as the Spartans’ offense came alive down the stretch. Indiana natives Gary Harris and Branden Dawson led the charge, and the outcome was never truly in doubt.
Brad Rempel, USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota picked up a huge resume win over Ohio State, 63-53 in 63 possessions. The story of this game was on the interior, where Elliott Eliason made his presence felt on both ends. The bearded big man went 6-for-8 on twos, leading a Gopher attack that scored a point per trip despite a bad night from the perimeter.
Wednesday and Thursday brought some interesting results on the Big Ten hardwood. Let’s jump right in. After Michigan’s last road game, we opined that the Wolverines were fortunate to leave Minneapolis with a victory. As if to troll us, John Beilein’s team found an even luckier way to win a Big Ten road game, this time in Nebraska’s brand new Pinnacle Bank Arena.
In the first epic clash of the conference season, Michigan State held serve at home against a relentless Ohio State team. Does this give the Spartans the inside track on the Big Ten title? Let’s dive in.
Thursday brought conference openers for the four Big Ten teams that didn’t get going on New Year’s Eve. One game was a laugher, and one was a barn burner. Let’s dive right in.
On the final day of 2013, two-thirds of the Big Ten got the conference season underway in entertaining fashion.
Wednesday night went much better than Tuesday night for the Big Ten, as a 4-2 showing salvaged a second-consecutive tie in the Challenge. Overall, this was a good result for the conference, but the discussion at the end of the night focused on who to blame for the Big Ten’s failure to outright win the thing.
The Big Ten put itself in a hole Tuesday night, going 2-4 against the Atlantic Coasters. Let’s take a look at just how it happened. We had predicted a split on the Challenge’s opening night, and we were awfully close to going six-for-six. How close?
While most of the nation feasted, several Big Ten teams were playing for tournament hardware. Let’s get right into the meat and potatoes of what’s worth knowing.
Tuesday and Wednesday brought a flurry of interesting results for Big Ten teams. Let’s dive in to what it all means.