Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, March 6, 2015
The final weekend of the regular season is on our doorstep. And, there isn?t much drama at the top.
Wisconsin has sewn up the Big Ten title outright, doing so with a win at Minnesota last night. Maryland, Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa have NCAA bids basically wrapped up. But Purdue, Illinois and Indiana have some urgency, as they fight to enhance their NCAA resumes this weekend before the Big Ten tourney starts next week in Chicago.
Indiana plays host to Michigan State on Saturday needing to taste victory. The Hoosiers began Big Ten play 5-1 and thinking big. Since then, IU has gone 4-7. And none of the four wins have been vs. projected NCAA teams, as the Hoosiers (19-11 overall; 9-8 Big Ten) have beaten Rutgers twice, Michigan and Minnesota.
?The one thing, if there?s a recurring theme, we get disappointed at times when we?re not making shots,? IU coach Tom Crean said Tuesday. ?That?s a maturity thing.?
But a visit from the Spartans will be a chance for Crean?s crew to get a quality win, enhance a dull NCAA resume and boost a sagging psyche. MSU hammered IU earlier this season in East Lansing, 70-50.
Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com has the Hoosiers as a No. 10 seed playing No. 7 Dayton in Omaha, Neb. Even if Indiana loses to Michigan State-and then falls in its first Big Ten tourney game-it still may earn an NCAA bid based on a pretty solid overall resume. IU?s RPI as of Thursday was 52. But, can Indiana afford to take that chance?
?We?re not going to look past Michigan State,? Crean said. ?We?re all about getting ready for the next game, and that?s what the focus ?would be.?
The focus of Purdue and Illinois figures to be sharp on Saturday, too. The drama will be high in West Lafayette, with Illinois playing Purdue. Each team is treading on tenuous NCAA turf. The Illini (19-11 overall; 9-8 Big Ten) got a big home win vs. Nebraska on Wednesday, the team?s second in a row after a three-game slide.
Purdue (19-11 overall; 11-6 Big Ten) has dropped two in a row after winning eight of nine games. The slump has the Boilermakers? back against the NCAA wall. Illinois beat Purdue earlier this season in Champaign, 66-57.
Palm has Illinois–which missed the Big Dance last year–among his ?last four in? as a No. 11 seed in a play-in game vs. No. 11 Texas A&M. Palm has Purdue-which has missed the last two NCAA tourneys–as a No. 11 seed vs. No. 6 North Carolina in Jacksonville.
The winner of this game should feel confident about getting a Big Dance bid, regardless of what it does in the Big Ten tourney. The loser? That team will need at least one win in Chicago. As of Thursday, Illinois? RPI was 58; Purdue?s was 61.
"We're looking at it as this is our season," said Purdue guard Kendall Stephens after Wednesday?s loss at Michigan State. "It's definitely a must-win for us."
Sounds about right.
Here's a look at Jerry Palm?s projected Big Ten NCAA bids as of today:
No. 2 Wisconsin
No. 3 Maryland
No. 8 Ohio State
No. 9 Michigan State
No. 7 Iowa
No. 10 Indiana
No. 11 Purdue
No. 11 Illinois (play-in)
|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.|