Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, March 9, 2016
History has shown that every team at the Big Ten tourney has a shot to win it all-or at least make a deep run that no one anticipates fueled by a breakout player. Remember just last year when the smooth-shooting D.J. Newbill led Penn State to the semifinals with wins vs. No. 12 Nebraska and No. 5 Iowa before falling to No. 4 Purdue. Along the way, Newbill scored 26, 18 and 19 points, respectively. The Southern Miss transfer was a dynamic athlete and one of the Big Ten?s most underrated players of recent vintage.
In addition to Ohio State?s stunning march as the eighth seed in 2003 and Iowa?s success as the sixth and ninth seed in 2001 and 2002, the No. 4 seed has made it to the finals on three occasions.
The Hawkeyes? title-game foe in 2001 was fourth-seeded Indiana, Michigan won the inaugural tourney crown as a No. 4 seed in 1998, while Illinois reached the finals in 2000 as a fourth seed.
The Illini pulled an even bigger stunner in 1999, advancing to the championship tilt despite being a No. 11 seed before losing to No. 1 seed Michigan State.
Here is a look at some breakout performances in the Big Ten tourney that resonate.
1998: Quincy Lewis, No. 8 Minnesota. Coming off a Final Four appearance the year before, Lewis helped propel the Gophers to the semifinals with wins over No. 9 Northwestern, No. 1 Michigan State before succumbing to No. 4 Michigan, which won it all. The silky smooth Lewis earned all-tourney honors but couldn?t lead the Gophers to the summit.
1999: Cory Bradford, No. 11 Illinois. Fueled by Bradford?s shooting, the Illini made one of the most stunning marches in Big Ten tourney annals, all the way to the title game. It?s the only time a double-digit seed has made it to Sunday. Alas, Illinois lost to No. 1 Michigan State, which would reach the Final Four. The lllini are the lowest-seeded team ever to reach the championship game.
2000: Jarrett Stephens, No. 9 Penn State. The Nittany Lions made it to the ?final four? by dumping No. 8 Michigan and No. 1 Ohio State before falling to No. 4 Illinois. Stephens? effort in the tourney capped a great year. He became the first player in Penn State history to be voted to both the coaches and media First-Team All-Big Ten squads. In addition to leading the Nittany Lions to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, Stephens took PSU to the NIT finals. The 6-7 forward averaged 18.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in 2000, while also finishing his career as one of PSU's top 20 all-time scorers.
2001: Reggie Evans, No. 6 Iowa. The Hawkeyes became the first team in the history of the Big Ten Tournament to win four games in four days after posting a 63-61 victory over No. 4 Indiana in the championship game. Evans, who poured in 30 points and notched 18 rebounds against Penn State, earned MVP honors. He also established a Big Ten Tournament record with 51 points during the 2001 event. On the way to the crown, Iowa dumped No. 11 Northwestern; No. 3 Ohio State; No. 7 Penn State before beating IU.
2002: Luke Recker, No. 9 Iowa. The Hawkeyes almost pulled it off again, reaching the title game only to lose to No. 2 Ohio State. Iowa beat No. 8 Purdue; No. 1 Wisconsin; No. 4 Indiana to reach the title game. Recker was a dynamic athlete who began his career at Indiana before bolting for Iowa. He had 21 points and three rebounds in Big Ten title game vs. Ohio State. Against Indiana, he notched 17 points, including the winning basket with 1.4 seconds remaining. Recker had 28 points and a career-high five steals in the win over Wisconsin, including the winning basket with 1.4 seconds remaining. Add it up, and Recker finished with a tourney record 91 points.
2003: Sean Connolly, No. 8 Ohio State. The Buckeyes topped No. 9 Iowa to open the tourney and then dumped No. 1 Wisconsin and No. 5 Michigan State before losing to No. 2 Illinois in the championship game. Connolly was a one-man gang along the way, scoring 15, 21, 11 and 12 points.
2008: Demetri McCamey, No. 10 Illinois. A rare double-digit seed to reach Sunday was Illinois in 1999. The Illini marched by No. 7 Penn State, No. 2 Purdue and No. 6 Minnesota before finally falling in the championship game to No. 1 Wisconsin. McCamey?s 26-point effort vs. Purdue set off a buzz, as he was a cold-blooded shooter who had limitless range.
2010: Devoe Joseph, No. 6 Minnesota. The Gophers? run to the finals began with a win vs. No. 11 Penn State and was followed by upsets of No. 3 Michigan State and No. 2 Purdue before Joseph and Minnesota fell in the title game to No. 1 Ohio State. Joseph led the way during the Gophers? surge, earning all-tourney honors. Alas, he eventually transferred and finished his career at Oregon.
2011: Michael Thompson, No. 8 Northwestern. Thompson and the Wildcats went one-and-done, beating No. 9 Minnesota in the first round before falling to No. 1 Ohio State in overtime in the next round. But what a win it was for Thompson, who poured in a Big Ten tourney single-game record 35 points.
2011: Talor Battle, No. 6 Penn State. Battle became the school?s all-time leading scorer by hitting a clinching 3-pointer in a quarterfinal win vs. No. 3 Wisconsin. Penn State beat No. 7 Michigan State in the semifinals before falling to No. 1 Ohio State in the title game. Still, Battle helped the Nittany Lions earn their first NCAA bid in 10 years.
2012: Andre Hollins, No. 10 Minnesota. Hollins played 37 minutes and scored a career-high 25 points against No. 7 Northwestern in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. He then scored a team-high 21 points in the next round in a loss to No. 2 Michigan. Not bad for a freshman.