2012 Big Ten Men's Basketball
What else is new: Bucks are involved in another huge matchup
Nebraska at 6 Michigan State, 8pm ET, BTN
The Cornhuskers will look to throw a monkey wrench in Michigan State’s Big Ten title plans when they travel to East Lansing for a game Saturday night.
Like their enemies down in Ann Arbor, Michigan State appears to be peaking at the perfect time. Having won six in a row and eight of their past nine (the long loss being a 42-41 melon-scratcher at Illinois) Sparty has placed itself in great position for a Big Ten title and a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Though Tom Izzo’s squad sports a balanced attack, their unquestioned leader is forward Draymond Green. The senior from Saginaw has bullied his way to the front of the pack for Big Ten Player of the Year while also garnering some attention as a potential National Player of the Year candidate (Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson remain the co-favourites).
Nebraska is struggling in their first season in the Big Ten. The feisty group from Lincoln has some nice wins vs Indiana and at Iowa, but still find themselves tied for last place. The road has been a weary place for Nebraska, totalling only one win within the conference.
Unless Doc Sadler convinces Kentucky coach John Calipari to trade rosters before the tip, this one could get out of hand early. Michigan State 78 Nebraska 59
Purdue at 11 Michigan, 6pm ET, BTN
Michigan will look to cap off a flawless home season on Saturday night when it plays host to Purdue.
The Wolverines come into this one playing some of their best basketball of the year, having won four straight and five of their last six. Trailing rival and conference leading Michigan State by only one game with a favourable remaining schedule, Michigan (21-7 overall, 11-4 Big Ten) is still very much in play for the Big Ten Championship. Freshman point guard Trey Burke has more than adequately filled in for the loss of NBA-bound Darius Morris. While his stats are phenomenal (14.3 ppg, 4.5 apg, 3.8 rpg), it is his presence on the floor and desire to take – and make – the big shot that make him so good. He`s Michigan`s best player (sorry, Tim Hardaway Jr., but this isn’t even debatable anymore) and will be the key to any March success this club has.
Before Humelling (It`s like pummelling, but Purdue`s best player is Robbie Hummel, so it works) Nebraska 83-65 on Tuesday, Purdue was embarrassed in the second half of their nationally televised game against Michigan State on Sunday. There is absolutely no shame in losing to Michigan State, but starting the second half 1-23 from the floor is only slightly less humiliating then admitting to liking How I Met Your Mother. Both are just plain awful. I realize some of this can be attributed to the suspension of sharpshooter DJ Byrd and the dismissal of utility-guy Kelsey Barlow, but that performance was downright Illinois-esque. I`m sorry it had to come to that.
But fear not, Boilermaker fans! Your boys have another great opportunity to move themselves closer to the coveted ``lock`` status for the NCAA Tournament. Will they be able to do it on Stu Douglass and Zack Novak`s Senior Night, while Michigan tries to stay unblemished at Crisler? Seems like an extremely tough spot for Matt Painters squad. Michigan 69 Purdue 61
Northwestern at Penn State, 9pm ET, ESPNU
In what has become a must-have game, Northwestern will travel to the Bryce Jordan Center to take on Penn State Saturday night.
Northwestern had Michigan beat. They were about to get one more resume-building win that would have put them firmly in experts projected fields of 68 the following morning. Instead they decided to get all Northwestern-ish with it and blow their lead, go to overtime, and somehow lose the game by 12 points. With only three regular season games left (plus the Big Ten Tournament) to impress the selection committee, a slip-up against Penn State would almost surely be the knock-out blow to Northwestern’s at-large hopes.
Pat Chambers’ Nittany Lions have been a tough out on their home floor. Penn State has beaten both Purdue and Illinois at home while also giving Indiana and Wisconsin everything they can handle in a pair of close losses.
Lost in all the Northwester-is-on-the-bubble talk is the fact they’ve lost their last three games. None were bad losses, but just being competitive at this time of the year is not what Bill carmody and his team need. Is a trip to State College the cure for what ails these ‘Cats? Northwestern 65 Penn State 63
The rest of Sunday
24 Indiana at Minnesota, 1pm ET, ESPN
Indiana will look to exercise some of their road demons when they travel to the Twin Cities to play Minnesota on Sunday.
While it might be a year or two too soon to declare Indiana basketball as “back,” this Hoosier squad has certainly laid a nice foundation for future teams to build on. Indiana is 8-7 in the Big Ten and 21-7 overall after beating their archrivals North Carolina Central (That was sarcasm, this is the leader in the clubhouse for the most oddly timed game of the season). Leaving the cozy confines of Assembly Hall has proved to be a thorn in the collective side of these young Hoosiers, as they sport a less than stellar 2-6 road record in Big Ten play.
Riddle time: What do my high school basketball team from 2006, the pen I’m currently looking at, and the 2012 Minnesota Golden Gophers have in common? They all have the same chance of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament this year! It took me the better part of three weeks to come up with that comedic gem, and after Minnesota’s choke-job against Michigan State on Wednesday I can finally cite it as fact. The Gophers blew a six point lead with about three minutes to play against the Spartans on Wednesday, all but assuring their spot in the NIT.
Minnesota has the talent (Ralph Sampson III, Rodney Williams, Austin Hollins) to beat Indiana, evidence being the 77-74 upset they pulled in Bloomington last month. But with their post-season fate all but sealed, will Tubby Smith’s kids get up and defend The Barn? Indiana 76 Minnesota 70
Iowa at Illinois, 6pm ET, BTN
On Sunday evening Illinois will continue its audition to compete in NAIA next season when they host the Iowa Hawkeyes.
You know it’s gotten bad when the Red Sox, Braves, and Corey Feldman’s career are looking at your season and going “Dangggg, now THAT’s a collapse.” It is a joyless time in Champaign as the Illini have lost eight in a row and have won only once since January 11 th. This team is in utter disrepair and will need a few more wins down the stretch to get selected to play in the NIT.
Meanwhile, Fran McCaffery’s Hawks are doing their best just to get themselves into that very same NIT. With a respectable 7-8 record in the Big Ten after beating Wisconsin (again) on Wednesday, the remaining schedule (at Illinois and Nebraska, home to Northwestern) shows three winnable games. Win them and finish the regular season at 10-8 in the Big Ten and a postseason appearance will be all but guaranteed for Iowa, something that was far from a sure-fire bet before the season started.
In one of the most obscure games of the Big Ten season, which of these I’s will have it? I keep picking Illinois and I keep getting it wrong, so I’ll say the train wreck picks up even more steam (is that possible?) on Sunday. Iowa 72 Illinois 64
By Scott Capron
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