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2012 Big Ten Men's Basketball

 
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Big Ten Basketball Weekly Recap


 

Scores

Tuesday, January 10

Illinois 79, Ohio State 74

Michigan State 95, Iowa 61

Wednesday, January 11

Michigan 66, Northwestern 64 (OT)

Nebraska 70, Penn State 58

Thursday, January 12

Minnesota 77, Indiana 74

Wisconsin 67, Purdue 62

Saturday, January 14

Northwestern, Michigan State 74

Iowa 75, Michigan 59

Sunday, January 15

Ohio State 80, Indiana 63

Minnesota 80, Penn State 66

Wisconsin 50, Nebraska 45

It’s that time of year. The Big Ten Conference is backing up its reputation as one of America's deepest and most difficult college basketball conferences. Just when it seemed that one team was on the verge of consolidating a substantial advantage in the Midwest, it got ambushed to make an already-competitive league that much more difficult to win.

The Michigan State Spartans had won 15 straight games heading into Saturday's game at Evanston, Illinois, against the Northwestern Wildcats. Coach Tom Izzo's team was unbeaten in the Big Ten, while Ohio State had lost (on Tuesday) at Illinois to fall two games off the pace. With Wisconsin still mired in difficult times and Indiana losing at home to Minnesota on Thursday, the Big Ten was turning into Michigan State's league to lose, but that's precisely when the Spartans let down their guard, keeping the Big Ten in flux.

 

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Northwestern, as is well known, has never made the NCAA Tournament - not in 73 seasons. The Wildcats are the only power-conference program without a Big Dance invite. Coach Bill Carmody delivered NU its best postseason ever last year, getting the Wildcats to the quarterfinals of the NIT. Yes, that's the best Northwestern has ever done in the month of March. Michigan State, with other rivals falling, had a chance to really gain a stranglehold in the conference, but Big Green could not defend Northwestern when it counted.

The Wildcats hit 50 percent from the floor and nailed 8 of 17 triples. They also earned 29 foul shots on an afternoon when they regularly had answers for MSU's defense. Northwestern's offense bogs down against strong defensive pressure, but Michigan State did not play with the energy it normally displays. Northwestern was a little more desperate, and the Spartans were just not able to keep pace. It didn't help Michigan State that it missed 10 foul shots (17 makes in 27 attempts), but a day of defensive deficiencies is what truly downed the Spartans in Evanston.

As mentioned in brief, Ohio State slipped at Illinois while Indiana got stunned at home by Minnesota. The Buckeyes continue to show that they're a poor road team, having already fallen at Indiana earlier this season. OSU guard Aaron Craft might be a top-notch defender, but he has not been able to lead the Buckeyes' offense with the decisiveness coach Thad Matta wants from his point guard.

For Indiana, the Hoosiers' lack of defensive toughness against a limited Minnesota squad has to worry coach Tom Crean. Sure, Indiana fell at Ohio State on Sunday - that was expected by anyone and everyone who follows the league for a living - but allowing over 70 points to a Minnesota team playing without star forward Trevor Mbakwe (out for the year with an injury) is something that Indiana simply should not permit.

There were two other league games of note this past week: Minnesota showed that its win over Indiana wasn't an isolated instance; the Gophers sustained momentum by winning at Penn State on Sunday in authoritative fashion. Iowa continues to impress after a brutal non-conference portion of the season; the Hawkeyes clobbered Michigan to supplement wins over Wisconsin and Minnesota.

 

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

 

 

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