Ohio State 83 Illinois 67
Michigan 67 Northwestern 55 (OT)
Wednesday, February 22
Michigan State 66 Minnesota 61
Indiana 75 North Carolina Central 56
Purdue 83 Nebraska 65
Thursday, February 23
Iowa 67 Wisconsin 66
Saturday, February 25 Michigan State 62 Nebraska 34
Purdue 75 Michigan 61
Northwestern 67 Penn State 66 Sunday, February 26
Wisconsin 63 Ohio State 60
Indiana 69 Minnesota 50
Illinois 65 Iowa 54
It’s not quite a shock to encounter the fact that the Michigan State Spartans have won another Big Ten regular-season men's basketball championship, but in the same breath, it's not exactly what everyone in the college basketball community anticipated this year. In 2012, the Big Ten was supposed to belong to the Ohio State Buckeyes, a team that thrashed Duke and whacked Florida in non-conference competition, looking every bit the part of a No. 1 seed and Final Four favorite. Ohio State's rugged defense, blended team play, and low-post dominance spelled doom for other Big Ten teams, including a Michigan State squad that crashed and burned in 2011 and did not possess the talent it did a year ago. Michigan State was supposed to be better than last year's team, yes, but the Spartans were not supposed to be an elite club. After all, MSU was a No. 10 seed in 2011; improving from that position meant being a third or fourth seed for the NCAA Tournament. However, here we are at the very end of February, and the Spartans have just clinched a share of the Big Ten title, with a very good chance for an outright crown. A win on Tuesday at Indiana or next Sunday against Ohio State will give Sparty an undisputed league championship, and with it, the strong possibility of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan State will receive at least a No. 2 seed, but coach Tom Izzo's team has a chance to be at the top of a bracket come Selection Sunday. It's a rather remarkable turnaround in the span of one year.
What makes the title easier to understand is, simply, Izzo's presence in the middle of everything. The decorated coach has now won seven Big Ten titles, making him one of only five men to achieve such a sparkling feat. (Bobby Knight is the other household name on the list; some basketball aficionados might recall another person on that list, Ohio State coach Fred Taylor, who guided the Buckeyes to prominence in the late 1950s and early 1960s.) As long as Izzo is around in East Lansing, Michigan State should be a prime pick to win titles; it simply seemed that Ohio State was going to be too good for the Spartans (and everyone else) this season.
Meanwhile, Purdue sewed up an NCAA Tournament berth by whacking Michigan by 14 points on the road. The Boilermakers have been fighting hard all season despite the lack of a dynamic low-post game. Veteran Robbie Hummel carried the team in key moments on Saturday against Michigan, giving Purdue the quality win it needed to close the sale with the NCAA selection committee.
Northwestern, in search of its first-ever NCAA Tournament bid, came very close to notching a season-making win over Michigan last Tuesday, but the Wildcats fell in overtime. They did regroup to beat Penn State on Saturday, but they'll likely need to split their upcoming pair of games (home versus Ohio State, then at Iowa) to have a decent chance of making the field of 68. Illinois beat Iowa on Sunday, dismissing the notion that Iowa was a bubble team while perpetuating its own existence on the bubble. Illinois, though, must win each of its next two games to feel it has a decent shot at making the Big Dance. Illinois hosts Michigan on Thursday and then visits Wisconsin on Sunday.