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2011 Big Ten Tournament: Battling The Exile

White nerds can jump! (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
White nerds can jump! (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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All season we have talked about the Boilermaker spirit and the ability to overcome adversity that it represents. Our basketball team has done it in the wake of Robbie Hummel's injury. Our football team fought all season even though I nearly had to play quarterback at one point. Volleyball did it during the NCAA Tournament. Women's Basketball did it during the early part of the season. Today I represented it by heading to the Big Ten Tournament as a paying customer and facing my exile head on. The athletic department may not want this place to succeed, but I have always been one that finds it hard to take no for an answer. Not only will I refuse to back down, I will continue to publish even from the arena itself.

As it turns out, today wasn't that bad. Yes, I was "That guy" that took his laptop and had it open at my seat, but after purchasing a nosebleed seat I was quickly able to find an open seat in section 19 down low. I worked to tether my phone for internet access (with very limited success) but it was very promising. I was even able to save things via flash disk and give them to Joe at Hail to the Orange for publishing on the Chicago and Indiana regional sites since my internet access was limited. It was a very slapdash way of getting things done, but they got done.

Most importantly, I had fun. From being credentialed media at events like this I think I can see why people fear bloggers. We are not there for work. We view it as fun and enjoy it. The old school feels threatened by this. I have worked several places that think fun and the workplace can never coexist, so I am not surprised that some would have this attitude even at an event as great as this.

Tomorrow will be even better. John, Jordan, and I will be running the morning session Open Thread live from Scotty's Brewhouse in Downtown Indianapolis. For the evening session I will once again be "That guy" with the laptop open attempting to do what they think cannot be done now that I know I can take it into Conseco.

Meanwhile, there were three games today that need to be talked about, plus a preview for our tournament debut tomorrow.

Northwestern 75, Minnesota 65

Really, Minnesota's season was mercifully euthanized. They just never recovered from losing Devoe Joseph and Al Nolen. It's a shame, because those guys made them a pretty damn good team. It's hard to win with virtually no guard play though. Michael Thompson drew the ire of Purdue fans with a 35 point explosion, breaking Brian Cardinal's Big Ten Tournament single game record. I don't think Northwestern really played that well aside from Thompson. It was a pretty dull game to be at aside from Thompson's brilliance. Maybe they were holding back for Ohio State tomorrow. All told, it was just the sixth ever win in the Big Ten Tournament for the Wildcats, who have never made it past the quarterfinals. They have at least won a game in consecutive Big Ten Tournaments now, so that is a start.

Michigan's student section took the best taunt of the day honors by chanting the name of the girl that Trevor Mbakwe may or may not have assaulted. They did this while he was at the free throw line. I'm not sure why Michigan has a sudden hatred of Minnesota, but okay.

Michigan State 66, Iowa 61

Iowa is going to be a lot better next season, and any other team would have beaten Michigan State. Iowa seemed afraid to shoot on the possession they had down one in the final minute. Michigan State seemed to have no urgency in a game they absolutely needed. Are they in the tournament now? I certainly think they need to beat Purdue to secure a berth.

This was a weird game because it was close throughout, but it didn't feel like it. The Michigan student section was louder in their taunts of MSU than the Iowa fans, but there were more Iowa fans than I expected. Draymond Green had his monster game, but the Spartans are going to have to play a lot better than that if they want to beat us. Of course, we have a history of poor play in this tournament, so I am not confident at all.

Penn State 61, Indiana 55

Make that 3-41 for Tom Crean and the Hoosiers away from Assembly Hall. There were a ton of Indiana fans at Conseco Fieldhouse tonight. That is great support for a team that cannot play any consistently good basketball away from home. Think about it. They were the only team in the Big Ten to go winless on the road this season, and they have won just one true road game in three years. Their other two wins were neutral court wins over Chaminade and Pittsburgh.

Derek Elston did very little tonight, which is a shame because he should be a much better player by now. They couldn't get Jordan Hulls open, and even though they did a good job on Talor Battle, Jeff Brooks still burned them. This team needs a post presence badly, but will there be too much placed on Cody Zeller too soon since he will still be the only post presence they have?

Tomorrow's Games:

Ohio State vs. Northwestern

This will be the opener tomorrow, and I invite any reader headed to the games to stop by Scotty's and say hi to myself, John, and Jordan as we run the morning session open thread live from Purdue's official bar. It will be interesting to see what Ohio State's strategy is. With a short bench, I don't think it would be a bad idea for them to lay down and lose. They are the only team with nothing to play for, but I know they will still bring it. They were most vulnerable in their first two games last year. Michigan beats them if they decide to play any defense at all on Evan Turner with two seconds left. Illinois beats them if they can hit a freaking layup at the end of regulation.

Unfortunately, I don't see Northwestern staying with them. Ohio State absolutely killed the last two teams they played. The Buckeyes couldn't have looked better, and Jon Diebler is so hot he passed white and turned clear.

Illinois vs. Michigan

I think the Fighting Illini are safe and the Wolverines need this to be safe. Of course, in talking with Hail to the Orange at last season's tournament we all thought Illinois was safe then. I think they are very thankful that they beat North Carolina earlier in the season. That win is helping them like Richmond's win over us is helping the Spiders. This should be a pretty good game. If Michigan had hit its free throws in Champaign they would have won, but the same is true about their game with Wisconsin. I think this will be the closest game of the day with Michigan pulling it out in the end.

Purdue vs. Michigan State

I am very wary of playing the Spartans for a third time, but I am encouraged that we drilled them both times. The second half of our game in East Lansing is about the best we have played all year, especially with Lewis Jackson tearing them apart. They have yet to prove this season they can stop LewJack, or JaJuan Johnson for that matter. I think our guys have been itching for another game all week to get the bad taste of that Iowa game out of their mouths. It is good that Michigan State won, because if we had lost to Iowa again we would have probably dropped to a four seed. Now I think we have a three seed even if we lose to Michigan State because they are good, desperate team trying to get into the NCAA's. a win makes a two seed a very strong possibility, especially if some other things go our way.  

Wisconsin vs. Penn State

There is almost always at least one first day team that reaches the semifinals, and I think it will come from this game. Wisconsin is just not the same team away from the Kohl Center this year. In fact, they are night and day different. If Josh Gasser had not banked in that three-pointer at Michigan they would only have convincing conference road wins at Northwestern and Indiana. They beat Manhattan and Boston College on a neutral floor this year, but they are a pretty average 7-7 in games away from Madison. Penn State still has an outside shot at the NCAA Tournament too. Their win over Indiana won't raise the profile, but it does give them another win period. I think the Nittany Lions still need to reach the tournament final to have any chance, but that is better than no chance.