We are EN VIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVO at Bankers Life Fieldhouse today!It is time to kick back, relax, and enjoy some afternoon basketball. I explicitly saved two vacation days from last year so I could be here today. Thankfully, Purdue avoided Thursday by earning a double bye for the second season in a row. We can enjoy the afternoon session and watch future opponents.
#8 Michigan (19-11, 10-8) vs. #9 Northwestern (20-11, 8-10) Noon, BTN
Yesterday's games were blowouts, but this one should be pretty good. Michigan likely needs this because they want to avoid a bubble crowded with mid-majors like Wichita State, Valparaiso, and Monmouth. All three of those teams deserve to be in for being excellent over months only to have a bad day in a crapshoot of a conference tournament. Michigan would like to avoid being compared to them for being mediocre over several months.
Northwestern also has the smallest chance to get into the NCAA Tournament. Sure, they likely have to make it to Sunday to have any at large chances, but a chance is a chance. If you want to see Northwestern get better so Purdue's win over them climbs into the top 100, cheer for the Wildcats. If you want a team to have a decent shot at beating Indiana,go for Michigan.
#5 Iowa (21-9, 12-6) vs. #12 Illinois (14-18, 5-13) winner 25 minutes after, BTN
The Illini looked good yesterday, but it was against a glorified high school team. Now they get Iowa, who has not looked good at the end of the year. Purdue also gets the winner and a shot at redemption no matter what since the Boilers went 0-3 against the two. Michael Finke was their leading scorer yesterday with 17 points, but as usual, Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill give them a chance in any game. They can go off for 50 at any time.
Iowa is still Iowa though, and Jarrod Uthoff is one of the five best players in the league. They easily handled Illinois before and I expect them to do so again.