The Big Ten Tournament gets underway in earnest today. The also-rans of the conference played yesterday in the play-in games, but the tournament proper begins today at noon with Purdue’s opponent to be decided in the first game of the day.
First, a look back to yesterday:
Penn State 76, Nebraska 67 OT
What’s better than Penn-State Nebraska basketball in an empty arena? MORE Penn State-Nebraska basketball in an empty arena! A layup by Ed Morrow Jr. with 24 seconds left in regulation sent this game to overtime, where Penn State opened up a lead thanks to three-pointers from Lamar Stevens and Shep Garner. Once it was 68-62 Penn State was able to play ball control and hit free throws for the win.
Mike Watkins led Penn state with 18 points while Garner and Stevens had 16. The Nittany Lions now move on to face Michigan State later today.
Rutgers 66, Ohio State 57
Wait… WHAT? Rutgers won a Big Ten tournament game? The Scarlet Knights are actually on a conference winning streak? Wow. Rutgers trailed by three at halftime but started the second half on a 10-1 run in the first three minutes to pull ahead. They then kept the Buckeyes at bay for much of the second half. Ohio state led again briefly at 48-47 with about 8:30 left, but six straight points gave Rutgers the lead for good.
Nigel Johnson had 21 points for Rutgers, who moves on to face Northwestern later today. Jae’Sean Tate had 18 for Ohio State, who has had two of the most disappointing seasons under Thad Matta in a row.
The first two games of the day will be on BTN, so if you’re trapped at work like me the BTN2Go link will be very handy for you. The second two games will be on the ESPN networks, so you can stream those at WatchESPN.
8 Seed Michigan (20-11, 9-9) vs. 9 Seed Illinois (17-13, 8-10) Noon, BTN
We now have a travel subplot here, as Michigan only had its plane skid off the damn runway yesterday due to high winds. Thankfully, everyone is fine, but it was a scary moment indeed. As a result the team did not travel to DC until this morning. Their plane should be landing around 8:45 and they will bus straight to the arena and play. It reminds me of a similar issue where Purdue had to play in East Lansing in 2012 after travel issues. It was clear by the end of that game Purdue was gassed and it got blown out.
As mentioned, Purdue plays the winner of this game on Friday.
5 Seed Michigan State (18-13, 10-8) vs. 13 Seed Penn State (15-17, 6-12) 2:30pm, BTN
It would be a very good idea for Michigan State to win this and move on. The Spartans are likely safe, but a loss to Penn State raises their chances of being bumped out of the tournament. Purdue also has a concern here because the committee judges teams highly on top 50 RPI wins. Michigan State is at 49, and a loss likely knocks them out of the top 50 and costs us not one, but two of our current 5 top 50 wins. For Penn State, they would have to make it to Sunday just to be NIT eligible.
7 Seed Iowa (18-13, 10-8) vs. 10 Seed Indiana (17-14, 7-11) 6:30pm, ESPN2
Can Iowa keep it going? The last time these two played Peter Jok shot approximately 4,921 free throws in an overtime win. In Indiana’s last game at Ohio State they finally looked like a good team again, at least for a half. This could be Tom Crean’s final game as Hoosier head coach. the delusional side of the fan base is already sending out internet pleas for Brad Stevens, so there is that.
6 Seed Northwestern (21-10, 10-8) vs. 14 Seed Rutgers (15-17, 3-15), ESPN2
Okay Northwestern. You almost blew it a few weeks ago at home against these guys, but your first ever NCAA Tournament appearance is right there. We’re four days away from it. You can see it. Only one thing can really stop it, and that is if you lose to lowly Rutgers.
Seriously, Northwestern. Don’t do this. Don’t lose to Rutgers. You’re in as long as you win this game.
Illinois - Better opponent for Purdue and it might get them into the top 50 of the RPI, raising Purdue’s NCAA profile slightly.
Michigan State - Keeps them in the top 50 for our profile.
Iowa - Because screw Indiana
Northwestern - Currently at 54 in the RPI, so getting them into the top 50 gives Purdue two more top 50 wins.