It’s March. The best month of college basketball is upon us. We are still a week away from the madness but we get a little taste this week with conference tournaments. And while most people seem to not care about the Big Ten Tournament, I always love having five straight days of B1G hoops, that is only if Purdue wins. Otherwise, I don’t care either.
Game 1: 13 seed Ohio State vs. 12 seed Wisconsin
Wednesday started us off in true March fashion. The Buckeyes have perhaps been the biggest disappointment this season. After Fletcher Loyer’s buzzer beater 3 back in January, Ohio State went on to lose the next 12 of 13 games and looked like they all but checked out this season.
Wisconsin while not having their best record was still on the bubble and fighting for their NCAA tournament lives coming in to this game. So of course you’d think a matchup with a team that has nothing to lose and everything to lose would be fairly predictable, but as we know, nothing is predictable this season in the Big Ten.
Ohio State decided to start playing basketball again and took off in the first half holding Wisconsin to just 18 first half points. The Buckeyes took the lead to as much as 27 in the second before Wisconsin even realized the game had began. The Badgers rallied back behind Tyler Wahl to bring it to just 4 with under 2 minutes to play. The Buckeyes held on during the final stretch knocking down their free throws and defeated Wisconsin 65-57.
Ohio State had three players score in double figures; Sean McNeil led the team with 17 points, Justice Sueing had 16 points and 5 rebounds, and Bruce Thornton added in 15 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Big Ten All Freshman Brice Sensabaugh was a point away from a double-double tallying up 11 rebounds and 9 points.
Veteran Forward Tyler Wahl led the Badgers with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists. Connor Essegian was the only other Wisconsin player to put up double figures with 11 points and 8 rebounds.
Game 2: 14 seed Minnesota vs. 11 seed Nebraska
In the second game of the night we got to see Nebraska legend Keisei Tominaga take on a struggling Minnesota team. The Cornhuskers had won their last 4 of 6 including their recent win over Iowa and were looking like a team who could upset some teams in the BTT. The Gophers have struggled all season only winning 2 conference games and sitting last in the Big Ten.
Minnesota stunned Nebraska with a 78-75 win and became the first 14 seed to get a win in the tournament since 2017. I take fault for the Cornhusker collapse, I bet on them to make a run and it seems any team I start to believe in ends up losing a game they shouldn’t.
Nebraska took off early with an 8-0 lead before Minnesota came storming back and went on a 13-5 run. The Gophers shot 58% from the field in the first half and led 37-33 at the break.
There were multiple times in the second half it felt like Nebraska would take over but they became their own worst nightmare down the stretch. After committing multiple offensive fouls and turning the ball over they trailed by only 2 with seconds to play.
Griesel got the inbound and stormed down the court but got caught between two defenders and lost the ball. Minnesota got fouled and hit one free throw but missed the second to give Tominaga his story book ending half court heave to tie the game. Unfortunately for him and my bracket, the shot didn’t fall and Minnesota breathed a sigh of relief as they advanced to the next round.
Two Minnesota players notched a double-double; Dawson Garcia led with 18 points and 13 rebounds while also adding in 6 assists and Ta’Lon Cooper had 16 points and 12 assists. Two other players scored in double figures; Jaden Henley had 14 while Jamison Battle had 13 points and 8 rebounds.
Nebraska was led by Keisei Tominaga’s 23 points and Sam Griesel got a double-double with 16 points and 12 boards. Lawrence and Walker both chipped in 12 a piece.
The second round of the BTT kicks off today at 12:00 with Rutgers and Michigan. The winner of that game will face Purdue tomorrow at noon.