One of four days of the tournament are finished. One third of the combatants have been sent home. Now it’s time for the big dogs to get a chance to see the court.
Today’s games mostly went as expected, with Iowa, Indiana, and Purdue staying alive. The lone surprise was Minnesota’s overtime win over tournament dark horse favorite Northwestern. With the Wildcats eliminated early, it’s very likely that their NCAA tournament dreams have died with their Big Ten Tournament run. We’ll have to wait and see before we can be certain, however.
As for tomorrow’s games, there are some intriguing matchups. All four of the games involve teams that played each other only once during the regular season. Even more surprisingly, all of those games were played at the home court of the higher seed in each matchup. That means that each game has a good chance of being much more exciting than the original meetings. This is particularly true for Purdue and Indiana who get to treat there games very nearly like home games.
Just like today, WVaBuckeye and Gary Russell will cover all of the action during the course of the day tomorrow! Make sure you stop by and continue to follow all of the Big Ten Tournament coverage here at the Buckeye Battle Cry!
The Iowa Hawkeyes faced everything they could handle in day one against a wreck of an Illinois team. After trailing by 4 at the half, Iowa was able to put together a 20-7 run behind excellent play from Matt Gatens to regain the lead. Despite the run, the Hawkeyes were forced to withstand a furious Illinois rally that brought the game to within one with scant time left on the clock before Iowa was able to close out the game.
Iowa now has to face one of the tougher opponents in tournament play. While Michigan State is on a two game losing streak, Tom Izzo is clearly angry about having given up the outright regular season title due to poor play from his normally tough team. It would be unsurprising to see the Spartans come in hot and completely demolish the Hawkeyes early in the day to set the tone for the remainder of the tournament.
Indiana put together a very impressive 75-58 win over Penn State today. The Hoosiers surged in the second half despite the first half loss of senior Verdell Jones III. What that means for this team moving forward remains to be seen. It could be a depressing loss of a vocal on-the-floor leader and cause this team to collapse against tougher competition. It could also turn out to be the spark that causes Indiana to win the whole thing. Only time will tell.
We do know one thing – the Hoosiers have to play the surging Wisconsin Badgers tomorrow. Wisconsin has won their last three straight, including one in Columbus against the Buckeyes on senior night*, and won the only meeting of these two teams in the Kohl Center 57-50. This is Indiana’s chance to get what is essentially a home-game against the Badgers, and it will be interesting to see what they can do against Bo Ryan’s tough defense.
* We now know that this was totally William Buford’s fault. He hates all senior nights including his own, and does not put up with Senior Night teams winning.
The Wolverines get the most favorable matchup of the day on paper. Minnesota surprisingly managed to squeak out a win in overtime against the motivated Wildcats to advance to the second round. The Gophers, after looking extremely beatable all game, finally put it together and showed a little emotion late to tie it up at the end of regulation. The momentum carried into overtime allowing the Gophers to easily handle Northwestern, as the Wildcats made repeated mental mistakes to give Minnesota every opportunity they needed to put the game away.
Michigan and Minnesota only faced once during conference play, a unexpectedly close 61-56 final in Ann Arbor back on New Year’s day. If the Gopher’s can get back to the successful strategies from that game, they could very well take advantage of Michigan having to play away from home. That should easily account for a five point spread, surprisingly making this one of the most intriguing matchups of the day.
Playing against one of the weaker teams in conference this year, the Purdue Boilermakers cleaned Nebraska’s clocks 79-61 in the last game of the first day. Amazingly, Nebraska did an excellent job of keeping the game close for the first 30 minutes, before Purdue simply began to outrun the overmatched Cornhuskers. Purdue’s interior defense was picked apart early in the game, but Nebraska failed to take advantage of the weakness, which allowed the Boilers to run away with the game.
Purdue now has to play an Ohio State team that is starting to find their feet again after a rough stretch. After the two point last second win in East Lansing, Purdue cannot be happy about having to take on the now-surging Buckeyes. However, Purdue managed to put up a tough fight against the Buckeyes in Columbus, and will likely be confident heading into their best chance for a home game matchup with Ohio State. The Buckeyes are going to have to be on the top of their game to take care of Robbie Hummel’s team in this one.