This is the last roundup of the year, which is a little bittersweet since I kind of enjoyed writing these during this Big Ten season. Nonetheless, it was fittingly another action-packed week to close this firecracker of a season:
Tuesday, March 4
Michigan 84, Illinois 53
Michigan hit all of the threes. Fin.
Wednesday, March 5
Nebraska 70 at Indiana 60
While the Hoosiers have had success against some of the top teams in the Big Ten at home this season, it wasn't meant to be on this night, with Yogi Ferrell shooting just 4-for-14 from the field, connecting on just one of his 10 three-point attempts.
Meanwhile, Terran Petteway actually had a fairly mediocre game (13 points, 3-for-10 shooting) but Walter Pitchford and Shavon Shields made up for with 17 points apiece. People like to think of the Huskers as the Petteway Show, but they really do have some pretty serious weapons; Walter Pitchford, for example, is a guy I'm sure Beilein would love to have right now.
Purdue 70 and Wisconsin 76
Wisconsin kept on, with its eight straight victory coming in this one against the Boilermakers. A monster night from C Frank Kaminsky gave UW just what it needed--the junior dropped 22 points with a silly eFG% of 91 percent. Inside, outside, Frank the Tank has done it all for Wisconsin this season, which is incredible if you've followed his career to date as a sparingly use backup.
As for Purdue, a loss is a loss but you have to like the fact that they kept things competitive in spite a 21.4 percent mark from downtown. Purdue got very nice games from the Johnson brothers and A.J. Hammons and they even edged the Badgers by five in the second half; unfortunately for them, their 24-point first half doomed them.
Thursday, March 6
Penn State 59 at Northwestern 32
I didn't watch this game--I'm kind of glad I didn't. No matter how you put it, 32 points for a college squad is just bad. Northwestern struggled to grind out enough points to get into the 50s even with JerShon Cobb. Without him, the Wildcats trying to score points is akin to a man trying to save his sinking boat by tossing water out with just his cupped hands.
Northwestern shot 23.3 percent as a team, including a 3-for-22 mark from beyond the arc. Alex Olah, who scored 14 points, was the only Wildcat to score in the double-digits.
Per ESPN Stats, 32 is the fewest points Northwestern has scored at home since scoring 30 against Illinois way back on Feb. 19, 2000.
Iowa 76 at Michigan State 86
The Hawkeyes finally ended their losing slide with a win against Purdue; they then hoped to build a little momentum by knocking off the Spartans in East Lansing.
But it was not to be, as four MSU starters scored at least 12 points and the Hawkeyes somehow allowed Travis Trice to score 17. The stuff I said last week about not being too worried about the defense for right now if I were an Iowa fan? Well, things aren't looking too good, as the Hawkeyes went from a team with a shot at climbing into the top two to 9-9.
Unfortunately for Fran McCaffery and Co., even that fearsome Iowa offense hasn't been able to make up for the atrocious defense. On the bright side for Iowa, they do land offensively-challenged Northwestern in the first round of the Big Ten tourney.
Saturday, March 8
Indiana 80, Michigan 84
Yeah, it wasn't pretty. That first half defense? Bad, very bad. For some reason Indiana seems to have some strange sort of offensive mojo when playing Michigan; common wisdom dictates that Michigan fans will be looking for Illinois to beat Indiana in the 8/9 matchup of the Big Ten tournament.
Michigan threw some of that nasty 1-3-1 junk at the Hoosiers and it produced just enough defensive oomph to let the Wolverines edge by the Hoosiers; that's what you call coaching.
Illinois 66 at Iowa 63
Sure, the headlines will all be about how the sky is falling on the Hawkeyes, but--how about Illinois? After a truly wretched start to the conference season, the Illini finished with four wins in their last five.
Ignoring Michigan's burnination of them, the Illini beat Minnesota at The Barn, Nebraska, Michigan State at the Breslin Center and Iowa at CHA to close the season. That is really, really impressive, and the Illini finished with an impressive-given-the-circumstances 18-13 (7-11) regular season mark.
I've considered the Illini long dead as far as tournament chances go, but you'd think if they advance to the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament they might be going dancing, with a finals appearance making it a really good bet (at least in my mind).
Yes, Iowa has collapsed down the stretch, but Illinois has quietly put together possibly one of the most impressive burst of wins any B1G team has put together this season.
Sunday, March 9
Northwestern 74 at Purdue 65
Naturally, after scoring 32 points at home the Wildcats then dropped 74 in West Lafayette. This was mostly thanks to Drew Crawford, who has had some struggles this season but looked like the Crawford of old in this one (27 points).
With the win, the Boilermakers officially finished in last place in the conference, which is a strange, strange thing.
Penn State 63 at Minnesota 81
Minnesota has really hurt itself at times this season, dropping home games to Illinois and Northwestern, for example. However, 8-10 looks far better than 7-11, and that's what Richard Pitino's Gophers accomplished with this win.
The Hollinses scored a combined 27 points, Deandre Mathieu dropped 16, Maurice Walker contributed 16 off of the bench and the tremendously named Maverick Ahanmisi scored 13 in his first appearance in a game since Feb. 19.
Minnesota is still very much a denizen of the Shakespearean dramaland that is Stratford-upon-Bubble--a loss in the opening round of the conference tournament would doom the Golden Gophers. However, they draw Penn State in the first round, which is a good thing based on this game alone.
Michigan State 67 at Ohio State 69
This was just about what you'd expect a game between these two teams to be. It didn't quite have the late game drama that the first matchup did, but it was still an exciting matchup.
Unlike the first one, it was mostly close throughout. MSU led by seven for a stretch in the second half, but the Buckeyes clawed their way back into it. The problem for the Spartans? Branden Dawsom hit a jumper with 4:31 remaining to tie the game at 67, but MSU never scored again the rest of the way.
Outside of the win against Iowa, Keith Appling has had a really rough go of it for the Spartans. In this one, he scored just two points on 1-for-4 shooting from the field. Simply put, the Spartans need more from their senior point guard if they're going to make some real noise in the post-season. Yes, Adreian Payne and Gary Harris are obviously the first two offensive options, but you'd think maybe you would see a little more assertiveness from a senior point guard.
Wisconsin 68 at Nebraska 77
Nebraska fans rushed the court, celebrating a top four Big Ten finish--yes, you read that correctly.
Nebraska, which went 5-13 and finished 10th in the Big Ten last season, finished 11-7 this season, powered by dynamic scorers, Tim Miles's coaching and a little Pinnacle Bank Arena noise.
Lost in the Nebraska hype is the fact that the Huskers just beat a UW team that had won eight games in a row, one which some people were saying might even deserve a 1-seed if they kept it up.
Well, the Huskers once again knocked off one of the conference's elites; when two of your players (Petteway and Shields) drop 26 points apiece, it's kind of hard to lose. The Huskers won by nine despite the fact that the Badgers shot 45 percent from three (9-for-20). However, UW turned it over 11 times, which, when you adjust for Wisconsinosity, is basically like a normal team turning it over 20 times.
But, UW struggled mightily from the charity stripe, where they made just 11 of their 21 attempts (52.4 percent). It's tough to win on the road when you don't make those freebies.