Big Ten Standings
Last week's game of the week
Wisconsin 80, Michigan State 69 (OT) at United Center, Chicago
It's fitting that the ultimate game of the Big Ten season (and, indeed, the D-I college basketball season) would also be the game of the year here in the B1G. Michigan State played the game of its life, keeping an arm's length ahead of Bucky for most of the first half then sustaining a run that would push the Spartans' lead to 57-46 with under eight minutes to play. Wisconsin responded with a jaw-dropping 21 points in its next eight possessions, but even with the rally MSU held pace and led 69-67 as Wisconsin had what appeared to be one last opportunity to tie or take the lead. Action Bronson Koenig missed a three-pointer with 27 seconds left, and Josh Gasser appeared to step out of bounds attempting a miracle save. In the ensuing chaos, the Badgers came away with the ball and a pair of free throws, and the game went to overtime.
In the final frame, Michigan State was so enamored with its 69 points (nice) that it stuck there for the duration of OT, and Wisconsin cruised to the victory and Big Ten title, but make no mistake: the last seven, eight minutes of regulation in this game were a perfect culmination of the Big Ten season. If you didn't enjoy that, you probably don't enjoy college basketball—which is fine, of course, but if not I don't understand why you're here.
Oh, and as I mentioned on Twitter after the game, Gasser WAS inbounds on the save. Here's a look at the official* NCAA court dimensions with the damning proof:
As shown in the standings above, Wisconsin leads the Big Ten as a 1 seed, and the conference got seven teams in as a whole. Illinois' bubble burst, to the surprise of few, and Purdue and Indiana cruised in relatively easily, considering most projections had each team one or two seeds lower than that. All in all there's not a whole lot to complain about here; the bubble was an absolute mess this year, and few teams did themselves any favors down the stretch, so even though Purdue and Indiana's seedings might have been generous, there's not much ironclad beef to be had among the teams below them.
Mmmmm... ironclad beef.
Michigan State 62, Maryland 58
Tom Izzo In March claimed another high-profile victim as the Spartans knocked off Maryland in the BTT semifinals—perhaps pushing the Terps off the 3-line in the process—and essentially locking up a 7-seed for a Michigan State team that had legitimate bubble worries just a few weeks ago, right around the time it was losing to Illinois in East Lansing. Coupled with a fairly sweat-free victory over Ohio State in the quarterfinals, it's fair to think Michigan State did the most for itself as anybody in the Big Ten Tournament.
Penn State 67, Iowa 58
Yeah, there's no getting around this one, especially in an otherwise chalky BTT. Iowa was miserable shooting the ball in the second half, blowing a nine-point lead fairly quickly then watching helplessly as D.J. Newbill put an insurmountable distance between the Nittany Lions and favored Hawkeyes. PSU was never a pushover this season, but its record reflected its overall talent level, and this was a game Iowa really should have won. As mentioned yesterday, nothing short of knocking off Wisconsin was about to move Iowa off the 7-line, but what this game probably cost Iowa was a spot in Omaha; that went to the very next team on the 1-68 rankings, Wichita State. Iowa's opponent might have still been Davidson, of course (it's either that or Georgia among the non-B1G 10 seeds), but the difference between Seattle and Omaha in terms of bringing fan support to the arena is pretty massive.
Movin' on up!
Let's hear it for Wisconsin, who not only won the Big Ten Championship (both regular season and tournament) but finally found itself as a 1-seed instead of being shoved into Kentucky's bracket for geographical reasons. Scott Barnes said during the selection show that Wisconsin would have been a 1-seed regardless of the BTT final result, but this way there's a lot less room for debate on the matter. Wisconsin is absolutely one of the best four teams in the nation, and if anybody's got the kind of team that can give Kentucky hell it's probably the offensively lethal Badgers. Wisconsin must be pleased to see four opportunities for Kentucky to catch an L before the two teams would face, though. It's okay to admit that.
Movin' on out!
Illinois had an uphill battle going into the Big Ten Tournament, as the Illini were on the wrong side of most bracket predictions and had lost their last four games against tourney-bound foes. With a weak bubble, though (freaking UCLA and Texas both made it in), a bid was hardly out of reach... until the Illini got whacked by badly slumping Michigan in a game that was basically over before halftime. That wasn't a résumé Illinois could coast on, and John Groce's team paid the price.
This week's game of the week
Friday, 5:20 CT, Seattle, WA: (7) Iowa vs. (10) Davidson
Oh my god, what a shocker, Iowa blog picks Iowa game as the one to watch. First of all, no, the Shockers are playing Indiana. Secondly, this is the most compelling first-round* matchup of all the Big Ten's games, especially since Davidson and Iowa provide such contrasts in identity. Can Davidson control the game bombing from deep? Are Iowa's bigs too much for the Wildcats' small-ball approach? Can Iowa readjust back to previous seasons' tempo levels to match Davidson's willingness to run and gun?
*I don't care what the NCAA says, this is the first round.