Wednesday, March 4, 2009

This is SPARTA!!

It was tougher than expected, but Michigan State locked up the outright Big Ten title by winning at Indiana, 64-59. The real surprise here was how well Indiana played offensively, scoring a point per possession against the 14th best defense in the nation. The Hoosiers did it with good shooting (48% on twos, 42% on a small number of threes) and by getting to the foul line 22 times. Once again, it was turnovers that kept Indiana from getting over the hump - 14 turnovers doesn't sound like a lot on its face, but that's too many for a 59 possession game. Michigan State actually had similar numbers to IU, except they shot a little better and grabbed more offensive rebounds.

Raymar Morgan came off the bench with a nice performance, scoring 14 points (6 shots) and grabbing 7 rebounds. That included a crucial putback dunk to give the Spartans a 4-point lead with just 27 seconds left. Kalin Lucas chipped in 15 points (10 shots) and 5 assists (2 turnovers). For the Hoosiers, Verdell Jones was again the leader with 15 points on 12 shots, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals... though he had a costly 5 turnovers. One has to be impressed with Jones' play this season - he might have been a redshirt candidate at most high majors, but he's performed admirably if you can ignore the turnovers. Most freshmen PGs struggle with turnovers, so there's reason to believe he can be a big part of Indiana's resurgence. Box score.

In the other match-up of the night, Ohio State escaped Iowa with a much-needed victory, 60-58. Both teams shot lights-out - I was beginning to wonder if Buckeye fans' nights would be filled with nightmares of Wayne Larrivee shouting "Ring it up!" while Devan Bawinkel backpedals and adjusts his mouthpiece. Bawinkel scored a career-high 24 points on just 13 shots, all from downtown. Unfortunately for Iowa, the Buckeyes shot even better, hitting 58% on twos and 50% on threes, led by Evan Turner inside the arc (10 for 17, 22 points) and Jon Diebler outside it (4 for 7, 12 points). Turner also had 9 assists (just 3 turnovers) and 5 rebounds. Box score.

For Ohio State, this was basically a must-win, and a Jermain Davis missed three at the buzzer allowed the Buckeyes to squeak through. Ohio State now must focus on winning their final regular season game, this Sunday against Northwestern. A victory seemingly would lock up an NCAA Tournament bid - even with no wins in the conference tournament, it's hard to see a 20-10 (10-8) Buckeyes squad being left out with wins over Miami, Butler, and Purdue and no really bad losses.

Tonight, Northwestern plays at Purdue (5:30pm CT, Big Ten Network), while Wisconsin travels to Minnesota in a big game for both teams (7:30pm CT, Big Ten Network). The Gophers need at least one more conference victory to keep themselves in the at-large discussion.


Anonymous said...

Crazy night for Big Ten basketball... does Northwestern now have an outside shot at making the Dance?

I've really enjoyed this website throughout the conference season. Keep up the good work, guys... can't wait for March Madness.

badgerfan said...

I've read speculation that NU has an outside shot at the NCAA and I don't see it happening. If they win out up to the b10 championship game they finish with 21 wins. Is that really enough for NU? For an eighth place team in the b10?

Josh said...

Well, at 9-9, they won't be in 8th place, more likely a 3 way tie for 6th or somesuch. I agree though, that 9-9 makes it a stretch. However, getting to the B10 championship game would also mean the Cats would accumulate some quality victories along the way. At that point, I think they have a real shot, and from there it really depends on what happens in the mid-major conference tournaments.

But first things first - Northwestern still has to win against Ohio State - a team fighting for its own NCAA Tournament life. In Columbus.