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Posts Tagged ‘Illinois’

Survive and advance: Michigan 64 – Illinois 63

Saturday, March 15th, 2014


Stauskas to Morgan vs Illinois 3-14-14(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

For a team like Michigan, which won the regular season Big Ten title outright by three games over Wisconsin and Michigan State, the conference tournament is somewhat of an unnecessary exercise before the Big Dance. There’s not much left to prove except perhaps bettering their seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament. There’s more to lose, from injury to loss of confidence to getting out of sync. But that doesn’t mean John Beilein’s squad wouldn’t try to win and that was evident on Friday afternoon when the Wolverines hung on to beat Illinois 64-63.

Illinois hung around for most of the first half, but in the final five minutes it seemed as if Michigan was about to flex its muscle and pull away. A Glenn Robinson III layup at the 4:48 mark put Michigan ahead 30-23 and prompted John Groce to call a timeout. But over the next two minutes, Illinois outscored Michigan 7-0 to tie the game before Nik Stauskas hit a three to end Michigan’s drought. Michigan took a 38-33 lead into the locker room.

The second half started out all Michigan as the Wolverines scored nine of the first 11 points to take a 47-36 lead. Michigan maintained a double digit lead through the under-12 timeout, but Illinois, which was fighting for its NCAA Tournament life as a bubble team, wasn’t done yet. Seven straight points pulled the Illini within four.

Jordan Morgan atoned for a rough game with the game-winning basket (MGoBlue.com)

Jordan Morgan atoned for a rough game with the game-winning basket (MGoBlue.com)

After a Michigan time out and a missed Stauskas three, Tracy Abrams hit from downtown to bring Illinois within one. Robinson III answered, but it would be the last point Michigan would score for the next 4:21 of game time.

Illinois took its first lead of the second half at the 4:57 mark on a Rayvonte Rice layup and after the under-four time out, Kendrick Nunn scored to put the Illini up by three. But Michigan’s freshman, Derrick Walton Jr., answered with a three to tie the game. Rice followed with another layup to put Illinois ahead 63-61 and Beilein called time out.

On Michigan’s ensuing possession, Caris LeVert, Stauskas, and Walton all missed three-point attempts after Walton and Robinson III pulled down offensive boards. Illinois was unable to take advantage, however, missing a shot, and fouling Stauskas. The Canadian sophomore made one of two to bring Michigan within one with 55 seconds remaining.

Illinois turned the ball over on a shot clock violation to give Michigan the ball back with 11 seconds left, down by one. Stauskas came off a screen near the top of the key and pulled up to shoot. Instead, he hit a rolling Jordan Morgan in the paint and the lone senior who was honored last Saturday, and who had struggled with foul trouble for much of the game, laid the ball up on the rim and it rolled in.

Groce called time out to set up a play and Abrams drove the lane, pulled up and got off a great look from eight feet at the buzzer. But it came up short and Michigan got the win.

The loss likely bursts Illinois’ (19-14) razor-thin bubble hopes, sending them to the NIT. Michigan moves on to face fifth-seed Ohio State, which beat Nebraska 71-67 in the following game. The two faced off just once during the regular season with Michigan getting the better of the Buckeyes in Columbus on Feb. 11, 70-60.

Stauskas led all scorers with 19 points on just 4-of-12 shooting. He made just 2-of-10 three-pointers, but was able to get the the free throw line often and connect on 9-of-10. Robinson III scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while LeVert added 13 points, five rebounds, and four assists.

Michigan made just 10-of-30 three-pointers as a team, struggling to get much offense going against the Illinois zone defense — a much different outcome than when the two teams met a little over a week ago in Champagne.

Three Stars

***Nik Stauskas***
19 points (4-of-12 FG, 2-of-10 3PT, 9-of-10 FT), three assists, two rebounds, one block, two turnovers in 38 minutes

**Glenn Robinson III**
15 points (5-of-11 FG, 2-of-5 3PT, 3-of-4 FT), seven rebounds (two offensive), one assist in 37 minutes

*Caris LeVert*
13 points (5-of-10 FG, 3-of-7 3PT, 0-of-1 FT), five rebounds (one offensive), four assists, one steal, two turnovers in 37 minutes

Quick Hitters:

 

 

 


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Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 5-11 2-5 3-4 2 5 7 0 15 1 0 0 0 37
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 2-5 1-3 0-0 1 2 3 3 5 3 1 0 1 27
11 Nik Stauskas* 4-12 2-10 9-10 0 2 2 2 19 3 2 1 0 38
52 Jordan Morgan* 2-2 0-0 0-0 1 5 6 4 4 0 0 1 1 23
23 Caris LeVert* 5-10 3-7 0-1 1 4 5 0 13 4 2 0 1 37
02 Spike Albrecht 2-3 1-2 0-0 0 1 1 2 5 0 2 0 0 13
15 Jon Horford 0-1 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 3 0 0 1 0 1 15
21 Zak Irvin 1-3 1-3 0-0 0 0 0 1 3 0 0 0 0 8
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
Totals 21-47 10-30 12-15 6 20 26 15 64 11 8 2 4 200
Illinois 24-53 5-17 10-12 10 23 33 14 63 10 9 2 4 200
Full Stats

Drew’s 3 thoughts: Illinois

Thursday, March 13th, 2014


Michigan-Illinois header_BTT

Michigan just wrapped up its first outright Big Ten regular season championship since 1986. Not only did Michigan win it outright, U-M won the conference by three games. The Wolverines are only the second Big Ten regular-season champion to win the conference by such a margin since 1999. There is no doubt that Michigan was the best team during the Big Ten regular season.

But there is no time for the Wolverines to pat themselves on the back. The regular season is over. Michigan’s march through the postseason begins tomorrow when it faces the streaking Illinois Fighting Illini in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. The Fighting Illini have won five of their last six games, one of which was a 64-54 victory against Indiana in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday afternoon.

Illinois’ only loss during this hot streak? A 31-point thrashing by these Michigan Wolverines at the State Farm Center last week—Illinois’ worst home loss ever in that building. Will the Fighting Illini be able to exact their revenge against the Wolverines? Or will Michigan do as the past ten No. 1 seeds in the Big Ten Tournament have done and advance to the semifinals?

Here are my three keys to consider for Friday’s Michigan-Illinois quarterfinal matchup:

Tracy Abrams led Illinois past Indiana in the first round with a season-high 25 points (Victor Cortez, Illinois Athletics)

Tracy Abrams led Illinois past Indiana in the first round with a season-high 25 points (Victor Cortez, Illinois Athletics)

Don’t Waste Possessions

Illinois’ late-season surge has been keyed by an increased propensity to force its opponents to commit a plethora of turnovers. During this 5-1 stretch, Illinois’ opponents have turned the ball over 22.2 percent of the time. This is a significant bump from the defensive turnover rate of 17.8 percent that the Fighting Illini posted in its first 13 conference games, in which they earned a lowly 3-10 record.

Illinois may have the third-best defense in the Big Ten, but forcing turnovers is the only strength of its defense. The Fighting Illini are ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten in both defensive rebounding and field-goal defense. If Illinois cannot force Michigan to commit turnovers, it will struggle to string together enough stops to compete with the Wolverines’ high-powered offense. Plus, fewer turnovers forced means less transition opportunities for the Illini, where they are more efficient than when in their half-court offense.

Therefore, Michigan cannot be sloppy offensively and waste possessions with unforced errors and turnovers. The good news for Michigan is that its explosive offensive rarely turns over the basketball. The Wolverines are second in the Big Ten and 10th in the nation in offensive turnover rate, committing a turnover on only about 15 percent of their possessions. If Michigan holds onto the basketball, it will routinely find itself wide open on jumpers outside and inside the three-point line. As long as Michigan knocks those down, the Wolverines’ offense will be very difficult to stop.

Lock Down the Perimeter

During the conference season, Michigan’s biggest weakness was its two-point defense. The Wolverines allowed Big Ten opponents to make 52.7 percent of their two-pointers. No Big Ten defense allowed opponents to make a higher percentage of their shots inside the arc. Opponents had this success because the Wolverines consistently failed to stay in front of opponents’ guards, allowing them to find open space in the paint easily.

Generally, this would be Michigan’s biggest defensive concern. But this is not the case against Illinois. The Fighting Illini had the second-worst offense in the Big Ten, and one the main reasons for this is that they were dead last in two-point shooting. Illinois made only 42.1 percent of its two-pointers against conference opponents. Although Michigan should do its best to stay in front of Illinois’ guards that attempt to penetrate, chances are that those guards will not be able to finish around the rim anyway.

Therefore, Illinois’ best chance to upset the Wolverines will be to find its stroke from beyond the three-point line. The Fighting Illini were not very efficient from there either, making only 30.4 percent of its threes in Big Ten play, but they need their shooters to get hot for only one game. The three Illini that Michigan need to focus on are Kendrick Nunn, Joseph Bertrand, and Jon Ekey. Nunn and Bertrand are Illinois’ two best outside shooters, converting 40 and 38.3 percent of their threes, respectively, while Ekey hangs around the three-point line with 62 percent of his shots coming from there. If Michigan can prevent these three Illini from finding their rhythm from three-point territory, points will be hard to come by for Illinois.

Don’t Expect a Repeat of Last Week

Last Tuesday, Michigan waltzed into the State Farm Center and bombed Illinois on its home court. Prior to that contest, the Fighting Illinois had held each of its previous four opponents to less than 50 points. So what did Michigan do? It piled on 52 points against Illinois. In the first half. With the help of 11 three-pointers. The Wolverines built a 22-point lead by halftime, and the second half was basically 20 minutes of conditioning for both teams. It ended with a 31-point rout for the Wolverines—the largest margin of victory for U-M against a Big Ten opponent since 1998.

This will not repeat itself tomorrow. Michigan may find itself just as open on its shots tomorrow as it did last week, but U-M cannot expect 69.6 percent of its three-pointers to drop once again. The odds are very likely that more of those shots will clang off the iron. Michigan will experience a regression to the mean at some point. It happens to everyone.

Therefore, Michigan cannot get down on itself if it fails to build another 20-point halftime lead. Last week’s blowout is fresh in the Illinois players’ minds, and they will do everything in their power to ensure nothing like that happens again. Chances are that tomorrow’s game will be much more difficult to win than last week. If the Wolverines start panicking, they will make more mental mistakes and give Illinois hope that it can pull off the upset. But, if the Wolverines maintain their composure and play their game, they should be able to show that they are the superior team and build a comfortable lead over time. And I believe that is exactly what will happen.

Prediction: Michigan 73, Illinois 64

Win a copy of Beer: What to Drink Next

Thursday, March 13th, 2014


Beer

Are you a beer connoisseur? Are you a fan of craft beer? Do you just like to try new kinds of beer? If your answer is yes to any of thoes, I’ve got just the book for you. Beer: What to Drink Next, newly released by Sterling Publishing, is the beer drinker’s new encyclopedia.

Author Michael Larson, a friend of mine from college, and co-founder of the beer review blog The Perfectly Happy Man, put together the most comprehensive craft beer book on the market. Featuring the Beer Select-o-Pedia, Larson’s book lists 90 different styles of beer, grouped in four chapters based on the country of origin.Beer Select-o-Pedia

Each beer is graded on origin, color, alcohol by volume (ABU), and international bittering units (IBU). Each style of beer comes with an atomic structure diagram that tells you more about each beer, recommends breweries, and gives tasting notes and interesting facts about each beer. It also suggest food pairings for each style.

The beginning of the book gives a nice introduction to beer drinking with a description of what beer is, how it is brewed, current trends in brewing, how to serve and store beer, how to taste beer, and how to pair food with beer. This book will truly tell you all you need to know about beer and improve your experience of it, whether you’re simply looking for your next six-pack mixer or hosting a party and looking for new beers to wow your friends.

The easy to follow structure of the book allows you to look up a beer you’re currently drinking and find others like it, or simply search for a style you’re interested in and find quality recommendations.

The list price for the book is $14.95 and you can order it on Amazon or look for it at Barnes and Noble.

Maize and Go Blue is also giving you the opportunity to win a free copy by winning our contest for Michigan’s first Big Ten Tournament game against Illinois on Friday. Enter below before 11:59 a.m. ET Friday and the contestant that wins will win a free copy of the book.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 10

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014



As the Big Ten regular season wrapped up on Sunday Michigan was able to sit back and relax having wrapped up the outright conference title by three games and the number one seed in this week’s tournament. The Wolverines will face the winner of the last two teams they faced to close the season, Illinois and Indiana, in the quarterfinals on Friday. The rest of the tournament bracket can be found here

As the conference heads to Indianapolis to battle it out for the automatic NCAA Tournament berth, we took another look at the power rankings.

1. Michigan (23-7, 15-3)  Even
Last week: Mar. 4 W at Illinois 84-53, Mar. 8 W vs Indiana 84-80
This week: BTT quarterfinals Friday vs (8) Indiana or (9) Illinois 12pm ESPN/ESPN2

Michigan finished off an incredible conference season by outlasting Indiana on senior night. Jordan Morgan went out with a bang, recording his first double-double of the season and keeping the Wolverines alive early with critical offensive rebounds. The Big Ten outright champions earned the top seed in the conference tournament after running away from the pack and finishing three games ahead of second-place Wisconsin and Michigan State. 

2. Nebraska (19-11, 11-7) • Up 1
Last week: Mar. 5 W at Indiana 60-50, Mar. 9 W vs #9 Wisconsin 77-68
This week: BTT quarterfinals Friday vs (5) Ohio State or (12) Purdue 2:25pm ESPN/ESPN2

In its biggest game of the season Sunday, Nebraska beat Wisconsin to finish the year with a league-best 15-1 home record. Incredibly, the preseason pick to finish dead last in the Big Ten earned a first-round bye in the conference tournament and landed just one game out of second place. 

3. Wisconsin (25-6, 12-6) • Down 1
Last week: Mar. 5 W vs Purdue 76-70, Mar. 9 L at Nebraska 68-77
This week: BTT quarterfinals Friday vs (7) Minnesota or (10) Penn State 6:30pm BTN

Bo Ryan’s Badgers had their eyes set on a prize outside the Big Ten: A No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A nine-point loss to Nebraska seemingly eliminated Wisconsin from that discussion, but it still earned the second seed in the conference tournament after an 8-1 finish.

4. Michigan State (23-8, 12-6) • Up 3
Last week: Mar. 6 W vs #24 Iowa 86-76, Mar. 9 L at Ohio State 67-69
This week: BTT quarterfinals Friday vs (6) Iowa or (11) Northwestern 8:55pm BTN

Michigan State looked like it was back on track after a win over Iowa on senior night. However, a loss to Ohio State in the regular season finale dropped the Spartans to just 5-7 in their last 12 games and 1-2 since sending a healthy starting lineup back on the court.

5. Ohio State (23-8, 10-8) • Up 3
Last week: Mar. 9 W vs #22 Michigan State 69-67
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (12) Purdue 2:25pm BTN

At the beginning of the conference schedule, Sunday’s Michigan State-Ohio State game looked like a potential shootout for the regular season championship. In reality, the game meant very little to the final Big Ten standings. But Aaron Craft did get a win on senior night, and the Buckeyes just barely managed to finish above .500 in the conference.

6. Illinois (18-13, 7-11) • Down 1
Last week: Mar. 4 L vs #12 Michigan 53-84, Mar. 8 W at #24 Iowa 66-63
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (8) Indiana 12pm BTN

John Groce’s team could’ve thrown in the towel after a nine-game losing streak planted it firmly in last place. Instead, the Illini rallied and won four of their last five games, all of which were against NCAA Tournament hopefuls (Minnesota is the only non-lock at this point).

7. Minnesota (19-12, 8-10) • Up 2
Last week: Mar. 9 W vs Penn State 81-63
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (10) Penn State 6:30pm ESPN2

Minnesota put itself into a very tough position heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Losses in nine of 14 games put Minnesota on the outside of the tournament bubble looking in with just a home game against Penn State left. The Gophers did what they had to do, blowing out the Nittany Lions 81-63, but it still may not be enough.

8. Iowa (22-11, 9-9) • Down 2
Last week: Mar. 6 L at #22 Michigan State 76-86, Mar. 8 L vs Illinois 63-66
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (11) Northwestern 8:55pm ESPN2

Near the midway point of the season, Iowa was ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll and competing for a Big Ten championship. After five losses in its final six games, this team is reeling at the worst possible time. Iowa drew a favorable matchup in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, facing a Northwestern team that it beat by 26 points — twice.

9. Indiana (17-14, 7-11) • Down 5
Last week: Mar. 5 L vs Nebraska 60-70, Mar. 8 L at #12 Michigan 80-84
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (9) Illinois 12pm BTN

The preseason top-25 Hoosiers know there’s only one route to the Big Dance now: winning the conference tournament. Indiana dropped its last two games to land in the No. 8 slot in Indianapolis and a matchup against the streaking Fighting Illini.

10. Penn State (15-16, 6-12) • Even
Last week: Mar. 6 W at Northwestern 59-32, Mar. 9 L at Minnesota 63-81
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (7) Minnesota 6:30pm ESPN2

Minnesota waxed Penn State in the final road game for the Nittany Lions, but they still managed to finish the conference season with a 6-6 record in the final 12 games after losing the first six. Penn State drew a rematch against the Gophers in the first round Thursday — a chance to strengthen its NIT resume.

11. Northwestern (13-18, 6-12) • Up 1
Last week: Mar. 6 L vs Penn State 32-59, Mar. 9 W at Purdue 74-65
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (6) Iowa 8:55pm ESPN2

Northwestern quietly earned a big road win on Sunday to stay out of the cellar and finish 11th in the Big Ten. The Wildcats held much higher expectations after a 5-5 start, but a seven-game losing streak put any hopes of contending quickly to rest.

12. Purdue (15-16, 5-3) • Down 1
Last week: Mar. 5 L at #9 Wisconsin 70-76, Mar. 9 L vs Northwestern 65-74
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (5) Ohio State 2:25pm BTN

Matt Painter’s team sure hit rock bottom this season. After nearly dethroning the first-place Michigan Wolverines two weeks ago, Purdue had its heart ripped out and lost its three final games. The Boilermakers finished the season by losing 11 of 13 games, including the final six.

Inside the Numbers: Breaking down Michigan’s odds to win the Big Ten Tournament

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014


Beilein net(MGoBlue.com)

Last week, Michigan clinched its first outright Big Ten regular season championship in 28 years, winning the league by three games. Accordingly, Michigan will raise a new banner in the rafters of the Crisler Center to open the 2014-15 season. With the Big Ten Tournament on deck, the Wolverines have an opportunity this weekend to add a second banner to that ceremony.

This year—and in recent years—fans have debated whether the Big Ten Tournament really matters in the grand scheme of college hoops. Many fans believe that the 18-game season, not a single-elimination tournament, crowns the true conference champion. Some of those fans even prefer that their team lose in earlier round in order to have extra days to prepare for the NCAA Tournament, unless their team is on the bubble. On the other hand, some fans feel that the Big Ten Tournament can significantly affect the seed a team earns in the NCAA Tournament, so all teams should take the conference tournament seriously.

But debating the merits of the Big Ten Tournament is not the purpose of this week’s “Inside the Numbers.” The purpose of this week’s column is to determine how likely it is that Michigan wins its first Big Ten Tournament since 1998. So put aside your feelings and opinions about the Big Ten Tournament as we explore these numbers.

Michigan’s Hellish History in the Big Ten Tournament

First, the bad news: the Big Ten Tournament has been a place of despair for the Wolverines. Michigan won the inaugural Big Ten Tournament in 1998 as a No. 4 seed, knocking off No. 3 seed Purdue, 76-67, in the championship game. Since then, though? Michigan has not sniffed a Big Ten Tournament championship.

History of Michigan’s Performances in the Big Ten Tournament

Lost in: 

First Round 

Quarterfinals 

Semifinals

Championship

Champion

No. of Finishes

4

8

3

0

1

In the past 15 seasons, the Wolverines have not appeared in the finals of the Big Ten Tournament. Not once. Only two other Big Ten schools have had such a drought. One is Northwestern because, well, it is Northwestern. The other is Nebraska, but this is only the Huskers’ third years as a Big Ten member. Yes, even Penn State has participated in game with a Big Ten Tournament title on the line more recently than Michigan.

Since 1998, U-M has been bounced in the first round or quarterfinals 12 times. Therefore, the Wolverines have played in the semifinals only 20 percent of the time in that span. That is an abysmal rate for a program that needed to string together victories in the conference tournament to receive an NCAA Tournament invite from 1999 to 2008. Yet Michigan never could.

To make matters worse for Michigan fans, if that seems possible, the manner in which U-M has been eliminated from the conference tournament has been soul-crushing. Sure, there have been some top seeds against which the Wolverines never had a fighting chance. But Michigan has lost five conference tournament games by less than five points and has blown five halftime leads that resulted in losses. And, if there is one Big Ten Tournament image that stands out the most in U-M fans’ minds, it is former Ohio State star Evan Turner drilling a game-winning, half-court heave at the buzzer to end Michigan’s season in 2010.

Since 1998, the Big Ten Tournament has been nothing but nightmares for the Maize and Blue.

The No. 1 Seed

However, that may finally change this year. For the first time in school history, Michigan is the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament. The first Big Ten Tournament was in 1998. Since then, the Wolverines had won the regular season title only once before this season—in 2012. But Michigan shared that championship with Michigan State and Ohio State and lost the top seed to the Spartans on a tiebreaker.

This is unfamiliar territory for Michigan and its fans, so here is how the previous 16 top seeds have fared in the Big Ten Tournament:

Success of No. 1 Seeds in the Big Ten Tournament

 

Quarterfinals Loss

Semifinals Loss

Runner-Up

Champion

No. of Finishes

4

3

2

7

The most likely outcome for the Big Ten Tournament’s top seed is to win the whole thing. Shocking, I know. The No. 1 seed has won the conference tournament just shy of half the time, with it happening at a rate of 43.8 percent. Making the finals is no guarantee, though. The top seed has appeared in the championship game in only nine of the 16 seasons in which the Big Ten Tournament was held. That is just 56.3 percent of the time.

However, those rates are skewed. In the first six years of the Big Ten Tournament, No. 1 seeds were more vulnerable to upsets than they seem to be now. Only one top seed participated in the title match in that span. Since 2003, though, the top seed has appeared in the finals eight out of 10 tries and won the tournament six times. The only two No. 1 seeds that failed to reach the finals are Michigan State in 2009 and Indiana last season, with both falling the semifinals. If the past decade’s trend holds, Michigan seems well on its way to play for and win its first Big Ten Tournament title in 16 years.

Before we hand the Wolverines their trophy and banner, though, let’s preview their path to the 2014 Big Ten Tournament championship.

Michigan could be looking at a rematch with Indiana in its first Big Ten Tournament on Friday (MGoBlue.com)

Michigan could be looking at a rematch with Indiana in its first Big Ten Tournament on Friday (MGoBlue.com)

Quarterfinals

As the No. 1 seed, Michigan receives a first-round bye and awaits the winner of Indiana-Illinois in the No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup in the quarterfinals. This is a tossup. Not only did Indiana and Illinois split their season series, with the home team holding serve each time, the Hoosiers and Fighting Illini are No. 64 and No. 65 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, respectively. Indiana is a slight favorite, but Illinois is playing its best basketball right now, winning four of its last five against teams in the top seven of the standings.

Indiana has been a tricky matchup for the Wolverines recently. After sweeping U-M last year, an underachieving IU beat Michigan by double digits in Bloomington on Feb. 2 and hung with U-M until the final minute in Ann Arbor on Saturday. The main reason: Yogi Ferrell. The Wolverines have had no answer defensively for the member of the All-Big Ten second team. He has averaged 21.5 points and five assists while stroking 11-of-16 three-pointers (68.8%) against U-M. Plus, Michigan does not want a sea of red in the crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis when it takes the floor for its quarterfinals game.

Thus, Michigan would prefer to see Illinois in the quarterfinals. The Wolverines have had the upper hand in this series recently, winning the previous six meetings by an average of 13.8 points. Of course, the average is skewed by a 31-point win by U-M, but that 31-point win occurred exactly one week ago. Will Michigan tie its program record once again with 16 three-pointers this time? Probably not. But the Fighting Illini have the second-worst offense in the Big Ten and no star that will help Illinois keep pace with U-M’s offense, which is the third-most efficient in the Big Ten since 2005.

Regardless, no top seed has lost in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament in over a decade. Additionally, Michigan will be a significant favorite to defeat either Indiana or Illinois. But those odds will be slightly better against the Fighting Illini than the Hoosiers.

Michigan’s Odds to Reach Semifinals per TeamRankings: 72.46%

Semifinals

If Michigan advances, it likely will face the winner of Nebraska-Ohio State in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup in the semifinals. There is also a slim possibility that No. 12 Purdue could upset both the Buckeyes and the Huskers to reach the semifinals, but TeamRankings gives the Boilermakers just an 8.51 percent chance of doing so. If it does happen, Michigan will be in excellent shape. However, for the sake of this discussion, it is probably safe to assume that Purdue will experience a first-round exit.

Michigan only faced Ohio State once this season, but could face the Buckeyes for the seventh time in the BTT on Saturday (MGoBlue.com)

Michigan only faced Ohio State once this season, but could face the Buckeyes for the seventh time in the BTT on Saturday (MGoBlue.com)

Nebraska has been the Cinderella story in the Big Ten. Nebraska was projected to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten standings in the preseason. An 0-4 and 1-5 start, albeit against some of the Big Ten’s toughest teams, did not alter anyone’s expectation. Yet the Huskers beat Ohio State and Wisconsin at home and Michigan State on the road en route to winning 10 of their final 12 conference contests. Nebraska is on fire right now as it fights for its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1998.

Nonetheless, Nebraska is the team Michigan wants to see in the semifinals, not Ohio State. Nebraska finished with a better conference record than Ohio State because it had a more favorable strength of schedule and some better luck in close games. The advanced numbers tell a different story. OSU is No. 14 in Pomeroy’s rankings. Nebraska? No. 47. In the semifinals, Michigan would be a solid favorite against the Huskers whereas it would be close to a coin flip between the Wolverines and the Buckeyes.

Plus, if the Big Ten Tournament has been a place where Michigan teams go to die, Ohio State has been the Grim Reaper. Michigan and Ohio State have squared off six times in the Big Ten Tournament. The Wolverines have lost all six times, falling to OSU in 1999, 2002, 2007, 2010, 2011, and 2012. To be fair, the Buckeyes have been the higher seed in all but one of those contests (2012). However, there is no doubt that the Buckeyes have the Wolverines’ number in this tournament.

Michigan still has the best odds among Big Ten teams to reach the championship game. If there was ever a time to end this drought against the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Tournament, this year would probably be the year. But, if Michigan wants an easier path to the finals, it would prefer that the Huskers upset the Buckeyes in the quarterfinals.

Michigan’s Odds to Reach Finals per TeamRankings: 43.59%

Finals

If Michigan can get through its first two tournament games unscathed, it will appear in its first Big Ten Tournament finals since 1998, ending the 15-year streak of futility. If the Wolverines can accomplish this feat, which team will it face for a Big Ten Tournament title? According to TeamRankings, the three teams on the other side of the bracket with more than a 25 percent chance to appear in the title game are Wisconsin (35.7%), Michigan State (31.7%), and Iowa (26.2%).

Wisconsin would be the strongest challenger. Prior to losing to Nebraska at Pinnacle Bank Arena, a place where the Huskers went 15-1 this season, Wisconsin had won eight straight games. This includes wins at home against Michigan State and on the road against Michigan and Iowa. Additionally, no team has given Michigan more trouble under head coach John Beilein than the Badgers. Wisconsin is 12-2 against U-M since Beilein arrived in Ann Arbor. This is the opponent the Wolverines least want to face if they want to have the best odds to win the conference tournament. However, a win against the Badgers could be the final push that helps U-M earn the fourth No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Wolverines have better odds against Michigan State and Iowa, but beating either would be no easy task. Yes, both the Spartans and the Hawkeyes have stumbled down the stretch—MSU is 5-7 in its last 12 games and Iowa is 1-5 in its last six. But, if one of these teams reaches the finals, that team likely will have had to beat the other and then Wisconsin to be there. No team that does that is still in a slump, and Michigan would play that team just as it rediscovers its confidence.

So will Michigan win the Big Ten Tournament and earn a second banner in as many weeks? I cannot say. It likely will be a five-team brawl among Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Iowa. But what I can tell you is that Michigan is the favorite to win its first Big Ten Tournament since 1998 as it is the only team with greater than 20 percent odds to finish on top. And, given the success of the top seed in the past decade, Michigan may finally exorcise its Big Ten Tournament demons.

Michigan’s Odds to Win the Big Ten Tournament per TeamRankings: 21.81%

Stauskas, Beilein earn top honors, Wolverines re-enter top 10

Monday, March 10th, 2014


Big Ten champs celebration

Nik Stauskas became Michigan’s second straight Big Ten Player of the Year the conference announced on Monday evening. The sophomore was voted the top honor by both the coaches and media, following Trey Burke who won the award a year ago. Stauskas has averaged 17.4 points, 3.5 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game this season with 13 games of 20 or more points. He is the only Big Ten player to rank in the top 10 in field goal percentage (48.9), three-point percentage (45.8), and free throw percentage (81.1).

Stauskas was also a unanimous selection to the All-Big Ten first team and named to the Sporting News All-America second team.

In addition, John Beilein was named Big Ten Coach of the Year by the media, becoming the first Michigan coach to win the award since Bill Frieder in 1985. Johnny Orr also accomplished the feat in 1974 and ’77. Nebraska’s Tim Miles was awarded the honor by the coaches.

Caris LeVert was named to the All-Big Ten second team  after averaging 13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. Glenn Robinson III garnered honorable mention honors, averaging 13.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. Derrick Walton Jr. was named to the all-freshman team, averaging 8.1 points, 2.9 assists, and 2.9 rebounds per game. This is the fourth straight season the Wolverines have had a player on the all-freshman team (Robinson III in 2013, Burke in 2012, and Tim Hardaway Jr in 2011).

Below are the full All-Big Ten teams as selected by both the coaches and the media.

All-Big Ten first team
Coaches Media
Name School Name School
Nik Stauskas* Michigan Nik Stauskas* Michigan
Roy Devyn Marble Iowa Roy Devyn Marble Iowa
Gary Harris Michigan State Gary Harris Michigan State
Terran Pettaway Nebraska Terran Pettaway Nebraska
Frank Kaminsky Wisconsin Frank Kaminsky Wisconsin
All-Big Ten second team
Coaches Media
Name School Name School
Yogi Ferrell Indiana Yogi Ferrell Indiana
Caris LeVert Michigan Caris LeVert Michigan
Adreian Payne Michigan State Adreian Payne Michigan State
D.J. Newbill Penn State D.J. Newbill Penn State
Sam Dekker Wisconsin Aaron Craft Ohio State
All-Big Ten third team
Coaches Media
Name School Name School
Noah Vonleh Indiana Noah Vonleh Indiana
Aaron White Iowa Aaron White Iowa
Aaron Craft Ohio State Drew Crawford Northwestern
LaQuinton Ross Ohio State Tim Frazier Penn State
Tim Frazier Penn State Sam Dekker Wisconsin
All-Big Ten honorable mention
Coaches Media
Name School Name School
Rayvonte Rice Illinois Rayvonte Rice Illinois
Glenn Robinson III Michigan Glenn Robinson III Michigan
Keith Appling Michigan State Will Sheehey Indiana
Denzel Valentine Michigan State Keith Appling Michigan State
Andre Hollins Minnesota Denzel Valentine Michigan State
Shavon Shields Nebraska Andre Hollins Minnesota
Drew Crawford Northwestern DeAndre Mathieu Minnesota
A.J. Hammons Purdue Shavon Shields Nebraska
Ben Brust Wisconsin LaQuinton Ross Ohio State
A.J. Hammons Purdue
Ben Brust Wisconsin
Josh Gasser Wisconsin
Traevon Jackson Wisconsin
All-Big Ten all-freshman team Sportsmanship Award honorees
Name School Name School
Kendrick Nunn Illinois Joseph Bertrand Illinois
Noah Vonleh Indiana Will Sheehey Indiana
Derrick Walton Jr. Michigan Mike Gesell Iowa
Kendall Stephens Purdue Jon Horford Michigan
Nigel Hayes Wisconsin Denzel Valentine Michigan State
All-Big Ten defensive team Austin Hollins Minnesota
Name School Shavon Shields Nebraska
Gary Harris Michigan State Drew Crawford Northwestern
Aaron Craft Ohio State Lenzelle Smith Jr. Ohio State
Shannon Scott Ohio State Tim Frazier Penn State
A.J. Hammons Purdue Travis Carroll Purdue
Josh Gasser Wisconsin Ben Brust Wisconsin
*Unanimous selection

Michigan also moved back into the top 10 in both polls, checking in at No. 8 in the AP Poll and No. 9 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. It is the first time the Wolverines have been in the top 10 since the first week of February when they reached 10th.

Wisconsin’s loss to Nebraska on Sunday dropped the Badgers below Michigan, to 12th and 13th. Michigan State remains at 22nd in both polls for the second straight week, while Ohio State moves back in at 24th in both. Iowa dropped out.

As for Michigan’s non-conference opponents, Arizona dropped one spot to fourth in both polls, fell to seventh and sixth, and Iowa State is still 16th in both.

The full national rankings are below.

AP Poll Coaches Poll
Rank Team Rank Team
1 Florida (29-2) 1 Florida (29-2)
2 Wichita State (34-0) 2 Wichita State (34-0)
3 Villanova (28-3) 3 Villanova (28-3)
4 Arizona (28-3) 4 Arizona (28-3)
5 Louisville (26-5) 5 Louisville (26-5)
6 Virginia (25-6) 6 Duke (24-7)
7 Duke (24-7) 7 San Diego State (27-3)
8 Michigan (23-7) 8 Virginia (25-6)
8 San Diego State (27-3) 9 Michigan (23-7)
10 Kansas (23-8) 10 Kansas (23-8)
11 Syracuse (27-4) 11 Syracuse (27-4)
12 Wisconsin (25-6) 12 Cincinnati (26-5)
13 Cincinnati (26-5) 13 Wisconsin (25-6)
14 Creighton (24-6) 14 Creighton (24-6)
15 North Carolina (23-8) 15 North Carolina (23-8)
16 Iowa State (23-7) 16 Iowa State (23-7)
17 Oklahoma (23-8) 17 Saint Louis (26-5)
18 Saint Louis (26-5) 18 Oklahoma (23-8)
19 Memphis (23-8) 19 Memphis (23-8)
20 New Mexico (24-6) 20 New Mexico (24-6)
21 Connecticut (24-7) 21 Connecticut (24-7)
22 Michigan State (23-8) 22 Michigan State (23-8)
23 Virginia Commonwealth (24-7) 23 Southern Methodist (23-8)
24 Ohio State (23-8) 24 Ohio State (23-8)
25 Southern Methodist (23-8) 25 Virginia Commonwealth (24-7)

Big Ten Tournament bracket: Michigan the top seed

Sunday, March 9th, 2014


BigTenTournamentBracket2014_edited-2

Orange crushed: Michigan 84 – Illinois 53

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014


Big Ten champions post-Illinois

The Michigan basketball team entered last night’s matchup at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill. with a monumental opportunity. Win the game, and the Big Ten championship was theirs and theirs alone for the first time since any player on this team was born — the first time since 1986, to be exact.

Win the game, and one of the biggest goals this team has had all season is reached.

Win the game, and the target on their back grows even bigger.

Illinois came into the game with reason to fight just as hard, however. After a brutal stretch of eight straight losses in January and February and 10 losses in 11 games, the Fighting Illini had finally started to right the ship with three straight wins – all over teams with a shot at dancing later this month and all by holding their opponents to fewer than 50 points.

A win over Michigan, and Illinois would have seven conference wins, 18 overall wins, and perhaps a shot at creeping their way back onto the tournament bubble.

That shot left the building about nine minutes after tip, just as Zak Irvin was drilling Michigan’s fifth three of the night to put the Wolverines up by double digits. Illinois would cut the lead to fewer than 10 points only twice the rest of the night, and not once after Spike Albrecht rained down another three, Michigan’s seventh of the night, at the 8:36 mark of the first half.

Michigan’s lead ballooned to 19 points one minute later on a Michael Jordanesque breakaway, double-clutch dunk by Glenn Robinson III. And with a buzzer-beating, 32-foot three from Nik Stauskas – his fourth of the half and the team’s 11th – the Maize and Blue held a 52-30 lead leaving Illinois wishing there was a mercy rule to be found somewhere in the rule books.

Glenn Robinson III and the rest of the Wolverines silenced any remaining critics on Tuesday night (Bradley Leeb, USA Today Sports)

Glenn Robinson III and the rest of the Wolverines silenced any remaining critics on Tuesday night (Bradley Leeb, USA Today Sports)

When more fireworks came to an end in the second half, the scoreboard, incredibly still functioning, read 84-53 in favor of the visitors — the Victors — and the outright 2013-14 Big Ten Champions.

The shooting discrepancy in this blowout was something for the ages. While Michigan merely tied a school record with 16 threes on the night – their last made with 2:23 to play and the walk-ons at the scorers’ table – they did manage to hand Illinois their largest ever loss at Assembly Hall and outshoot the Illini by 58.5 percent from downtown.

Stauskas, perhaps preparing for the tournaments to come while reminiscing about Michigan’s lopsided win over Florida in last year’s tournament to make the Final Four, made a career-high seven three-pointers on just nine attempts and led all scorers with 24 points on the night. Three other Wolverines, Irvin, Albrecht, and Caris LeVert, hit at least two triples apiece and two more, Robinson III and Derrick Walton, Jr., added to the fun with one each.

After such an incredibly noncompetitive game that was so important to both teams, there’s not much to say. Michigan was far and away the better team last night and seems to be separating itself from the rest of the pack. A one-seed is in the bag for the Big Ten Tournament starting next Thursday (with Michigan tipping off on Friday) and a two-seed in the Big Dance is a very real possibility with Syracuse and Creighton falling again last night.

If Michigan continues to shoot as well as they did in their Big Ten-clincher, the Wolverines simply cannot be beaten by anyone in March. Of course that’s a big if, but I sure won’t be the one to doubt this team’s potential.

The narrative has been beaten to death, set on fire, and tossed into the dumpster, but I think it bears repeating one last time (okay, maybe it will come out again at the end of the year too.). Michigan, a team that lost the National Player of the Year and another first-round guard – both of whom left before their eligibility was up – from last year, and without an injured preseason All-American center, has wrapped up an outright Big Ten championship with relative ease. Oh, and with one of the youngest rosters in the country — the 17th youngest to be exact.

This season, this group of players, has been remarkable to watch, but remarkable is a word that’s also been worn out by these Wolverines’ accomplishments. I just can’t find the words in my lexicon to put it any other way.

Michigan, once left for dead by the national media – not even given a chance at making the NCAA tournament – is Big Ten champs.

The transformation this team has made from early November to today is scary, and the successes have been nearly uncountable. But you know what’s even scarier for the rest of college basketball? Perhaps the best is yet to come.

Three Stars

***Nik Stauskas***
24 points (8-of-11 FG, 7-of-9 3PT, 1-of-2 FT), two assists, two rebounds, zero turnovers in 31 minutes

**Caris LeVert**
15 points (5-of-9 FG, 2-of-3 3PT, 3-of-6 FT), four rebounds, one assist, one steal, two turnovers in 26 minutes

*Glenn Robinson III*
13 points (5-of-9 FG, 1-of-3 3PT, 2-of-2 FT), five rebounds (one offensive), one assist, two steals, two turnovers in 34 minutes

Quick Hitters


 Jordan Morgan was taken out of the game at the 7:25 mark of the second half after suffering an apparent tailbone bruise while attempting to take a charge and did not return. The injury did not appear to be too serious, as the fifth-year senior remained on the bench and on a stationary bike throughout the night, but any missed time would be devastating to Michigan’s next goals of winning the Big Ten Tournament, making the Final Four, and winning a national championship. Without Mitch McGary, Michigan has had to rely on Morgan and Jon Horford to split time down low, and the next remaining option, Max Bielfeldt, is not quite on the same level.

 With the win last night and a win over Indiana on Saturday, Michigan will have beaten every Big Ten team at least once in the same season for the first time since 1992 and would have 15 wins for the first time since 1993.

 In a game when rebounding was pretty much made worthless by Michigan’s hyper-efficiency, Jon Horford came out with 10 boards (one offensive) for the first time since Michigan’s win over South Carolina State on November 12.

 Trey Burke had a lot of fun watching and tweeting about the game last night and shared a couple observations:

___________________________________________________________________________

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 5-9 1-3 2-2 1 4 5 1 13 1 2 0 2 34
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 2-5 1-1 4-4 2 5 7 1 9 5 0 0 1 26
11 Nik Stauskas* 8-11 7-9 1-2 0 2 2 0 24 2 0 0 0 31
52 Jordan Morgan* 2-4 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 4 1 0 0 0 7
23 Caris LeVert* 5-9 2-3 3-6 0 4 4 3 15 1 2 0 1 26
02 Spike Albrecht 2-2 2-2 0-0 0 1 1 0 6 3 2 0 0 15
05 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
14 Brad Anlauf 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
15 Jon Horford 1-3 0-0 0-0 1 9 10 2 2 1 0 1 0 28
20 Sean Lonergan 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 2
21 Zak Irvin 3-6 3-5 0-0 0 2 2 2 9 1 2 0 1 22
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 5
Totals 29-51 16-23 10-14 4 29 33 12 84 15 10 1 5 200
Illinois 20-52 2-18 11-16 5 18 23 14 53 7 8 0 4 200
Full Stats

Derick’s 3 thoughts: Illinois

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014


Michigan-Illinois header

Illinois hosts Michigan on Tuesday night in a game that could wrap up the Big Ten title race and give the Wolverines their first outright regular season championship since 1986. Michigan leads both the wounded Michigan State Spartans and the charging Wisconsin Badgers by two games, so only an unlikely 0-2 finish can open the door for the Wolverines’ opponents now.

Here are some thoughts to keep in mind for tonight’s battle in Champaign.

Make it a half dozen: Illinois is one of the few teams that Michigan has dominated easily under John Beilein. In fact, the Wolverines ride a five-game winning streak against the Illini into tonight’s game, including victories in Champaign each of the past two seasons.

Just a few weeks ago, the matchup with Illinois looked like a cakewalk. The last-place Fighting Illini had lost 10 of 11 games, including five straight at home. Now, Groce’s team seems to have found its groove and boasts a three-game winning streak after shocking Michigan State in East Lansing on Saturday.

In order to get its sixth win in a row over Illinois, Michigan can’t take this game lightly. Illinois considers Michigan its most hated conference rival and would like nothing more than to delay the Maize and Blue’s conference championship celebrations.

John Groce has his Illini on a three-game winning streak, holding opponents to just 48 points per game during that span (Mike Carter, USA Today Sports)

John Groce has his Illini on a three-game winning streak, holding opponents to just 48 points per game during that span (Mike Carter, USA Today Sports)

Groce found little satisfaction in facing Michigan during his first Big Ten season, as Beilein’s crew spanked Illinois by a combined 27 points in two games. That’s not the only experience the 42-year old boasts against Michigan, however, as his upset win as the coach of the Ohio Bobcats in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament essentially landed him the job at Illinois.

Stop worrying about the offense: Ever since Michigan’s loss in Iowa City two weeks ago, the team has struggled to play inspired basketball from the opening tip. Slow starts have become the Wolverines’ proverbial kryptonite after six straight games began with double-digit deficits.

Settle down, everybody, Michigan is going to be just fine.

Remember that despite those difficult first halves, Michigan finished the stretch 4-2 with wins over both Michigan State and Ohio State. The ability to come out of a stretch that featured four top-25 teams that led the Wolverines by 10 or more with two victories says more about the team’s potential than it does to reveal some fatal flaw.

What seems to be the problem? Early in games Michigan thinks too much about the offense. Many possessions early in the game look pre-constructed and lack flow. During the 10-game winning streak that put Michigan in position to win the conference championship, the offense essentially ran itself. Over-examining its performance on the offensive end puts Michigan on its heels defensively, and players like Denzel Valentine and Lenzelle Smith Jr. take advantage of wide-open opportunities.

Michigan’s offense features explosive players like Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert, two guys that possess an inherent ability to score. They should focus on stopping Illinois on defense and let the offense come naturally.

Run, and don’t stop for 40 minutes: No matter how well Illinois played in its last three games, the season statistics don’t lie: Groce’s offensive strategy simply doesn’t work. Illinois ranks outside the top 300 nationally in points per games and field goal percentage. For a Big Ten team with a 17-12 overall record, those statistics are absolutely staggering.

Heading into tonight’s game against Michigan, Illinois has scored more than 70 points just one time in the past 14 games (an 81-74 loss to Iowa on Feb. 1). In the three Big Ten games in which they scored more than 70 points, the Fighting Illini own a 2-1 record with both wins coming in the first two conference games of the season.

Michigan, on the other hand, eclipsed 70 points 10 times in its first 16 conference games, including a seven-game stretch in which it more than doubled the number of times Illinois accomplished the feat in just 25 days (Jan. 5-30).

Clearly, Illinois can’t compete with Big Ten competition when the score approaches this height, and as a result, Michigan represents a tough matchup on Tuesday. If Michigan pushes the tempo and makes Illinois play a high-scoring game, it can exploit the thin offensive arsenal of Groce and run all the way to an outright Big Ten championship.

Prediction: Michigan’s golden opportunity to shock the Midwest comes to fruition on Tuesday night. While Illinois has won three straight games against potential NCAA Tournament teams coming into the only matchup of the season, too much is at stake for Michigan to overlook the 6-10 Fighting Illini. The Wolverines will make things official with a 73-60 Big Ten championship-clinching win.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 9

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014



This week’s edition of the Big Ten power rankings features more movement than usual as the conference continues to deal surprise after surprise. With March upon us, teams that play well down the stretch often outperform teams with more impressive overall resumes in postseason tournaments.

While teams like Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa will certainly make the field of 68, playing poorly in late February and early March can really take the steam out of a potential deep run in the Big Dance. Meanwhile, teams that streak into the tournament on the final days of the season (Nebraska? Indiana?) represent extremely dangerous matchups.

So here’s how the Big Ten teams are playing with less than a week remaining before they head to Indianapolis.

1. Michigan (21-7, 13-3)  Even
Last week: Feb. 26 W at Purdue 77-76 OT, Mar. 1 W vs Minnesota 66-56
This week: Tuesday at Illinois 7pm ESPN, Saturday vs Indiana 6pm 

The in-state rival Spartans lost just before tip-off in Ann Arbor on Saturday, and after Michigan took care of Minnesota, it officially clinched at least a share of the regular season Big Ten championship. John Beilein’s surprise team can seal the title alone with a win at Illinois tonight or against Indiana on Saturday. 

2. Wisconsin (24-5, 11-5) • Even
Last week: Feb. 25 W vs Indiana 69-58, Mar. 2 W at Penn State 71-66
This week: Wednesday vs Purdue 9pm BTN, Sunday at Nebraska 7:30pm 

History shows that no matter what happens early in the season, a hot team is dangerous in March. The Badgers are red-hot heading into the final week of conference play, riding a seven-game winning streak and tied with Michigan State for second place in the Big Ten. Wisconsin could represent the most dangerous team in the conference, but clinching a share of the title gave Michigan the nod at No. 1 for now. 

3. Nebraska (17-11, 9-7) • Up 4
Last week: Feb. 26 L at Illinois 49-60, Mar. 1 W vs Northwestern 54-47
This week: Wednesday at Indiana 7pm BTN, Sunday vs #9 Wisconsin 7:30pm

Despite last week’s loss to Illinois, which looks slightly less egregious after the Illini won in East Lansing on Saturday, Nebraska finds itself contending for a first-round bye in Indianapolis. Tim Miles’s team held off Northwestern on Saturday and can secure a winning conference record with a win in either of its final two games (at Indiana on Wednesday or against Wisconsin on Sunday).

4. Indiana (17-12, 7-9) • Up 4
Last week: Feb. 25 L at #14 Wisc. 58-69, Feb. 27 W vs #20 Iowa 93-86, Mar. 2 W vs #22 OSU 72-64
This week: Wednesday vs Nebraska 7pm BTN, Saturday at #12 Michigan 6pm

Don’t look now, but Indiana is making the run that Big Ten fans were waiting for. Indiana knocked off two straight top-25 teams last week to keep its dim tournament hopes alive. They may not recover from the 3-7 stretch that plagued the heart of their conference schedule, but the Hoosiers aren’t going down without a fight. It may take a win in Ann Arbor in the season finale to put Indiana over the hump.

5. Iowa (17-12, 6-10) • Up 3
Last week: Feb. 26 W vs Nebraska 60-49, Mar. 1 W at #18 Michigan State 53-46
This week: Tuesday vs #12 Michigan 7pm ESPN, Saturday at #24 Iowa 8:30pm

John Groce waited nearly two whole months of Big Ten play for his team to show some life, and although it’s likely too late to join an already-crowded NCAA Tournament bubble, Illinois played spoiler three times in the past two weeks. A win over Michigan State in East Lansing proved the most impressive feat for Illinois on the season, but beating Minnesota and Nebraska the week before was more nationally significant, as both teams have tournament hopes that hang by a thread.

6. Iowa (20-9, 9-7) • Down 1
Last week: Feb. 25 L at Minnesota 89-95, Feb. 27 L at Indiana 86-93, Mar. 2 W vs Purdue 83-76
This week: Thursday at #22 Michigan State 9pm ESPN, Saturday vs Illinois 8:30pm

When both Michigan and Michigan State faltered on their home courts on Feb. 16, Iowa climbed to within one game of the conference co-leaders in the loss column. The Hawkeyes responded by losing their next three games and falling completely out of contention. After struggling to beat Purdue at home, Iowa looks to take advantage of an equally-wounded Spartan squad on Thursday.

7. Michigan State (22-7, 11-5) • Down 3
Last week: Mar. 1 L vs Illinois 46-53
This week: Thursday vs #24 Iowa 9pm ESPN, Sunday at Ohio State 4:30pm

All season long Tom Izzo stuck to the same story: when Michigan State returned all of its injured players, the miraculous turnaround would begin. Well on Saturday Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Branden Dawson all played against Illinois and the Spartans lost on their home court, and scored just 46 points in the process. The time to start worrying about Michigan State has arrived, as it has dropped six of its last 10 games, with half of those coming at home.

8. Ohio State (22-8, 9-8) • Down 5
Last week: Feb. 27 L at Penn State 63-65, Mar. 2 L at Indiana 64-72
This week: Sunday vs #22 Michigan State 4:30pm CBS

The last time Ohio State lost to Penn State, it responded by winning six of its next seven games. This time, the Buckeyes followed up with a loss to Indiana. Unfortunately for Thad Matta’s squad, the most glaring part of the statement is that the Buckeyes have lost to the 5-11 Nittany Lions twice.

9. Minnesota (18-12, 7-10) • Down 3
Last week: Feb. 25 W vs #20 Iowa 95-89, Mar. 1 L at #16 Michigan 56-66
This week: Saturday vs Penn State 8:30pm

Minnesota nearly punched its NCAA Tournament ticket for good Saturday when a furious second-half charge brought it to within two points of first-place Michigan. The visible frustration on coach Richard Pitino’s face as the game slipped away perfectly sums up the remainder of his team’s season. Minnesota will sit and watch the rest of the bubble teams play during the week before hosting Penn State in a game that does little to strengthen its tournament resume. As Joe Lunardi’s “last team in,” this stressful week could turn Pitino’s hair a few shades closer to his father’s.

10. Penn State (14-15, 5-11) • Up 1
Last week: Feb. 27 W vs #22 Ohio State 65-63, Mar. 2 L vs #14 Wisconsin 66-71
This week: Thursday at Northwestern 7pm ESPNU, Saturday at Minnesota 8:30pm

Though Penn State is unlikely to win its final two road games and finish the season with an overall .500 record, it did complete a sweep of the preseason No. 11 Buckeyes on Thursday. After losing their first six conference games, the Nittany Lions can settle for morale victories.

11. Purdue (15-14, 5-11) • Down 1
Last week: Feb. 26 L vs #16 Michigan 76-77 OT, Mar. 2 L vs #20 Iowa 76-83
This week: Wednesday at #9 Wisconsin 9pm BTN, Sunday vs Northwestern 12pm

Purdue played both Michigan and Iowa to the end last week, but the end result was two losses, bringing the streak to a total of four. The Boilermakers’ last chance to play spoiler against a tournament team comes on Wednesday, when they travel to Madison to battle the streaking Badgers.

12. Northwestern (12-17, 5-11) • Even
Last week: Mar. 1 L at Nebraska 47-54
This week: Thursday vs Penn State 7pm ESPNU, Sunday at Purdue 12pm

Northwestern crashed and burned after a strong start to the conference season, currently riding a six-game losing streak. The Wildcats do have an opportunity to finish on a positive note as the final two regular-season games come against fellow last place Big Ten opponents.