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Posts Tagged ‘Ohio State’

Buckeyes sent home: Michigan 72 – Ohio State 69

Saturday, March 15th, 2014


Michigan bench vs OSU 3-15-14(MGoBlue.com)

Six times in the 16-year history of the Big Ten Tournament have Michigan and Ohio State met. All six times the Buckeyes sent the Wolverines home early. That changed on Saturday afternoon when Michigan topped Ohio State 72-69 to advance to Sunday’s championship game for the first time since 1998.

Michigan started the game hitting everything in sight. Nik Stauskas got the scoring started with a three and after Aaron Craft hit a two-point jumper, Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert added threes. Robinson then stole the ball for a breakaway layup and Jordan Morgan scored back to back baskets to give Michigan a quick 15-2 lead.

Ohio State scored the next five before Stauskas hit his second three of the game. At the eight-minute mark, Michigan led 30-16 and looked as if it would cruise into the half. But Ohio State had other thoughts juts as it did when it came back from an 18-point second-half deficit on Friday night. The Buckeyes used a 21-11 run to close the half, heading into the locker room down just four points.

Stauskas started off the second half just as he did the first with a three, and after a LaQuinton Ross jumper, Derrick Walton Jr. hit a three and Stauskas added another to put Michigan back ahead by double digits. But once again Ohio State fought back. An alley-oop from Shannon Scott to Sam Thompson gave the Buckeyes their first lead of the game at 61-60 with 7:58 to play.

Caris LeVert made the play of the game by pulling down an offensive rebound in the closing seconds (MGoBlue.com)

Caris LeVert made the play of the game by pulling down an offensive rebound in the closing seconds (MGoBlue.com)

From there, the teams played evenly the rest of the way, neither able to pull away by more than three. Jordan Morgan hit one of two free throws and LeVert followed with a three, but Scott answered with a three of his own to tie the game at 64. LeVert made one of two free throws and OSU got back to back layups by Ross and Thompson to grab a 68-65 lead.

On Michigan’s next trip down the court, Stauskas hit a pull-up jumper to bring Michigan within one with 3:45 to play. After an Ohio State missed shot, Robinson was fouled and made both to reclaim the lead. On the other end, Morgan fouled Aaron Craft, but the Buckeye senior uncharacteristically missed both.

On the ensuing possession, Stauskas got the ball on the left baseline with his back to the basket. Craft went for the steal and Stasukas was able to get around him, drive baseline and lay the ball in to put Michigan ahead 71-68 with 2:08 left.

After missed shots on both ends, Morgan picked up his fifth foul of the game. Ross was able to make one of two and Michigan took possession with 44 seconds remaining, up by two. Stauskas ran the clock down as far as possible and heaved up a three, but it clanged off the rim. However, LeVert soared through the lane and grabbed the rebound, kicking it out to Spike Albrecht, who was fouled with six seconds left.

Albrecht made the first to give Michigan a three-point lead. He missed the second and Craft grabbed the rebound and raced down the court desperately needing a three to send the game into overtime. As he pulled up from the top of the key, the ball slipped out of his hands and he was unable to get a shot off as time expired.

The win put Michigan in the championship game for the first time since it won the inaugural Big Ten Tournament in 1998. It also ended Ohio State’s streak of five straight championship game appearances.

Stauskas paced Michigan with 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting, 4-of-8 from three-point range. LeVert added 17 points and eight rebounds, while Robinson III contributed 11 points. Walton Jr and Morgan each scored eight points and pulled down five boards. Zak Irvin hit two big threes in the first half to add six points.

As a team, Michigan shot 53.2 percent overall and made 9-of-22 three-pointers, but hit just 10-of-19 from the free throw line. Ohio State also shot well, 48.2 percent overall and 44.8 percent from downtown. The Buckeyes out-rebounded Michigan 31 to 26.

Michigan faces its other big rival, Michigan State, on Sunday afternoon in the championship game. The Wolverines topped the Spartans in both of the regular season meetings, but Michigan State has all of its starters back from injury at this point and looked good in beating Wisconsin in Saturday’s other semifinal. Win, and Michigan should gain a one-seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament. Lose a close game, and a one-seed is still a possibility.

Three Stars

***Caris LeVert***
17 points (6-of-9 FG, 2-of-4 3PT, 3-of-5 FT), eight rebounds (one offensive), two assists, four turnovers in 37 minutes

**Nik Stauskas**
18 points (6-of-12 FG, 4-of-8 3PT, 2-of-3 FT), one rebound, one assist, one steal, two turnovers in 34 minutes

*Shannon Scott*
18 points (7-of-10 FG, 4-of-6 3PT, 0-of-1 FT), five rebounds, six assists, three steals, two turnovers in 32 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* 4-8 1-2 2-2 1 1 2 0 11 1 1 2 3 36
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 3-6 2-3 0-0 0 5 5 1 8 4 3 0 2 29
11 Nik Stauskas* 6-12 4-8 2-3 0 1 1 0 18 1 2 0 1 34
52 Jordan Morgan* 3-4 0-0 2-7 1 4 5 5 8 3 0 0 0 30
23 Caris LeVert* 6-9 2-4 3-5 1 7 8 1 17 2 4 0 0 37
02 Spike Albrecht 1-4 1-3 1-2 0 0 0 2 4 1 1 0 1 11
15 Jon Horford 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 2 1 1 0 10
21 Zak Irvin 2-3 2-3 0-0 0 1 1 0 6 1 0 0 0 13
Totals 25-47 12-23 10-19 5 21 26 11 72 15 12 3 7 200
Ohio State 27-56 7-19 8-12 9 22 31 18 69 17 1 2 10 200
Full Stats

Justin’s 3 thoughts: Ohio State

Saturday, March 15th, 2014


Michigan-Ohio State header_BTT

Michigan survived a scare from Illinois on Friday afternoon to avoid becoming the first No. 1 seed in 11 years to lose its opening round game to a No. 8 or No. 9 seed. Ohio State, meanwhile, did just what it always does in the Big Ten Tournament — win games. After fending off a pesky Purdue squad in the opening round game on Thursday, Ohio State faced a much tougher matchup against a surging Nebraska team fighting for its NCAA Tournament life. The Buckeyes fell behind by 18 points in the second half, but battled back to pull off a 71-67 win.

Michigan and Ohio State squared off just once this season, a 70-60 Michigan win in Columbus on Feb. 11, but the two have a long history in the conference tournament, and it’s not good at all for the Wolverines. Ohio State has knocked Michigan out of the tournament all six times they have faced off (1999, 2002, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012). The Buckeyes were the higher seed and favored each time, so that’s the one difference from this year’s meeting.

Here are my three keys to ending that streak:

Michigan's defense must keep Aaron Craft out of the lane and force him to shoot from outside (Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports)

Michigan’s defense must keep Aaron Craft out of the lane and force him to shoot from outside (Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports)

Don’t settle

On Friday, Michigan’s offense looked stagnant for long periods at a time. Illinois’ aggressive zone defense and Jordan Morgan’s foul trouble kept Michigan out of the paint and the Wolverines settled for three-pointers. Sometimes that works — Michigan does lead the Big Ten in three-point percentage — but others it doesn’t. When taken in the normal flow of the offense or open looks, Beilein will never tell his players to stop shooting. But that’s not what the offense was for most of the second half.

In fact, the 30 three-point attempts were the most since Michigan chucked 31 against Nebraska on Feb. 5, and it was just the third time this season the Wolverines attempted 30 or more. They average 21 attempts per game.

Ohio State’s pressure defense is well known as Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are adept at harassing opposing guards and forcing turnovers. Michigan’s guards are more than capable of handling the pressure, but they’ll need to keep the offense moving and avoid digressing it into one-on-one drives and long shots late in the shot clock.

In the season’s only meeting, Michigan shot just 17 threes — and made eight of them. More importantly, both big men, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford were involved in the offense, combining for 14 points and 12 rebounds. That’s what it will take to beat the Buckeyes on Saturday.

Contain Ross and Smith

Ohio State’s offense has had trouble scoring points for most of the season, and when the teams faced off in Columbus it was virtually a two-man show. LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr. combined for 37 of the Buckeyes’ 60 points. Both have the ability to hit the three, although Ross missed all four of his attempts and Smith made 3-of-9. Michigan’s defense needs to force them to pass up the three and let others, especially Craft and Scott, shoot.

Craft is shooting just a hair over 30 percent from downtown on the season and is just two for his last 16. He’s most dangerous when he puts his head down and drives to the basket, able to finish or dish it off to a big man, so keep him outside the arc and make him shoot. Scott shoots just 27.3 percent from three and has made just 7-of-32 since Jan. 7.

Ross, meanwhile, has put Ohio State on his back late in the season, averaging 21 points per game over the last five including a season-high 26 against Nebraska on Friday. Smith has struggled as of late, having made just six of his last 21 shots from the field in the last three games and six of his last 28 three-pointers dating back to Feb. 15. Still, he has made at least three three-pointers in a game eight times this season, so he can’t be left alone.

Play like the underdog

Michigan won the first meeting on the road by 10. They ran away with the regular season conference title and are the No. 1 seed. The bulls eye is squarely on their back. But they need to play like Ohio State is favored. The Buckeyes will certainly be hungry to avenge that loss and move to the Big Ten Tournament Championship game for the sixth straight season.

Michigan must forget the history behind this matchup in the tournament and simply match Ohio State’s intensity from the opening tip. In all reality, neither team has much to play for in the grand scheme of the season — they’re both locks for high seeds in the Big Dance — but rivalry bragging rights are on the line. Play with fire out of a desire to get the season sweep of Ohio State just like they did against Michigan State.

Prediction: Michigan 72 – Ohio State 70, OT

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

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.

Michigan earns highest ranking since Feb. 3

Monday, March 3rd, 2014


Michigan vs Minnesota 3-1-14(MGoBlue.com)

Michigan’s win over Minnesota on Saturday afternoon combined with Michigan State’s loss to Illinois clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title for the Wolverines for the second time in three years. With two games remaining — at Illinois on Tuesday and home against a surging Indiana squad on Saturday — Michigan needs just one win to secure its first outright Big Ten title since 1986.

Saturday also saw losses by the number four, five, seven, nine, 10, 11, 15, 17, and 24 teams in the nation (in addition to the 18th-ranked Spartans). On Sunday, No. 22 Ohio State became the 11th top 25 team to fall over the weekend. March madness has truly arrived, which makes for plenty of movement in this week’s polls.

Michigan moved up four spots to 12th in both polls, the highest the Wolverines have been since the first week in February when they stood 10th. Wisconsin is still the highest ranked Big Ten team despite needing two wins and two Michigan losses this week to earn a share of the conference title. The Badgers are ninth in the AP Poll and 11th in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Michigan State dropped to 22nd in both, while Iowa remained just inside at 24th and 25th, respectively. Ohio State fell out of both after losing both games last week.

As far as Michigan’s non-conference opponents, Arizona remained third in both polls, while Duke moved up to fourth in both. Iowa State continues to hover in the middle, this week at 16th and 17th.

Nebraska’s loss to Illinois last week dropped the Cornhuskers out of the RPI and Kenpom top 50, which takes away two of Michigan’s victories over top 50 teams. The Wolverines now have seven instead of nine. If the ‘Huskers can top Indiana and Wisconsin this week they’ll likely move back in for the final revision of the regular season.

As far as individuals are concerned, Nik Stauskas’ was edged out for Big Ten Player of the Week by Indiana’s Will Sheehey despite another big week with 15 points against Purdue and 21 against Minnesota. The senior Hoosier forward, who averaged just around 10 points per game, scored 30 points against Iowa and 19 against Ohio State. Illinois guard Kendrick Nunn earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors with 13 points against Nebraska and eight against Michigan State. This is notable because Michigan plays both of these players this week, Nunn on Tuesday and Sheehey on Saturday.

The full national rankings are below.

AP Poll Coaches Poll
Rank Team Rank Team
1 Florida (27-2) 1 Florida (27-2)
2 Wichita State (31-0) 2 Wichita State (31-0)
3 Arizona (27-2) 3 Arizona (27-2)
4 Duke (23-6) 4 Duke (23-6)
5 Virginia (25-5) 5 Virginia (25-5)
6 Villanova (26-3) 6 Villanova (26-3)
7 Syracuse (26-3) 7 Syracuse (26-3)
8 Kansas (22-7) 8 Kansas (22-7)
9 Wisconsin (24-5) 9 Louisville (24-5)
10 San Diego State (25-3) 10 San Diego State (25-3)
11 Louisville (24-5) 11 Wisconsin (24-5)
12 Michigan (21-7) 12 Michigan (21-7)
13 Creighton (23-5) 13 Creighton (23-5)
14 North Carolina (22-7) 14 North Carolina (22-7)
15 Cincinnati (24-5) 15 Cincinnati (24-5)
16 Iowa State (22-6) 16 Saint Louis (25-4)
17 Saint Louis (25-4) 17 Iowa State (22-6)
18 Southern Methodist (23-6) 18 Southern Methodist (23-6)
19 UConn (23-6) 19 UConn (23-6)
20 Memphis (22-7) 20 Memphis (22-7)
21 New Mexico (22-5) 21 New Mexico (22-5)
22 Michigan State (22-7) 22 Michigan State (22-7)
23 Oklahoma (21-8) 23 Oklahoma (21-8)
24 Iowa (20-9) 24 Kentucky (21-8)
25 Kentucky (21-8) 25 Iowa (20-9)

Big Ten title race down to three

Friday, February 28th, 2014


UM crowd vs MSU 2-23-14

As February comes to a close and perhaps the greatest month in all of sports approaches, the Big Ten men’s basketball conference remains as unpredictable as ever.

Nearly two weeks ago, the would-be headliner battle between the two Michigan schools that topped the standings all season long suffered a major blow when Michigan fell to Wisconsin and Nebraska shocked Michigan State in East Lansing. Meanwhile, Nebraska put together a five-game winning streak to burst onto the NCAA bubble, only to lose to lowly Illinois and see it all slip away. Even the Iowa-Indiana game scheduled for Feb. 18 proved unpredictable, as an eight-foot beam that fell from the Assembly Hall ceiling postponed the game for over a week.

With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, the standings usually provide a clearer picture of what the conference tournament will feature. But in the midst of such an erratic regular season, more surprises surely lie ahead, right?

Spoiler alert: This year’s Big Ten regular season championship is Michigan’s to lose.

Remaining schedule for Big Ten title contenders
Michigan Michigan State Wisconsin
Saturday vs Minnesota, 6pm BTN vs Illinois, 4pm ESPN
Sunday at Penn State, 12pm BTN
Tuesday, Mar. 4 at Illinois, 7pm ESPN
Wednesday, Mar. 5 vs Purdue, 9pm BTN
Thursday, Mar. 6 vs Iowa, 9pm ESPN
Saturday, Mar. 8 vs Indiana, 6pm ESPN
Sunday, Mar. 9 at Ohio State, 4:30pm CBS at Nebraska, 7:30pm BTN

After the victory to sweep Tom Izzo’s Spartans, Michigan firmly planted itself atop the conference with four winnable games remaining.

A trip to Purdue, which provided the most difficult remaining challenge, ended with a miracle in-bounds play for the Wolverines, who snuck out of West Lafayette unscathed, much to the chagrin of championship hopefuls Michigan State and Wisconsin.

Now the only teams standing in Michigan’s way are 5-9 Indiana, 5-10 Illinois, and a struggling Minnesota team with just two conference road wins against the league’s last place squads. John Beilein’s one-game lead should hold up and bring Michigan the long-awaited sole Big Ten title.

But outcomes rarely go according to plan in the 2013-14 edition of the Big Ten. If the first place Wolverines do drop any of their final three games, what does it mean?

Iowa’s loss at Indiana on Thursday night and Ohio State’s loss at Penn State made it mathematically official: the only two teams left to challenge Michigan are Michigan State (one game behind) and Wisconsin (two).

Michigan's last-second win over Purdue on Wednesday kept the Wolverines on track for the outright Big Ten title (Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Michigan’s last-second win over Purdue on Wednesday kept the Wolverines on track for the outright Big Ten title (Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Let’s say Michigan finishes the season by winning two of its final three games. Regardless of what Wisconsin does in its final three games, the Badgers would fall short of the Wolverines, having already lost five times in the Big Ten.

A Michigan loss would, however, leave the door open for Michigan State, which could finish the season in a tie and, despite earning the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, boast a share of the regular season championship. But the Spartans face a one of the toughest stretch runs in the Big Ten.

Michigan State played sub-.500 basketball in the month of February, losing four of seven games. The Breslin Center lost some of its esteem after Nebraska came in and bullied the Spartans last weekend, so a matchup with the desperate Hawkeyes on March 6 could challenge Izzo’s battered team. Iowa’s current three-game losing streak compliment’s Michigan State’s struggles to set up a surprisingly important matchup in the final week of the season.

Days later, the Spartans travel to Columbus in what Big Ten officials probably expected to be a conference-deciding game against Ohio State. However, a sweep at the hands of bottom-feeding Penn State dropped Thad Matta’s team well out of contention, and barring a Michigan loss, this game provides little importance in the bigger picture.

If Michigan does lose, then Ohio State earns a chance to play spoiler for Michigan State and help its hated rival from Ann Arbor. Michigan State hasn’t won back-to-back games since Jan. 21 when a win over Indiana marked its 11th straight at the time. Michigan ended that streak.

Clearly, Michigan State’s quest for a Big Ten title remains an uphill battle.

Wisconsin, unlike the Spartans, plays a much easier schedule to finish the season. Penn State and Purdue, both tied for last place, figure to provide little resistance for Wisconsin next week, setting up an important trip to Lincoln on March 9.

Nebraska’s only loss in the new Pinnacle Bank Arena came at the hands of the first-place Wolverines, who snuck out of Lincoln with a 71-70 win on Jan. 9 after the Huskers missed three layup attempts in the closing seconds. Despite the loss at Illinois on Wednesday, Nebraska’s five-game winning streak puts it tied for fourth place in the loss column in the conference. With a Big Ten record that matches Iowa’s and a nearly-perfect home resume, Nebraska provides a real challenge for Wisconsin to finish the regular season.

Even the most unpredictable conference standings take shape near the end of the season. Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin played well enough through 15 Big Ten games to stay alive into March, but Michigan represents the clear-cut favorite with less than two weeks to go.

The Wolverines may win all three remaining games and leave no room for another contender to catch up. But even if the surprising Big Ten serves up another upset, the odds lie in Michigan’s favor.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 8

Thursday, February 27th, 2014


1. Michigan (20-7, 12-3)  Up 2
Last week: Feb. 23 W vs 13 Michigan State 79-70
This week: Wednesday W at Purdue 77-76 OTSaturday vs Minnesota 6pm BTN

In the biggest game in the Big Ten this season, Michigan completed a sweep against conference co-leader Michigan State and regained sole possession of first place. The Wolverines then avoided disaster on Wednesday night at Purdue thanks to a last-second bank shot from Glenn Robinson III. 

2. Wisconsin (23-5, 10-5) • Down 1
Last week: Feb. 22 W at #15 Iowa 79-74
This week: Tuesday W vs Indiana 69-58, Sunday at Penn State 12pm BTN

The Badgers had another tremendous week, knocking off Iowa on the road and bouncing back from a poor 19-point first half performance to hold off Indiana on Monday. Wisconsin owns the longest current winning streak in the Big Ten at six. 

3. Ohio State (22-6, 9-6) • Up 3
Last week: Feb. 19 W vs Northwestern 76-60, Feb. 22 W vs Minnesota 64-46
This week: Thursday at Penn State 7pm ESPN2, Sunday at Indiana 4pm

Sam Thomson and the Buckeyes have quietly reclaimed one of the top four spots in the Big Ten. With wins in six of its past seven games, Ohio State sits in position to earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

4. Michigan State (22-6, 11-4) • Up 1
Last week: Feb. 20 W vs Purdue 94-79, Feb. 23 L at Michigan 70-79
This week: Saturday vs Illinois 4pm ESPN

The Spartans continued their recent trend of losing every other game when they dropped another game to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor on Saturday. Michigan State is likely to get back on track Saturday against Illinois.

5. Iowa (19-8, 8-6) • Down 3
Last week: Feb. 22 L vs #16 Wisconsin 74-79
This week: Tuesday L at Minnesota 89-95, Thursday at Indiana 9pm ESPN, Sunday vs Purdue 2:05pm

For the first time all season, Iowa has lost two straight games and dropped to fifth in the Big Ten behind Ohio State and Wisconsin. The makeup game in Assembly Hall Thursday night could be a make-or-break game for Iowa’s hopes of earning a first-round Big Ten Tournament bye.

6. Minnesota (18-11, 7-9) • Up 1
Last week: Feb.19 L vs Illinois 49-62, Feb. 22 L at #24 Ohio State 46-64
This week: Tuesday W vs #20 Iowa 95-89, Saturday at #16 Michigan 6pm BTN

Richard Pitino’s team found its back up against the wall on Monday after dropping eight of its last 12 Big Ten games. The Gophers somehow found a way to hold on against Iowa and move back on the right side of the NCAA bubble, for now.

7. Nebraska (16-11, 8-7) • Down 3
Last week: Feb. 20 W vs Penn State 80-67, Feb. 23 W vs Purdue 76-57
This week: Wednesday L at Illinois 49-60, Saturday vs Northwestern 5pm ESPNU

Just when it looked like Nebraska’s Cinderella story run to the NCAA Tournament could become a reality, it dropped a must-have game to Illinois. Now only a deep conference tournament run could put Tim Miles’s crew back in the conversation.

8. Illinois (16-12, 5-10) • Up 3
Last week: Feb. 19 W at Minnesota 62-49
This week: Wednesday W vs Nebraska 60-49, Saturday at #18 Michigan State 4pm ESPN

After losing 10 of 11 games during the heart of the Big Ten season, Illinois has no chance of earning an at-large bid into the Dance. But the Fighting Illini are bursting a few other Big Ten bubbles with wins over Minnesota and Nebraska in the past week.

9. Indiana (15-12, 5-9) • Up 3
Last week: Feb. 22 W at Northwestern 61-56
This week: Tuesday L at #14 Wisconsin 58-69, Thursday vs #20 Iowa 9pm, Sunday vs #22 Ohio State 4pm

It was a great week for Indiana basketball. Not only did the Hoosiers pick up a road win against Northwestern, but Assembly Hall has been repaired and deemed safe enough to play the previously-scheduled game against Iowa on Thursday.

10. Purdue (15-13, 5-10) • Down 2
Last week: Feb. 20 L vs #13 Michigan State 79-94, Feb. 23 L at Nebraska 57-76
This week: Wednesday L vs #16 Michigan 76-77 OT, Sunday at #20 Iowa 2:05pm BTN

Purdue missed a golden opportunity at a marquee win on Wednesday night after getting waxed in back-to-back games by Michigan State and Nebraska. Purdue’s schedule doesn’t get any easier after the overtime loss as trips to Iowa and Wisconsin loom.

11. Penn State (13-14, 4-10) • Down 1
Last week: Feb. 20 L at Nebraska 67-80
This week: Thursday vs #22 Ohio State 7pm ESPN2, Sunday vs #14 Wisconsin 12pm

Pat Chambers’s team is reeling after a 13-point loss at the hands of Nebraska. The Nittany Lions have a chance to sweep Ohio State when the Buckeyes visit State College on Thursday.

12. Northwestern (12-16, 5-10) • Down 3
Last week: Feb. 19 L at #24 Ohio State 60-76, Feb. 22 L vs Indiana 56-61
This week: Saturday at Nebraska 5pm ESPNU 

Remember when four out of five wins put Northwestern in the top four spots in the conference? Now the only cause for celebration in Evanston is that the Wildcats get to host the proverbial last-place game against Penn State next week.