Busting Brackets

Big Ten Tournament Quick Hits: Second Round


CHICAGO — Today was the most fun I’ve had watching basketball in a long time. That’s not to say I’ve disliked the regular season. On the contrary, I thoroughly enjoyed it. But Thursday provided us with four particularly entertaining games.

In the day’s first contest, we saw a game of runs between Michigan and Illinois. The Wolverines jumped out to a 14-2 lead early on and it looked like they would run away with it.

But the Fighting Illini battled back and took the lead 19-17 with 8:14 left in the half. Illinois had all the momentum and it seemed like their bubble would stay unpopped for at least one more day.

Michigan then remembered how to play basketball and absolutely trounced Illinois for the remainder of the game. Michigan closed the half on a 23-6 run and never looked back.

Illinois just didn’t bring it. They didn’t look like they really wanted to win and make a run for an outside shot at a tournament bid.

They shot 1-of-13 from deep, but it wasn’t just the shooting. It was an all-around flat performance and frankly, an embarrassment.

More from Big Ten

But not as embarrassing as losing to Penn State, like Iowa did. The Hawkeyes are securely in the tournament and won’t drop out because of a bad loss, but they certainly didn’t help their seeding.

With “Why Not Us” scribbled on Pat Chambers’ whiteboard, the Nittany Lions clung to a small lead for most of the second half. Every time they pulled away a little, Iowa climbed right back into it.

Iowa did a great job of making Penn State feel uncomfortable and Chambers was forced to call consecutive timeouts after one of his players was trapped in the backcourt on back-to-back plays.

But on the ensuing possession, with just a two-point lead, Ross Travis finished a reverse layup through a foul and made the free throw. Penn State didn’t look back after that and completed the upset by making their freebies.

With a win like this, Penn State puts themselves in the tournament discussion. Will this victory be enou—

Just kidding. Penn State is bad and has zero chance of making the NCAA Tournament this year.

But Indiana might.

The Hoosiers looked better on Thursday than they have in weeks and soundly beat an upstart Northwestern team 71-56.

I forgot how fun this Indiana team is to watch when they’re churning on all cylinders. The Hoosiers might have the biggest disparity between their floor and ceiling in terms of potential in the country.

They’re either really bad or really good, and never anything in between.

On Thursday we saw the really good version for the first time in what seems like forever. Strangely enough though, it was their defense that propelled them to victory.

If Indiana’s offense stays hot and they continue to play solid man-to-man defense like they did against Northwestern, watch out NCAA Tournament field. This team might steal a few games.

Granted, Northwestern isn’t exactly the toughest team on the Hoosiers’ schedule, but IU was clearly playing with passion they haven’t had in recent weeks.

The Hoosier players know that if they didn’t falter down the stretch, they’d be a tournament lock. Troy Williams and Emmitt Holt even said after the game that they think they’re playing like a tournament team right now.

Also lucky for IU, is that almost none of the other bubble teams in the country played like tournament teams. The NIT must sound like a pretty good deal to some.

Ohio State also didn’t look very impressive in their win over Minnesota. The Buckeyes are more like Iowa than Indiana, meaning their tournaments hopes are pretty safe regardless of what happened in the Big Ten Tournament

After coming out of halftime tied with Minnesota, a team that went 6-12 in the Big Ten season, it was anyone’s game. Ohio State finally pulled away around the 15 minute mark when it scored seven unanswered points and never looked back.

The lead stayed around that level until the end of the game. Still, Ohio State didn’t look really inspired and will need to make some changes before taking on Michigan State in the quarterfinals.

They last met the day every sportswriter in America unleashed their worst, cheesiest Valentine’s pun on the country. Denzel Valentine hit a game winning three. I expect the rematch to lead the way in another round of entertaining games on Friday.

Next: 10 Must-Watch Conference Tournament Games For Friday

More from Busting Brackets