Busting Brackets

Big Ten Tournament Quick Hits: Quarterfinals


CHICAGO – Session four of the Big Ten Tournament featured two matchups and two huge near-upsets.

In the morning, we saw Zak Irvin throw everything he had at top-seeded Wisconsin, to no avail. The two teams played evenly for most of the game and after 36 minutes, Michigan trailed by just two.

That’s when Wisconsin pulled away and finished the game on a 13-4 run to seal their spot in the semi-finals.

But the story of this contest was the sophomore wing’s hero-ball performance. The athletic Irvin finished 9-of-18 shooting for 21 points and also pulled in 11 rebounds for a double-double.

Despite the loss, team captains junior guard Spike Albrecht and Irvin deserve a standing ovation. The two of them played all 40 minutes in Michigan’s desperation attempt to knock off heavily-favored Wisconsin.

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The other story that came out of this game was the referees. I hate to comment on the officiating of a game, but this was quite interesting. For 39 minutes and 39 second of basketball, Michigan did not attempt a free throw. Wisconsin was only called for four fouls the entire game.

Wolverine fans all over the United Center were furious at the refs. In fact, the only time they reached the line was on an obvious charge that the referee missed. I’m not saying the officials were bad the entire game, but I am saying that Michigan fans are saying that.

Michigan probably wouldn’t have made the NCAA Tournament unless they won the Big Ten Tournament, but man, would they have felt good to knock down Wisconsin a seed or two in the big dance.

Penn State and Purdue provided an entertaining contest as well. The Nittany Lions had virtually no chance of getting within sight of the NCAA Tournament, but they proved they did have business being at this level of the Big Ten Tournament.

Purdue wound up with the 64-59 victory, but it didn’t look like that would be the case for awhile. With nine minutes left in the game, the Boilermakers trailed by six and Penn State was having their way.

But the fact of the matter is, this was Penn State’s third game in essentially 48 hours and Purdue was playing on a week of rest. The last stretch of the game, Purdue dominated Penn State physically.

Senior guard D.J. Newbill’s goodbye, however, stole the show. Penn State has leaned on Newbill for three years and he’s been the leader of this team ever since Tim Frazier went down in 2012.

Newbill likely has an NBA career in front of him, but seeing him crying on the sideline at the end of the game brought the entire United Center to a standing ovation. Fans of every Big Ten team rose and applauded Newbill – a fitting end.

Looking ahead, Purdue’s win means they will square off against Wisconsin in a match-up that should be plenty physical. The conference’s two best defensive teams will bang inside for sure. Let’s just say junior center A.J. Hammons and senior center Frank Kaminsky will be a match-up you won’t want to miss.

And I hope you didn’t miss the late session of games either.

The last remaining bubble team in the Big Ten stayed right there. Indiana failed to pick up a bid-guaranteeing win against Maryland on Friday and fell 69-75 to the Terrapins.

That doesn’t eliminate the Hoosiers from Tourney contention – a loss to Maryland on a neutral floor is not to be held against anyone. But Indiana had a chance and they just couldn’t get the job done.

However, we did see the same Hoosier team that showed up against Northwestern. That is, a team that played with passion and knew that its tournament lives were on the line.

Will the committee be kind to Indiana? I think so. They’ve got a lot of quality wins and a decent RPI. Indiana proved that they’re good enough for the NCAA Tournament, but didn’t always play that way.

As for Maryland, they will go on to face Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament semi-finals due to the Spartans win over Ohio State.

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In what Thad Matta called “maybe the most physical game I’ve coached in the Big Ten,” the Spartans lead the entire game besides the first 45 seconds.

Michigan State played hard and they played smart. Twenty-three of their 29 field goals were assisted and they only turned the ball over eight times. That’s a solid recipe for success.

That means the semi-finals wound up chalk. Seeds one-through-four all advanced to where they were supposed to and I’m excited about the matchups tomorrow.

As I wrote above, I can’t wait to see how Purdue hopes to tackle the juggernaut that is Wisconsin. And particularly, who will dominate the post: Hammons or Kaminsky?

In the other game, Maryland and Michigan State will square off. In their first matchup, the game went to double overtime. The rematch was less exciting as Maryland won by 16, but with a trip to the Big Ten Tournament final on the line, I’m sure Michigan State will bring their A-game.

Next: Despite Tournament Loss, Indiana Hoosiers Likely Dancing