2012 Big Ten Men's Basketball
Big Ten Title to be decided on the final day of the regular season
Nebraska at Minnesota, 12:30pm ET, Big Ten Network
Doc Sadler's Cornhuskers will end their first regular season as members of the Big Ten when they travel to The Barn to take on Minnesota on Saturday.
Nebraska comes into the game losers of three in a row, most recently a dropping 62-53 decision to crop-yielding rival Iowa on Wednesday. At 12-16 overall, they won't be getting invited to any form of postseason play. (Note: If Husker fans want to call an invitation to the Big Ten Tournament as a post-season invitation, then hey, knock yourself out!)
Tubby Smith's Gophers now own the league's longest losing streak, having dropped six contests in a row. At 17-13, Minnesota will likely get invited to the NIT barring a Big Ten Tournament championship and subsequent NCAA Tournament berth. Gopher fans can only wonder what this squad could have done had star forward Trevor Mbakwe not missed the entire season with a torn ACL.
Minnesota last won way back on February 5th against, you guessed it, Nebraska. Look for them to get back into the win column and complete the season-sweep on Saturday. Minnesota 71 Nebraska 61
Northwestern at Iowa, 2:30pm ET, Big Ten Network
In what seems like their 32nd must-win game in a row, Northwestern will go on the road to face Iowa Saturday afternoon.
As mentioned above, Northwestern lost an absolute heart-breaker to Ohio State on Wednesday. Some projections still have the Wildcats in the field of 68 despite the loss, but a win would have almost guaranteed them a spot. With the bubble being so soft nationally, a team with wins over Ohio State and Michigan State would have been impossible to keep out. Now? We'll have to wait and see.
The Hawkeyes have recently received some (ill-advised, inexcusable, flat-out wrong) NCAA Tournament at-large talk. Losing handily to the Exxon Valdez in Orange Shorts (that's what I call Illinois now) on Sunday mercifully put an end to any hope of the Hawks getting an at-large berth. This team has shown huge strides throughout Big Ten play, but are still a year away from making it to The Dance.
Iowa has been very difficult to beat at home this season, knocking off the likes of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana. Will Northwestern be able to shake off the Ohio State loss and escape Carver-Hawkeye with a win? Iowa 72 Northwestern 69
The rest of Sunday
16 Michigan at Penn State, 1pm ET, CBS
John Beilien's Wolverines will try to claw their way to a piece of the Big Ten championship when they take on Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday afternoon.
Michigan’s Big Ten title hopes will last for at least one game after they pulled out a gritty 72-61 win over Illinois on Thursday night. Tim Hardaway had by far his best game of the year, popping off for 25 points and 11 boards. Backcourt mate and freshman sensation Trey Burke was no slouch either, dropping 21 points while dishing out 5 dimes. If this duo can manage comparable production in their remaining contests, Michigan will be able to make deep runs in both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.
Penn State thankfully finished up their Big Ten road schedule against Purdue this week, losing 80-56. Pat Chambers' team going winless on the road probably registers pretty low on the shock-meter, but seeing that they weren't able to stay within single digits in any of those nine games is shocking. Luckily for them, this game is at home. Penn State has looked ready, willing, and able to hang with anyone in the Big Ten if the game is being played in State College.
Guard Tim Frazier will need a Herculean effort if Penn State has any shot at the upset. Even if he does, it still might not be enough to top the balanced – and hungry - Wolverines. Michigan 68 Penn State 59
Illinois at 14 Wisconsin, 1pm ET, Big Ten Network
On Sunday afternoon, Illinois will head north to take on Wisconsin, hoping to keep their very slim chance of an NCAA Tournament berth alive.
Somehow, someway, they have a chance. Yes, the team I referred to as a crashed oil tanker in colourful shorts still has a chance to earn an at large bid to the Tournament (The fact that this is still possible shows the absurdity of the want for further expansion of the Tournament, but that's for another time). With a tri-fecta of wins over Gonzaga, Michigan State, and Ohio State, the Illini still have an opportunity to play their way into the selection committee's good graces. A "W" at Wisconsin would go a long way.
Wisconsin is looking to put the finishing touches on another fantastic season. A win here would give the Badgers a 23-8 (12-6 Big Ten) record and earn them a bye into the quarter finals of the Big Ten Tournament. In other news, water is wet, the Miami Heat are good, and that thing on my shoulder won't stop growing.
Bo Ryan's Badgers have had some well documented hiccups at the Kohl Center this year, so this isn't a guaranteed win like it has been in recent years. With that said, I can't figure out Illinois for the life of me, so I'm taking Wisconsin. Wisconsin 66 Illinois 57
Purdue at 18 Indiana, 6pm ET, Big Ten Network
In the final game of the conference's regular season, Hoosier State enemies will battle at Assembly Hall when Purdue faces Indiana on Sunday evening.
After being on the bubble for weeks, Purdue's strong finish to the season has all but assured them a place in the field of 68. Winners of three in a row, Purdue is now tied for fifth (with Indiana) in the stacked Big Ten with a record of 10-7, 20-10 overall. A win at Indiana would be welcomed by Boiler fans for both state bragging rights and seeding in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.
Indiana managed to get their third monumental win (the others against Kentucky and Ohio State) on their home court this season after beating Michigan State 70-55 on Tuesday. Forwards Christian Watford and Cody Zeller combined for 28 points and 18 rebounds, while the team as a whole shot 48 per cent from the floor and a sparkling 86 from the free throw line.
Rivalry games tend to yield some of the most entertaining games in college hoops. Couple that with the fact that both of these teams are playing at a high level, and I foresee a potential instant classic. Indiana 76 Purdue 75
By Scott Capron
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