Around the Big Ten: 2/24-3/2
The Big Ten regular season crown is still up for grabs with only two weeks remaining in conference play. Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State are all within 2.5 games of the top spot.
With the recent surge of Nebraska, it seems very plausible that six Big Ten teams could potentially earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The next two weeks will go a long way in revealing who truly is the best squad in the Big Ten.
No. 20 Iowa (19-7, 8-5 Big Ten) at Minnesota (17-11, 6-9 Big Ten) - Feb. 25, 7:00 p.m.
The Hawkeyes are coming off a disappointing home loss to Wisconsin, after being unable to comeback from their nine-point halftime deficit. Iowa will likely have to win out to receive the Big Ten regular season championship. The Hawkeyes should be able to smother the Golden Gophers in this matchup, since Minnesota has not scored over 50 points in two straight games.
The Gophers have struggled against upper-echelon Big Ten teams all year and will have a hard time stopping the Hawkeye offense that is averaging 83.3 points per game. Minnesota will likely try to shorten the game by eating clock in their possessions. In order for the Golden Gophers to have any success, they will need to make this game a low-scoring affair.
Indiana (15-11, 5-8 Big Ten) at No. 14 Wisconsin (22-5, 9-5 Big Ten) - Feb. 25, 9:00 p.m.
Since beating Michigan back on February 2, Indiana has been unable to play consistent basketball. Outside of sophomore guard Yogi Ferrell, who is averaging over 17 points per game, the Hoosiers have not had a reliable player to turn to multiple times a game. However, Tom Crean’s squad was able to knock off then undefeated Wisconsin last time these two teams met so they will be playing with some confidence.
The Badgers have fired off five straight wins after going through some struggles during the middle of the Big Ten schedule. Thanks to their solid defense, which is holding opponents to only 63.7 points per game, Wisconsin is once again looking like a Big Ten Tournament championship contender. The Badgers will seek revenge against the Hoosiers and will attempt to take advantage of their home-court setting.
No. 16 Michigan (19-7, 11-3 Big Ten) at Purdue (15-11, 5-8 Big Ten) - Feb. 26, 7:00 p.m.
The Wolverines are once again at the top of the Big Ten after knocking off Michigan State for the second time this year. Led by sophomore guard Nik Stauskas, Michigan is in prime position to win the Big Ten regular season title since all their games remaining on the schedule are against unranked opponents. Their swarming defense and fast-paced offense should be enough to take down the Boilermakers.
Purdue lacks a big-time playmaker and have been unable to match up well against the best in the Big Ten. Senior guard Terone Johnson is their leading scorer with only 11.9 points per game. The Boilermakers were unable to keep up with the Wolverines athleticism in their last contest, and this game could see much of the same.
Nebraska (15-10, 7-6 Big Ten) at Illinois (15-12, 4-10 Big Ten) - Feb. 26, 9:00 p.m.
The Cornhuskers have won seven of their last eight games and are now considered to be a team that has a shot at an NCAA Tournament Berth. Nebraska’s defense has played exceptionally well lately, holding teams below 60 points in four of their last five games. Sophomore Terran Petteway will likely be able to use his size and athleticism to dominate Illinois, both from inside the paint and beyond the arc.
The Fighting Illini have played a little better recently, picking up two wins over the last 10 days. However, they are far from playing solid basketball day-in and day-out. Illinois will struggle to hang with a Husker squad that is playing inspired basketball, especially when they seem to lack any enthusiasm about this season.
No. 20 Iowa (19-7, 8-5 Big Ten) at Indiana (15-11, 5-8 Big Ten) - Feb. 27, 9:00 p.m.
The Hawkeyes will travel to Indiana, to make up the game that was postponed back on February 18, due to problems with the roof of Assembly Hall. Both teams will be playing two games in a three-day stretch and will have to fight through some fatigue. This game will be a good measure of how these teams play coming off short-rest as they prepare for the upcoming Big Ten Tournament.
No. 22 Ohio State (22-6, 9-6 Big Ten) at Penn State (13-14, 4-10 Big Ten) - Feb. 27, 9:00 p.m
The Buckeyes have won six of their last seven games and have settled into a nice rhythm after a shaky midseason stretch. Led by senior guard Aaron Craft, who is averaging 2.6 steals per game, the Ohio State defense is ranked sixth in the nation in points allowed per game. They will look to make up for an overtime home loss to the Nittany Lions earlier in the season.
Penn State has already doubled their conference win total from a year ago, but is still having trouble playing solid basketball for two halves. Although the Lions knocked off the Buckeyes in their last meeting, Ohio State is playing much better all-around basketball now, and Penn State will have a difficult time penetrating their tight defense.
Andy Madore is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.