Many are calling the Big Ten the best college basketball conference in America and the final week of the regular season more than lived up to those praises. Heading into the week what could have ended up being a possible four-way tie for the regular season conference crown ending up with Indiana being the sole champion after Cody Zeller's late layup in Ann Arbor. If the Big Ten regular season is any indicator, we are in for quite the Big Ten Tournament.
#3 Duke (27-4, 14-4): WIN v. Virginia Tech (85-57), WIN @ North Carolina (69-53): Virginia Tech played Duke tough on Senior Night at Cameron for about 30 minutes, but got blown out in the last 10 minutes by the Blue Devils. Duke finished the game on a 32-10 run after Virginia Tech was within six points at 53-47 with 12 minutes left in the second half. Tuesday night's win was the final game at Cameron Indoor for Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee, and Ryan Kelly. Curry continued his strong play on Saturday night, hitting his first seven shots on his way to 20 points as Duke left little doubt by half in Chapel Hill. Mason Plumlee added 23 points and 13 rebounds in the win against the Tar Heels. The Blue Devils are the #2 seed in the ACC tournament and on Friday night will play the winner of Maryland/Wake Forest.
#4 Kansas (26-5, 14-4): WIN v. Texas Tech (79-42), LOSS @ Baylor (81-58): Jeff Withey closed out his career at Allen Fieldhouse with 22 points and 9 rebounds as Kansas romped over Texas Tech in Lawrence. Elijah Johnson didn't let Withey take all the spotlight, as Johnson dished out 12 assists in his Phog finale. Saturday night in Waco, Kansas ran into the buzzsaw that was Pierre Jackson, and were denied a outright Big 12 championship. Ben McLemore was the lone bright spot for the Jayhawks with 23 points in Waco. Even though they shared the regular season Big 12 title with Kansas State, the Jayhawks are seeded #1 in the Big 12 tourney and next play on Thursday against the winner of West Virginia/Texas Tech.
Nebraska (14-17, 5-13): WIN v. Minnesota (53-51), LOSS @ Iowa (74-60): Nebraska closed out the Bob Devaney Sports Center in style on Wednesday night by upending Minnesota. Brandon Ubel scored 15 points and Cornhusker fans stormed the court after the game ended. Nebraska is moving to Pinnacle Bank Arena next year. Nebraska couldn't match Iowa on the boards, getting outrebounded 39-22 as Iowa pulled away in the second half. The Cornhuskers now sit as the 10th seed in the Big Ten, and will face Purdue on Thursday.
Illinois (21-11, 8-10): LOSS @ Iowa (63-55), LOSS @ #14 Ohio State (68-55): The streaky Fighting Illini finished the regular season on a down note, dropping their final two contests on the road last week. After winning five straight games in February, Illinois has now dropped three of their last four games. Illinois only hit 29% of their shots in Tuesday night's loss in Iowa City. Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson were the only players to hit double figures for the Fighting Illini last week. Paul led Illinois in the losing efforts with 18 points against Iowa and 21 against the Buckeyes. The losses dropped Illinois to the 8th seed and a first round date with Minnesota on Thursday awaits them.
Purdue (15-16, 8-10): LOSS v. #7 Michigan (80-75), WIN v. Minnesota (89-73): Terone Johnson scored a career-high 32 points but it was enough as Michigan came back late against the Boilermakers in the second half on Wednesday night. Purdue led with under four minutes to go but Michigan was too much down the stretch. The Boilermakers rebounded quickly against Minnesota on Saturday, as Matt Painter gained his 200th career win to close out the regular season. Purdue jumped out to a 20-5 lead to start the game and didn't let Minnesota get within seven points the rest of the game. Now Purdue sits as the 7th seed in the Big Ten and will now face Nebraska on Thursday in Chicago.
#7 Michigan (25-6, 12-6): WIN @ Purdue (80-75), LOSS v. #2 Indiana (72-71): A big performance from Trey Burke, who scored 26 points in Wednesday's comeback win in West Lafayette, kept Michigan alive in the Big Ten title race. Tim Hardaway Jr's 3-pointer with under four minutes to go gave the Wolverines the lead for good against Purdue. With the win, all Michigan needed was to beat Indiana in Ann Arbor on Sunday to create what would have been a four-way tie for the Big Ten regular season crown. The Wolverines had a 71-66 lead on the Hoosiers with under a minute to play but they failed to score the rest of the game, as Indiana denied Michigan their second straight share of the Big Ten regular season title. The loss also meant that Michigan missed out on a first round bye in the Big Ten tournament and will now face Penn State in the 5/12 game on Thursday afternoon. The winner of that matchup will take on Wisconsin on Friday.
#10 Michigan State (24-7, 13-5): WIN v. #22 Wisconsin (58-43), WIN v. Northwestern (71-61): After dropping their previous three games, all to teams in the top-20, Michigan State got back into the win column with two wins at the Breslin Center last week. The Spartans used smothering defense, holding the Badgers to under 30% shooting from the field, and a big second half from Keith Appling to keep any hope of tying for the Big Ten regular season title alive. Appling scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half in the win. Just after tip on Sunday against Northwestern it was known that the Spartans lost any hope of getting a share of the regular season crown with Indiana's win, but that didn't slow down Tom Izzo's team. Michigan State shot 66% from the field and had four players in double figures as they pulled away late against the Wildcats to secure the #3 seed in the Big Ten tournament. Now Michigan State will play the winner of Iowa/Northwestern in the last game on Friday night from Chicago.
Iowa (20-11, 9-9): WIN v. Illinois (63-55), WIN v. Nebraska (74-60): Even though they are projected to be on the outside looking in of the NCAA tournament as of now, Iowa finished up the regular season with two home wins and head into Chicago having won five of their last seven. Iowa tied a school record with twelve blocks against Illinois, including six from Gabe Olaseni. In the regular season finale at Carver-Hawkeye, Devyn Marble poured in his 1,000th point in his career in the win over Nebraska. Marble joins his father, Roy Marble, who also cracked the 1,000 point barrier from the Hawkeyes, and they become the first father/son combo in Big Ten history to each score over 1,000 points. Iowa will now try to string a few wins together in Chicago to give the selection committee something to think about. As the #6 seed, Iowa will face Northwestern in the 1st round of the Big Ten Tournament, and the winner will move on to play Michigan State.
Penn State (10-20, 2-16): WIN @ Northwestern (66-59), LOSS v. #22 Wisconsin (63-60): Led by Sasa Borovnjak's 15 points and career-high 10 rebounds, Penn State won their 2nd game in as many week as they won the battle of Big Ten basement dwellers in Evanston. Even though they have a 2-16 record in conference, Penn State has been playing teams extremely tough lately and Sunday's matinee against the Badgers was no exceptions. It looked as if the Badgers and Nittany Lions were heading to overtime before Traevon Jackson hit a buzzer-beater to give Wisconsin the win. Jermaine Marshall scored 23 points and D.J. Newbill scored 22 points, but no other Nittany Lion put in more than 6 points. Now Penn State will face Michigan on Thursday and try to beat the Wolverines for the 2nd time in three weeks.
Wisconsin (21-10, 12-6): LOSS @ #10 Michigan State (58-43), WIN @ Penn State (63-60): Heading into last week Wisconsin was one of the five teams fighting for the four 1st round byes in the Big Ten tournament, and it was looking like they would be the odd man out after Thursday's performance against Michigan State. The Badgers let the Spartans go on a 16-0 run in the second half, and Ben Brust was the only Badger to crack double figures in the loss. Had it not been for Traevon Jackson's buzzer beater 3-pointer, Wisconsin would have headed to overtime in Happy Valley and very well could have been given their third loss in a row. Jackson's 15 points led the Badgers and helped them to avoid playing in a first round game in Chicago. With the loss by Michigan on Sunday, Wisconsin goes into the Big Ten Tournament as the #4 seed. The Badgers will play on Friday afternoon against the winner of Thursday's Michigan/Penn State game.
#2 Indiana (26-5, 14-4): LOSS v. #14 Ohio State (67-58), WIN @ #7 Michigan (72-71): Even though they had already clinched at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title going into last week, Indiana had to work to be able to make sure that title wasn't shared with anybody. Ohio State came into Bloomington on Tuesday night and ruined Senior Night for the Hoosiers, but that didn't stop Tom Crean from doing Tom Crean things. Even with the loss, Indiana cut down the nets at Assembly Hall after the game to celebrate at least the share of the Big Ten title with their fans. The Hoosiers couldn't claim the title as their own until Cody Zeller put in a layup with 13 seconds to go and the Wolverines couldn't answer. This was the first Big Ten title that Indiana has won since 2002, and the first solo conference title that they have won since 1993. Zeller's layup was the final of his 25 points, while Victor Oladipo added 14 points and 13 rebounds. Indiana will now wait to see who wins the first round matchup between Illinois/Minnesota and hit the court against the winner on Friday afternoon.
Northwestern (13-18, 4-14): LOSS v. Penn State (66-59), LOSS @ #10 Michigan State (71-61): The loss season looks to be just about over for the Wildcats, as injuries have really derailed Northwestern. The Wildcats have now lost eight straight games after the two losses they suffered last week to close out the regular season. Alex Macrotullio hit six 3-pointers against Penn State and scored 22 points, but he received almost no help from his teammates as Reggie Hearn was the only other Wildcat in double figures. Northwestern was pesky against the Spartans, tying the game at 51 in the second half, but the Wildcats just couldn't handle the depth that the Spartans possessed. It also didn't help for Northwestern that Michigan State seemed like the couldn't miss from the floor, hitting nearly 66% of their shots. Northwestern will try and play spoiler in the Big Ten tournament as they face Iowa in the first round on Thursday.
Minnesota (20-11, 8-10): LOSS @ Nebraska (53-51), LOSS @ Purdue (89-73): A regular season full of streaks ended with a two-game losing streak for Minnesota. The season started with Minnesota winning 14 of 15 games and then saw them immediately drop their next four games. Now Minnesota will head into the Big Ten tournament losing six of their last nine games. Minnesota has been dreadful this season on the road and last week was no different, as they closed out their regular season schedule at 1-8 away from home in the Big Ten. The Golden Gophers let Purdue sprint out to a 20-5 lead and never got closer than seven points the rest of the game. Andre Hollins hit six 3-pointers and poured in 24 points but it wasn't enough to lead Minnesota back. Minnesota and Illinois start the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday with the winner playing Indiana on Friday.