Minnesota celebrates the upset - Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
The calendar has finally turned to March and we are starting to see glimpses of madness as the Big Ten looks headed for a tight regular season finish.
#3 Duke (25-4, 12-4): LOSS @ Virginia (73-68), WIN v. #5 Miami (79-76): The Blue Devils got 28 points from Seth Curry and 22 points from Quinn Cook but couldn't keep Virginia fans from storming the court on the 11-year anniversary of the last time they beat a team in the top 5. Duke responded on Saturday back at Cameron, avenging the blowout that Miami handed them down in Coral Gables in January. Ryan Kelly performed beyond expectations in his return after missing the last 2 months due to injury, scoring 36 points, including hitting seven 3-pointers. Duke finishes out the regular season at Cameron on Tuesday against Virginia Tech before making the short trip to play North Carolina on Saturday.
#6 Kansas (25-4, 13-3): WIN @ Iowa State (108-96 OT), WIN v. West Virginia (91-65): If Bill Self had anyone to thank after winning his 500th game as a coach on Monday night against Iowa State, it was Elijah Johnson. Johnson scored a career-high 39 points as Kansas overcame a 5-point deficit with 44 seconds left to force overtime in Ames. Johnson's 12 points in overtime was the difference for Kansas. Saturday's win against West Virginia came a lot easier, but not without the personal accolades. Ben McLemore scored a career-high, and Kansas freshman record, 36 points as the Jayhawks routed the Mountaineers. Johnson contributed with 10 assists while Jeff Withey added 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 blocks in Saturday's win. Kansas closes out their home schedule on Monday against Texas Tech before traveling to Baylor on Saturday.
Nebraska (13-16, 4-12): LOSS @ #17 Wisconsin (77-46), LOSS @ Illinois (72-65): Tuesday night's game in Lincoln looked a lot like the 2012 Big Ten football championship game with Wisconsin jumping out to a big early lead and Nebraska having no answer. Dylan Talley scored 21 points and pulled down 8 rebounds but he didn't get much help, with only one other Nebraska player in double-figures. Nebraska kept things a lot closer against Illinois, holding the lead with 6 minutes left in the 2nd half, but couldn't close the game out in Champaign. The Cornhuskers host Minnesota on Wednesday night before ending the regular season at Iowa on Saturday.
Illinois (21-9, 8-8): WIN v. Nebraska (72-65): Illinois got a group effort on Senior Night as they overcame a late deficit to defeat Nebraska. The Fighting Illini had five players in double-figures, with Tracy Abrams leading the way with 16 points. A loss to Nebraska could have derailed Illinois in their quest to secure a NCAA berth, but now Illinois is back to .500 in the Big Ten. Illinois will try and strengthen their resume this week with road games against Iowa on Wednesday and Ohio State on Sunday to finish the regular season.
Purdue (14-15, 7-9): LOSS @ Iowa (58-48), WIN @ #17 Wisconsin (69-56): Purdue split their final two road games of the regular season, with Sunday's win in Madison having a big impact on the top of the Big Ten standings. In Wednesday's loss to Iowa, Purdue only had five players score, with four of them scoring in double figures. Donnie Hale led the Boilermakers with 13 points in the loss. On Sunday Purdue erased a 13-point deficit to ruin Senior Day in Madison, the first time that has happened to the Badgers in the 12 years that Bo Ryan has coached Wisconsin. D.J. Byrd hit six 3-pointers, which matched how many the whole Wisconsin team hit, on his way to 22 points to help Purdue pull away in the second half. Matt Painter's squad will try to keep shaking up the Big Ten standings this week when Michigan visits West Lafayette on Wednesday followed by Minnesota on Saturday.
#4 Michigan (24-5, 11-5): LOSS @ Penn State (84-78), WIN v. #9 Michigan State (58-57): Michigan rolled into February with only one loss. February was cruel to the Wolverines, as they went 3-4 during the month. The Wolverines looked to be in control in the second half, holding a 15-point lead, but Penn State staged a shock comeback to gain their first conference win of the season. March started off a lot better than February finished for Michigan, holding off a late charge by Michigan State. Trey Burke's dunk of a steal with 22 seconds left broke a 56-all tie and turned out to be the game winner. Burke finished the game with 21 points and 8 assists. Michigan will travel to face Purdue on Wednesday before the regular season finale in Ann Arbor on Sunday afternoon.
#9 Michigan State (22-7, 11-5): LOSS @ #4 Michigan (58-57): Michigan State had rallied from being down 10 points late in the second half to tie Michigan at 56, but a Trey Burke steal of Keith Appling was the deciding basket in Sunday's rivalry matchup. Derrick Nix had a chance to tie the game at the free throw line, but split the pair, and a Trey Burke steal with four seconds to go sealed the loss for the Spartans. Michigan State has now lost their last three games to go from being tied at the top of the Big Ten to now sitting in a four-way tie for second. Tom Izzo's team will try and stop their slide this week when they host Wisconsin on Wednesday followed by Northwester on Sunday.
Iowa (18-11, 7-9): WIN v. Purdue (58-48), LOSS @ #1 Indiana (73-60): With a loss to Nebraska the previous week seemingly popping Iowa's NCAA tournament bubble, the Hawkeyes didn't do much to impress the selection committee. Devyn Marble and Aaron White both had 18 points to lead Iowa to a victory against Purdue. A win against the Hoosiers on Saturday night in Bloomington was what the Hawkeyes coveted, as it would have provided a signature win to Iowa's tournament resume. Marble scored 20 points against the Hoosiers, but Iowa couldn't climb out of the 12-point hole they were in after 20 minutes of play. Iowa will try and finish the season strong when Illinois comes to Iowa City on Tuesday night followed by Nebraska on Saturday.
Penn State (9-19, 1-15): WIN v. #4 Michigan (84-78), LOSS @ Minnesota (73-44): Penn State gave fans that have stuck with them this year quite the reward with an upset win over Michigan. Fans in State College stormed the floor as Penn State notched their first win over a top-5 team since defeating North Carolina in the 2nd round of the 2001 NCAA tournament. The win over Michigan also gave Penn State their first win in the Big Ten since February of 2012, a span of 18 conference games. Jermaine Marshall scored 25 points to help engineer a 15-point comeback by Penn State in the 2nd half. Results for the Nittany Lions returned to normal against Minnesota, with Penn State not scoring until 11 minutes into the game, and only scoring 12 points in the first half. Penn State travels to Northwestern on Thursday before having a chance to shake up the seeding for the Big Ten tournament with a regular season finale at home on Sunday against Wisconsin.
#17 Wisconsin (20-9, 11-5): WIN v. Nebraska (77-46), LOSS v. Purdue (69-56): Freshman Sam Dekker came off the bench to match his career-high with 19 points, including hitting four 3-pointers, as Wisconsin cruised to an easy win over Nebraska. Heading into Sunday all the Badgers needed was a win against Purdue and a Michigan victory over Michigan State, to gain sole possession of second place in the Big Ten standings. The Badgers looked to be in control during the first half but they had no answer for D.J. Byrd in the second half. Now Wisconsin will have to win on the road to close the season if they want finish in the top 4 of the Big Ten, which will gain them a first round bye in next week's Big Ten tournament. Wisconsin battles Michigan State on Thursday before wrapping up the regular season against Penn State.
#1 Indiana (25-4, 13-3): LOSS @ Minnesota (77-73), WIN v. Iowa (73-60): Indiana's last stint at no. 1 should come to an end on Monday, as the Hoosiers were upset on Tuesday in Minneapolis. Cody Zeller had one of his worst games of the season, finishing with 9 points on 2-9 shooting and committing 4 turnovers before fouling out late in the game. Indiana and Zeller regrouped quickly with the win over the Hawkeyes on Saturday night. Zeller scored 22 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in the victory, while Yogi Farrell added 19 points. The Hoosiers didn't shoot all that well against the Hawkeyes, but got to the free throw line 18 more times and forced Iowa in 20 turnovers. Losses by Wisconsin and Michigan State on Sunday gave Indiana at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title. A win against Ohio State on Tuesday night at home or at Michigan on Sunday afternoon will give Indiana the outright crown.
Indiana has clinched at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title, but the real drama right now is in the fight to try and secure a first round bye in the Big Ten tournament that starts next week. Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin are all currently 11-5 in conference play, but one of those teams will have to take the court next Thursday at the United Center. Indiana is in the driver's seat and as long as they don't drop a game this week they'll head into Chicago as the no. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament next week.
Northwestern (13-16, 4-12): LOSS v. #16 Ohio State (63-53): Thursday night's loss to Ohio State must have gave the Wildcats some deja vu, as it was awfully similar to the game the two teams played in Columbus a couple weeks ago. Northwestern really made Ohio State sweat for the first 35 minutes of the game before Deshaun Thomas helped the Buckeyes pull away for the 10 point win. Tre Demps led the Wildcats with 14 points in the contest. Penn State comes into Evanston on Thursday for Senior Night before the Wildcats finish up the regular season at Michigan State on Sunday.
Minnesota (20-9, 8-8): WIN v. #1 Indiana (77-73), WIN v. Penn State (73-44): Minnesota emphatically ended their recent slide, in which they had dropped four of their last five games before Tuesday night's win, by dominating the glass against the Hoosiers. The Golden Gophers outrebounded the Hoosiers 44-30, including pulling down 23 offensive rebounds. Sixth-year senior Trevor Mbakwe had one of the best games of his career, registering a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Mbakwe registered one final double-double in his home career at Minnesota on Saturday, with 13 points and 13 rebounds against Penn State. The double-double gave Mbakwe his eighth double-double on the season, which leads the Big Ten this season. Minnesota was able to prevent Penn State from scoring in the first eleven minutes of the game, jumping out to a 16-0 lead and settling the game rather early. Minnesota looks to close out the regular season with victories on the road against Nebraska on Wednesday and Purdue on Saturday.