Around the Big Ten Basketball
Matt Freiler, Joe Skinner and Dylan Huberman break down this week's basketball action around the Big Ten:
With the Big Ten having its conference tournament a week earlier than usual, teams are jockeying for position in the conference tournament. While most of the lower seeds have been decided already, the teams at the top of the list are in a jumble for positioning.
Michigan State is the current leader of the Big Ten and its win Tuesday night against Illinois gave the Spartans a share of the regular season title. Currently tied with Grambling for the nation’s longest winning streak, Michigan State is the hottest team in the country and only have a road game at Wisconsin to conclude its season.
Ohio State and Purdue are the only other teams in the Big Ten that can catch the Spartans if they lose in the Kohl Center on Sunday. The Buckeyes also won on their senior night against Rutgers and have a tough road game against Indiana, who are currently seventh in the conference.
The Boilermakers, on the other hand, have two games remaining on the schedule and their remaining slate is not too daunting as they travel to Illinois before senior night against Minnesota. Purdue recently ended its three-game losing skid against Penn State and is looking to create another win streak late in the season.
Nebraska entered the week on the bubble and helped its case by beating a surging Indiana team at home on Tuesday. The Cornhuskers are still in trouble of not making the tournament and they need a win against Penn State on Sunday to solidify their status in the top five and the NCAA Tournament.
While the Hoosiers are not a team that was considered to make noise in conference play, they have had a solid season, despite losing on Wednesday against Nebraska. Indiana’s nine conference wins are a good sign for a developing team and an opportunity to knock off Ohio State on senior night would be a good end to the season.
The Terrapins were on the tournament bubble for a long time, but they have fallen off and are probably headed for the NIT. Maryland has a chance to bolster its tournament resume with a home victory against a ranked Michigan team.
The teams mentioned above are the only ones with realistic chances of playing in the NCAA Tournament and NIT, excluding Michigan and Penn State. The Wolverines have the toughest end of conference play as they travel to Happy Valley on Wednesday, then head to College Park to take on the Terrapins.
After a magical season in 2017 that saw its first ever tournament bid, Northwestern has struggled to a 6-10 mark this season. The Wildcats play Wisconsin and Iowa to end the year, giving them the possibility to end the season strong.
The Big Ten has been inconsistent, to say the least as the conference only has four teams as locks for the NCAA Tournament. The shortened regular season means that teams are currently scrambling to put themselves in a better position for the conference tournament and the tournament committee.
Joseph Esquivel-Murphy is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.