Around the Big Ten Basketball: Jan. 27
With under two months remaining until March Madness, the Big Ten is in a unique position ahead of the tournament with only one team as a lock to make the Big Dance. Here’s a recap of a conference with no true days off.
No. 1 Purdue needed a close finish against Maryland to reclaim the top spot in the polls. Led by 24 points from Zach Edey, the Boilermakers hung on for a 58-55 win. The Terrapins were a Jahmir Young missed shot away from sending the game to overtime.
In its next game at Michigan, Purdue continued its winning ways. Despite 21 points from Michigan center Hunter Dickinson, the Boilermakers defeated the Wolverines, 75-70. The win, fueled by 17 points from Fletcher Lloyd, improved Purdue to 20-1 this season.
It was also a good week for Indiana, winning both their games against Michigan State and Minnesota. The Hoosiers put their foot on the gas in the second half against the Spartans, turning a five-point halftime lead into a comfortable 82-69 win.
Coach Mike Woodson’s team also escaped the Golden Gophers with a narrow 61-57 win. Trayce Jackson-Davis exploded on the stat sheet in both games, scoring a combined 56 points.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the Big Ten so far hails from Evanston, Illinois. Picked to finish No. 13 in the preseason poll, Northwestern currently sits at 5-3 in conference play.
After not playing for eight days due to COVID-19 concerns, guard Boo Buie’s 20 points led the Wildcats to a narrow 66-63 win over Wisconsin. Two days later, Ty Berry scored 26 points in a 78-63 win over Nebraska. Northwestern is in the hunt for its first ticket to March Madness in six years.
Ohio State looked in prime position for another run in March following a 10-3 start. However, they currently sit at 3-6 in the Big Ten and are officially on the bubble.
While Chris Holtmann’s team snapped a five-game conference losing streak with a home win against Iowa, they lost 69-60 to Illinois Tuesday night. With a tough second-half schedule looming, the Buckeyes will need a quick turnaround if they want to avoid missing the tournament.
As the calendar flips to February, the battle inside the Big Ten for spots in March Madness remains a logjam. Joe Lunardi’s Jan. 23 projection for ESPN sees 10 teams in the field, with Purdue as the top overall seed. Jerry Palm’s most recent update has eight teams in his field of 68 and another three teams barely missing the tournament.
The high number of teams with something to play for should make for an entertaining finish to the Big Ten regular season. When the dust settles come Selection Sunday, any Big Ten team in the Big Dance will have earned its ticket.
Will Duerksen is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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