Only three Big Ten teams have never won the tournament. One of them is Northwestern, and the other two face off in the last first round game on Thursday. One of the those teams is Penn State, who has played on the first day of every BTT. The other is Indiana, whose best showing in the BTT was a finals appearance in 2001.
The BTT has been played for thirteen seasons. Only once has the 11 seed beat the 6 seed: in 1999 Illinois beat Minnesota on their way to a runner-up finish.
(6) Penn State
The Nittany Lions had low expectations coming into this season, and their showing in pre-conference games was not impressive. Then the conference season started and Penn State started winning some games. Even though there were not always a lot of fans at Bryce Jordan Center, the Lions managed to beat conference stalwarts Michigan State, Illinois and Wisconsin at home. Penn State didn't win a lot of road games in the conference, but they did enough to end the season with a 9-9 record. That earned them a four-way tie for fourth place, which was a major improvement from the previous year's last place finish.
Senior guard Talor Battle needs just 20 points to become Penn State's all-time leading scorer. He was also on the All-Big Ten first team as chosen by the media. He is joined by Jeff Brooks, who averages 13 points a game by shooting an impressive 56% from the field. Tim Frazier is an excellent distributor, leading the team with 5 assists per game.
To put it simply, the Indiana Hooisers have not had a good season. After dropping the first four games in conference play, the Hoosiers held Michigan to just 15 points in the first half and won easily. But every silver lining has its cloud, and sophomore guard Maurice Creek was injured in the game and lost for the season. The Hooisers won two more games at home in the conference, but did not win a game away from Assembly Hall this year. They are currently on an eight game losing streak.
Christian Watford leads the team in scoring (16 ppg) and rebounding (5.1 rpg). Jordan Hulls and Verdell Jones are the other two Hoosiers who average in double figures. Tom Pritchard provides an inside presence, but frequently gets into foul trouble.
Last Time Out
Penn State and Indiana only played each other once this season: the conference opener in Bloomington. Penn State was hot early and opened up a 25-11 lead midway through the first half. Indiana slowly climbed back into it, and even managed to grab a one-point lead with about nine minutes left. Jeff Brooks, who had a game high 23 points, scored to get the lead back for PSU, and the Lions never trailed again.
Indiana managed to shoot better from three-point range (45%) than from inside the arc (41.1%). Penn State shot well from all over, finishing 53.8% from the field. Talor Battle chipped in 19 points for PSU and Verdell Jones had 15 for Indiana.
Penn State's NCAA tournament hopes are slim at this point, and losing this game would definitely send them to the NIT. Indiana's season will end mercifully at the hands of the team that gave them their first conference loss.
Penn State by 14
BTT Round 1, Game 3
Thursday, March 10 7:30 ET
Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
BTN (Gus Johnson, Shon Morris and Charissa Thompson)