This past week in the Big Ten was one of the biggest of the season so far. The conference race looks to be down to just two teams, with only one club in position to potentially climb back into the race. Throughout the rest of the conference, tournament bubbles burst and traditional also-rans proved to be unusually able.
The Week That Was
Michigan State 71, Iowa 69 (OT) - The Spartans made a statement on the road to kick off the week, securing a win over the talented Iowa Hawkeyes though they were without the services of Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson and despite the fact that Keith Appling's wrist was bothering him. This win was crucial for Michigan State who hoped to keep pace with Michigan after failing to top the Wolverines in the Breslin Center a few days prior. Iowa, on the other hand, can't afford any additional losses and has to hope both Michigan teams slip up down the stretch if they want to win a share of the league title.
Penn State 71, Ohio State 70 (OT) - Since joining the Big Ten, Penn State has never defeated the Buckeyes in Columbus. But thanks to a 25-point outburst from D.J. Newbill that streak has been snapped. Newbill paced Penn State in the win, going directly after Ohio State's Aaron Craft on possession after possession, including the game-winner, and coming away with points more often than not.
Northwestern 65, Wisconsin 56 - Northwestern has been on a roll in recent weeks and as you know Wisconsin cannot stop absolutely anybody. The Badgers shot just over 25% from the field while allowing Drew Crawford to slice them up for 30 points on 15 field goal attempts.
Indiana 55, Nebraska 60 - In a dominant first half, the Hoosiers opened a 16-point lead against the Huskers. But Nebraska, who has been tough at home all season long, battled back and took the lead late in the game thanks to some sharpshooting behind the arc. Terran Petteway sealed the win late with a 3-point basket that finally put the game out of reach. Nebraska has dropped only one home game so far this season.
Purdue 66, Michigan 75 - Purdue shot uncharacteristically poorly, even for them, which was ultimately the key for the Wolverines in this one. The Boilermakers converted just 2 of their 14 3-point field goal attempts while Michigan shot over 50% from 3-point range and over 60% from the field. Purdue bested the Wolverines on the glass and had fewer turnovers, but weren't able to overcome the Wolverines' hot shooting.
Ohio State 59, Wisconsin 58 - In a battle between a team unable to score and a team unable to defend, the team unable to score consistently, Ohio State, edged Wisconsin at home. It took some luck for the Buckeyes to come away with a win, Ohio State shot 5 of 9 from distance, but the Buckeyes should be credited for being more judicious with their shot attempts than the Wisconsin Badgers, who converted just 3 of their 17 3-point attempts.
Northwestern 55, Minnesota 54 - Northwestern had fewer shot attempts, rebounds, and had more turnovers than Minnesota but was able to win on the road, again, thanks to their terrific defense. There's no doubt that the Golden Gophers miss Andre Hollins, but that doesn't discredit the Wildcats, whose back court dominated Minnesota's on the way to a hard-fought road victory.
Michigan State 60, Georgetown 64 - Michigan State played this game like it didn't matter, and that's no way to win. The Spartans typically generate their offense with crisp passing, but their assist total was pedestrian on the afternoon. They didn't look like a team leading the nation in assists, as they went one-on-one against a Georgetown Hoyas team that has struggled all year. This loss won't hurt Michigan State in the conference standings but it could come back to haunt them when the NCAA tournament is seeded.
Iowa 81, Illinois 74 - Iowa led by 21-points in the first half, but Illinois clawed back into the picture behind freshman guards Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn. The Illini even tied the game late, but when Groce sat his freshmen reserves in favor of starters Rayvonte Rice and Tracy Abrams, the game got away for the home team. Roy Devyn Marble was able to keep his Hawkeyes just out of reach from that point forward, and Iowa left Champaign with a win they absolutely had to have.
Purdue 68, Penn State 79 - Purdue absolutely had to have this game if they were looking to return to the NCAA tournament, but they couldn't get the job done after opening the game by converting their first 7 shots. AJ Hammons had a very productive afternoon, with 18 points, but he couldn't keep pace with Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill, who contributed 18 and 19 points respectively.
Michigan 52, Indiana 63 - The curtains nearly drew on Indiana's tournament chances when they lost to Nebraska on the road earlier in the week, but they revived them with a win over Michigan on Sunday. Nik Stauskas was largely erased from the box score, as Kevin Yogi Ferrell's aggressive ball limited him to just 6 shot attempts on the afternoon. For his part, Yogi was flawless on the afternoon with 27 points on just 10 shot attempts. Indiana's defense was the big key, but the Hoosiers may not have found enough offense to win without an otherworldly performance from their sophomore standard-bearer.
The Week That Will Be
Ohio State at Iowa - February 4, 7:00 PM ET - ESPN - Iowa can't afford another slip-up if they want to remain part of the Big Ten championship picture.
Wisconsin at Illinois - February 4, 9:00 PM ET - BTN - Wisconsin has enough quality wins that they'd need to really careen out of control to miss the tournament but that is precisely the path they're on now. A trip to Champaign to face the team at the bottom of the Big Ten standings could be just what the doctor ordered, or it could leave Badgers' fans sick to their stomach thinking about everything that happened after the Badgers' sweet 16-0 start.
Nebraska at Michigan - February 5, 6:30 PM ET - BTN - Michigan barely escaped Pinnacle Arena with a win, the only win Nebraska has surrendered at home this year. Terran Petteway will be anxious to avenge that loss while Nik Stauskas would prefer that his off-game remain a one-off instead of the start to a skid.
Minnesota at Purdue - February 5, 8:30 PM ET - BTN - Purdue is just about out of consideration for an NCAA bid, but there is still some light at the end of the tunnel remaining for the Boilers. They need this win, though. Minnesota, meanwhile, will be looking to stay on the right side of the bubble after a bad home loss against Nebraska.
Michigan at Iowa - February 8, 2:00 PM ET - ESPN - If Iowa wants to be considered a conference contender, this game is a must for the Hawkeyes. With a win the Hawkeyes would leave Michigan with at least 2 losses, just one game ahead of Iowa.
Indiana at Minnesota - February 8, 8:15 PM ET - BTN - Beating Michigan put the Hoosiers back in the NCAA conversation, but Indiana is far from a lock to make the dance. If they win this game though their outlook becomes much brighter very quickly.
Michigan State at Wisconsin - February 9, 1:00 PM ET - CBS - Michigan State doesn't often win in the Kohl Center, but the Badgers are vulnerable this season. If the Spartans can take down the Badgers in Madison, they'll have just one road game against a top 25 opponent left on their schedule - a highly anticipated rematch with the Michigan Wolverines.
That's all for this week. As an aside, remember that if you'd like to submit questions for next week's mailbag you can leave them in the comments below or tweet them to @BTPowerhouse - just be sure to use the #BTPMailbag hashtag. I'd love to put together another mailbag, so if you have any questions about Big Ten basketball, recruiting, or major events in college basketball fire away.