The Big Ten may be projected to send seven teams to the NCAA Tournament as of today, but the conference hasn't been able to provide the type of excitement that made Wednesday's North Carolina vs. Duke matchup such a thrill. There is plenty of talent in the Big Ten, but it's a little more spread out than it was back when Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo were playing on the same team.
The one team that does appear to have the pieces necessary for a title run is Wisconsin, but it'd be nice if they were challenged a bit more. Every time we look for a second best team in the league, though, someone slips up. Some of the most exciting players in the league, such as D'Angelo Russell and Melo Trimble, haven't played efficiently enough to match Wisconsin's steady yet deadly frontcourt trio. On Wednesday, the Badgers took on D.J. Newbill, the underrated star of Penn State. Once again, we'd learn that it takes more than one stud to build a great team.
Game of the night: Wisconsin at Penn State
This game can be summed up pretty nicely by the "D.J. Newbill vs. Rest of Team" graphics that BTN put on display. Penn State's senior guard was fantastic with 29 points on 13-for-21 shooting, but his teammates were... less so. The other nine Nittany Lions that took the floor on Wednesday totaled just 18 points and shot 24 percent from the field. That's a shame, because Penn State played very good defense, holding the Badgers to 39-percent shooting.
The big difference was that Wisconsin had more than one player show up. Frank Kaminsky struggled from the field (4-for-12), but still scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds. The real star for the Badgers, though, was Sam Dekker, who put his elite athleticism on display with a driving reverse slam in the opening minutes on his way to a 22-point night. Poor long-range shooting from both clubs and some Newbill heroics allowed Penn State to stay in the game until very late, but Wisconsin held on to win 55-47.
Northwestern at Minnesota
The Wildcats only hit nine two-point field goals all night, but that was enough to defeat Minnesota for their third Big Ten win of the season. It always helps when you get in a groove from beyond the arc, and Northwestern had it going on with 15-for-32 shooting from three-point range. Freshman Bryant McIntosh led everyone with 17 points and four triples, while Nathan Taphorn and Vic Law had three three-pointers a piece.
Andre Hollins answered the Northwestern assault with a three-pointer of his own to draw the Gophers within four with a minute to play. However, Minnesota wouldn't score again until the game was out of reach and the Wildcats triumphed 72-66. Hollins finished with 12 points and six assists, while Nate Mason came off the bench to lead the Gophers with 15 points.