In a sense, the Big Ten Tournament went as expected. Wisconsin separated themselves from Purdue who fought hard but couldn't match the Badgers' talent. Michigan State pushed Wisconsin to OT, from which point the Badgers controlled the action to win the Big Ten Tournament. Everyone knew the Wisconsin Badgers were head and shoulders above the rest of the Big Ten and they've left us without a doubt after winning the Big Ten regular season and the conference tournament on top of that.
But there were a few surprises. Penn State made a statement by cobbling together wins over Nebraska and Iowa. Illinois, a team many figured would be desperate to win a game or two to give themselves a chance to make the NCAA tournament, came out flat against the Michigan Wolverines and saw their tournament hopes fade away. Michigan, a team that
With the tournament now behind us, let's look at what we learned over the course of the conference tournament.
Michigan State is Playing Their Best Ball Now
Tom Izzo is no slouch and after facing top tier opponents all season long, neither are his Spartans. Wisconsin was the first team to knock off Michigan State since they last topped the Spartans in Madison on March 1st. Izzo's team has won four road games since February and that they were able to push a more talented Wisconsin team by executing at a very high level bodes well for their tournament chances.
Northwestern Will Be improved, Nebraska Will Be Rebuilding
Chris Collins will lose Jershon Cobb and Dave Sobolewski after this season but will return all five of his starters. Freshmen like Bryant McIntosh and Vic Law are some of the most talented freshmen Northwestern has ever had and Tre Demps and Alex Olah will be looking to combine for a special senior season. Northwestern won't win the conference next year, or come close, but they could climb a few spots up the standings.
Nebraska, meanwhile, is in trouble. Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields will return but their teammates don't appear to have developed much around them. Walter Pitchford took an enourmous step back this season, hitting fewer than 30% of his three-point attempts after nailing 41% of his attempts from distance a year ago. Tai Webster is coming along extremely slowly. Petteway and Shields shouldered the load for the Huskers in their brief tournament appearance and their outlook appears to be similarly dismal looking ahead to next season.
John Belein Will Be Back
And not just back to Ann Arbor. Back to competing for conference crowns. This season was a huge disappointment for the Michigan Wolverines. First came astonishing losses to the likes of NJIT and Eastern Michigan. Then came injuries to Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton. After they didn't get their name called for the NIT tonight, their season is officially over and the Wolverines can begin preparing for next season. In my opinion, they have plenty to look forward to. Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton are both likely to return to pair with Zak irvin. Kameron Chatman has an entire season to try and find a way to contribute at the collegiate level. Aubrey Dawkins, on the other hand, should add to Michigan's depth very nicely. Michigan got kicked in the mouth a few times this year but they never folded and kept fighting until there were no more games to play. Given that attitude, the talent on the Wolverines' roster and the head man on the bench, Michigan could spring from the depths like Purdue did this season to place among the best teams in the conference next season.
In a year when the Big Ten was not quite the bully on the block that they have been in recent seasons, the Big Ten tournament still served to springboard a couple teams into postseason play and send a few teams like Michigan and Penn State into the ofseason with high hopes.