Iowa and Indiana headline the final Tuesday of the Big Ten regular season. While the Hawkeyes are almost a sure bet for March, the Hoosiers still have something left to prove if they want to avoid the tournament bubble. Meanwhile, Northwestern hosts Michigan and Maryland visits Rutgers. What to expect from tonight's Big Ten action.
Game of the Night
Iowa Hawkeyes @ Indiana Hoosiers - 7:00 ET (ESPN)
Believe it or not, Indiana is now on the bubble. After a disappointing home loss to Northwestern, the Hoosiers (19-10, 9-7) have fallen to ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi's "Last Four Byes" as one of the final four teams to avoid a tournament play in game. Just for perspective, one of the "Last Four In" (or teams projected to play in the "First Four" play-in games,) is Purdue. Just beyond in the "Last Four Out" is Illinois. It seems highly improbable that the Hoosiers could drop this far, but considering their final two games are against tournament bound teams (Iowa, Michigan State), there is the serious possibility of three losses in a row. Tonight, Yogi Ferrell and company will try to make sure that doesn't happen.
The primary focus will be stopping Aaron White. After a relatively quiet conference season, the senior has heat up as of late, averaging 22.6 PPG over his last three. Not only is White a sizable force, his ability to shoot the three-ball poses a unique threat to defenders, as proven by his 29 point performance against Illinois last week. Yet while he remains a key factor, the problem for Indiana will likely be Adam Woodbury. Given the Hoosiers play the smallest lineup in the Big Ten, they don't have a natural starting center to contest the 7-1 big guy. While 6-9 Hanner Mosquera-Perea anchors down the paint, a four-inch size differential gives Woodbury an easy advantage. We saw A.J. Hammons exploit this matchup last week, and look for Woodbury to do the same. Matt Painter will likely try to get him looks and get him going early.
While this is not technically a must-win for Indiana, a loss could only fuel rising doubt that this team isn't tournament caliber. Tom Crean is not looking to miss his second bid in two years. Look for the Hoosiers to come out of the tunnel fast and strong. Indiana has a lot on the line to play for, and they're gonna leave it all on the court.
Michigan Wolverines @ Northwestern Wildcats - 9:00 ET (BTN)
After a flaming hot streak, a loss to Illinois on the road finally killed Northwestern's first four-game Big Ten winning streak since 1967. They look to rebound when they host Michigan Tuesday. Junior Wildcats guard Tre Demps is beginning to come into his own, picking up the scoring pace including a 23 point performance in their win over Indiana. Freshman Bryant McIntosh also shows signs of significant improvement. While Northwestern many be one year removed from a real chance to compete, Chris Collins seems to be getting the hang of things in Evanston. The future is bright.
Michigan looks to win out to finish at .500 for the season in Big Ten play. The Wolverines (14-14, 7-9) also will try to make a little noise in the upcoming Big Ten tourney to make things interesting. If we've learned anything over the past three seasons or so, its that Spike Albrecht can surprise at any given time. Don't doubt his leadership as Michigan wraps up the season. There's no such thing as a safe game in the Big Ten.
Maryland Terrapins @ Rutgers Scarlet Knights - 7 ET (BTN)
Maryland may be the hottest team in the nation, and they show no signs of slowing down. After pulling off an impressive upset over #5 Wisconsin followed by a senior night win over Michigan, the Terrapins were able to climb as high as #10 in the AP poll. Dez Wells and Melo Trimble are playing top-tier basketball and pose a formidable opponent for anybody during the month of March. In a game against an opponent as weak as Rutgers, it will be interesting to see if Mark Turgeon tries to get his starters some rest in preparation for the upcoming post-season. The Terrapins are primed to go deep into the bracket, and its all but improbable that the Scarlet Knights are going to stop them.