Thursday gave Big Ten basketball fans everything they could have hoped for. Close games, some drama and two stunning upsets with Illinois knocking off Iowa and Nebraska beating Wisconsin. There's no time to relax though, as today offers just as much non-stop action. Here's a look at today's slate of games.
Game of the Day: Michigan Wolverines vs. Indiana Hoosiers (12:00 p.m. ET | ESPN)
Michigan entered the Big Ten Tournament needing to go on a solid run to give itself a shot at the NCAA Tournament, and the Wolverines got off to a good start Yesterday by outlasting Northwestern, 72-20. But Michigan has an even bigger challenge looming now in Indiana. The Hoosiers overcome some early season struggles to claim the regular season conference title. They enter the tournament on a five-game riding streak, and are definitely motivated to keep their momentum going into the big dance.
The two teams met on Feb. 2, with Indiana prevailing, 80-67. The Hoosiers started slowly that game but finished the first half by scoring 25 straight points to take complete control. Michigan had already lost star Caris LeVert at that point, meaning Friday's game could potentially feel similar. Michigan will need to slow down Yogi Ferrell to have a chance, as the Hoosiers point guard is the key to their attack. The Wolverines have some solid guards of their own in Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr, and won't be intimidated by the Hoosiers. Still, they went 1-4 down the stretch in the regular season, and don't have the same momentum the Hoosiers do.
Not many people predicted Illinois to upset Iowa, especially with the way the Illini finished the regular season. But they pulled it off with a thrilling 68-66 win, and now must pull off another upset against Purdue.
Can the Fighting Illini do it again? While it would be surprising, Illinois beat Purdue by 14 on Jan. 10, so they clearly have a chance. In that game, Illinois got huge games from Kendrick Nunn (22 points, five rebounds) and Malcolm Hill (30 points, eight rebounds) while holding Purdue's star front court combo of A.J. Hammons and Caleb Swaningan to just 22 points combined.
If Illinois expects to beat Purdue a second time, it'll have to follow a similar formula. The Boilermakers have way more size than the Fighting Illini, and it's not easy to slow down Hammons, Swanigan and Isaac Haas on a regular basis. This game will be an interesting one.
The Buckeyes survived a hard-fought game Thursday against Penn State to earn the right to play the Spartans, who enter the tournament riding a six-game win streak. The last of those wins was a 91-76 victory over Ohio State in the regular season finale on March 5. With less than a week separating that game and this one, these teams will be very familiar with each other.
The Buckeyes still aren't a lock for the NCAA Tournament, so they'll be extremely motivated on Friday. But that might not be enough against arguably the conference's hottest team and Big Ten Player of the Year Denzel Valentine. You have to give Michigan State the edge in this one.
Not many people predicted Nebraska would knock off Wisconsin, especially after the Huskers lost five of their last six. But the pulled off the stunner and now face an extremely talented Maryland team that beat them by five on Feb. 4.
The Terrapins haven't exactly been playing their best ball lately, and enter the Tournament having gone 2-4 in their last six games. But with so many talented scorers (Melo Trimble, Jake Layman, Diamond Stone, ect.) on its roster, it's hard to pick against Maryland. But after yesterday, it's hard to know what to expect.