Indiana (5) and Kentucky (4) represent college basketball royalty. Both have long, storied traditions, and have been involved in some of college basketball's most memorable games. For the Big Ten, today was filled with Indiana-Kentucky, of course, but with only one team in action, it also provided an opportunity for reflection on the tournament thus far.
With that in mind, I'll share some Saturday thoughts about Indiana-Kentucky and the Big Ten in general.
1. Yogi Ferrell vs. Tyler Ulis was fun to watch.
In physical stature, they're similar, although Ferrell may be a little bigger. Both get to the rim with incredible quickness, and both can shoot. They're simply lightning with the basketball.
Ferrell and Ulis brought their 'A' games in yesterday's matchup. Statistically, Ulis won the battle (not that Yogi had a slouch game), but Ferrell obviously won the war (with Indiana prevailing 73-67). Ulis scored 27 points (on 10-of-20 shooting), and Ferrell had 18 points, five rebounds and four assists. Watching those two command their respective team's offenses was fun.
2. Indiana-Kentucky met our collective expectations, I think.
These two teams haven't played much in recent history. (The announcers lamented about that fact early in the game, and wished the two programs could settle their differences and meet regularly in the regular season.)
Anyway, not an all-timer, but both teams were evenly matched. Indiana led by as many as 10 points, and Kentucky as many as seven. The game was tied three times.
The Hoosiers proved the more balanced team. In addition to Ferrell, the Hoosiers had plenty of balance to support Ferrell. Thomas Bryant scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half, and Troy Williams finished with 13. Indiana's bench outscored Kentucky's 28-10, too.
Indiana's balance and depth bodes well for their long-term NCAA Tournament hopes. Already in the Sweet Sixteen, they can get (offensive and defensive) production from a number of sources, at various points in games. It makes them more dynamic and a tougher matchup.
3. Right or wrong, the Big Ten's 2016 tournament reputation is at stake tomorrow.
With Indiana winning, it's less pressing for the Big Ten, but this is still an annoying part of the NCAA Tournament each year. Experts make broad-sweeping judgments about one conference relative to another. And, it all hinges on how conferences play in the tournament.
Sure, the Big Ten didn't have a great opening two days. Michigan State, Purdue and Michigan were eliminated. Maryland, Iowa and Wisconsin didn't exactly win convincingly. (But style points rarely matter this time of year.) Indiana, though, beat a Kentucky team who many thought could make a deep run, and were under-seeded.
Tomorrow will determine whether the voices get louder or quieter as it relates to the Big Ten having a "down" season. But, it's frustrating when such a small sample is used to analyze an entire season of work. I guess that's just March.
Only Maryland is favored tomorrow, which means Wisconsin and Iowa can pick up highly-respected underdog victories. With the Hoosiers in the Sweet Sixteen, today was a good day for the Big Ten, and with three teams in action, tomorrow could be too.