While many around the nation were huddled around their TVs to see what happened on “Super Tuesday” in the political calendar, the Big Ten had a Super Tuesday of its own on the hardwood. The league had three games and all were significant. Four ranked teams were in action and the two others were desperately trying to build their resumes for Selection Sunday in hopes of making the NCAA Tournament.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Rutgers Scarlet Knights 78, No. 9 Maryland Terrapins 67
When Rutgers beat Purdue at home on January 28th to improve to 16-5 overall and 7-3 in Big Ten play, it seemed inevitable that the Scarlet Knights would put together enough wins to not only make the NCAA Tournament, but do it comfortably. Unfortunately for fans, Rutgers then lost six of its next eight games, dropping all the way to 18-11 overall. It was a rude awakening for how quickly things can change in college basketball.
Still though, Rutgers had two regular season games remaining to get that elusive 19th win, which would undoubtedly put the team at least in the bubble discussion. The first of these two games would be on Tuesday night at home against a really tough Maryland squad.
On the other side, Maryland entered Tuesday’s matchup hoping to get back on track after a tough loss at home to Michigan State over the weekend. And much like Rutgers, Maryland had seen some of its overall hopes take a beating over recent weeks. The Terps seemed like a lock for the Big Ten title a few weeks back, but now needed to sweep the team’s final two games to grab the outright crown.
It set up a game with massive implications on the line.
Unfortunately for Terp fans, it wouldn’t be Maryland’s night. The Terps fell behind early and were never able to catch up thereafter. Jacob Young came up big for Rutgers, finishing with 17 points and four rebounds. Rutgers eventually scored a 78-67 win.
For Rutgers, this was arguably the team’s biggest win of the season. Not only because Maryland might be the best team it’s beaten all year, but also because the win very well may have pushed the Scarlet Knights onto the right side of the bubble. Even if Rutgers loses out from here, it’s going to have a decent shot to make the field. And for fans who have followed for the last few decades, that’s amazing news.
On the other side, Maryland dropped to 23-7 overall and 13-6 in Big Ten play with the loss. The Terps can still win the Big Ten title, but almost certainly need to close out the season with a win to get the job done. That game will come against Michigan at home on Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, Rutgers will hope to guarantee itself an NCAA berth with a win on Saturday on the road against Purdue.
-No. 16 Michigan State Spartans 79, No. 20 Penn State Nittany Lions 71
But for everything riding on the Maryland and Rutgers matchup, this would have been Game of the Night. Talk about a matchup. A ranked Michigan State going on the road to face a ranked Penn State game. Penn State was hoping to secure its Big Ten Tournament positioning and the Spartans were hoping to get revenge for the team’s loss earlier this season to the Nittany Lions.
Penn State dominated things early, but Michigan State came thundering back in the second half and was able to grab a 79-71 win when all was said and done. The win pushed the Spartans to 21-9 overall and to 13-6 in Big Ten play. Meanwhile, Penn State dropped to 21-9 overall and to 11-8 in conference play. Michigan State will hope to keep things rolling on Sunday at home against Ohio State. Penn State will try and bounce back on Saturday on the road against Northwestern.
-Purdue Boilermakers 77, No. 18 Iowa Hawkeyes 68
This game was a bit under the radar, but was also a significant one. Purdue was desperately looking to add another win to its resume, while Iowa hoped to secure its positioning for the postseason. Unfortunately for Hawkeye fans, Purdue came swinging out of the gates and was able to grab a 77-68 road win. It was a massive win for a Boilermaker squad that has struggled for much of the season away from home.
With the win, Purdue now sits at 16-14 overall and 9-10 in Big Ten play. The Boilermakers are almost certainly going to need at least two more wins to even get back into the NCAA Tournament bubble discussion. The team will hope to get the first such victory on Saturday at home against Rutgers. Meanwhile, Iowa will try and get back on track on Sunday on the road against a resurgent Illinois squad.