The Big Ten had three games on the penultimate day of the 2019-’20 regular season and all had significant implications for the Big Ten Tournament and beyond. Wisconsin faced Indiana for a Big Ten title in the early game, Rutgers and Purdue faced off after that, and Northwestern hosted Penn State in the late game.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 24 Wisconsin Badgers 60, Indiana Hoosiers 56
When the Badgers fell to 5-5 after a loss to Rutgers in early December, there was panic in the air in Madison. Fans weren’t just pessimistic about the team’s chances to win in March, most thought it would be tough to get into the Big Dance at all. Wisconsin had been underwhelming through 10 games and looked destined for a lost year.
But after those early missteps, Wisconsin started building momentum. The Badgers blew out a decent Tennessee team on the road in December and took off from there. And on Saturday, Wisconsin entered Bloomington with a shot to win at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title. Indiana, meanwhile, was looking to boost its resume for what looks like another tricky Selection Sunday.
The game itself was highly competitive. Indiana controlled portions early, but faded down the stretch and Wisconsin was able to grab a 60-56 win, clinching a share of the Big Ten regular season title. The Badgers also now sit at 21-6 overall and will be hoping for some help on Sunday to get the one seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
On the other side, Indiana suffered another tough loss to the Badgers and one that could do some serious damage to the team’s resume. The Hoosiers are on the bubble in most projections and desperately needed another win. Indiana will now have to hope to get another win or two in the Big Ten Tournament.
-Northwestern Wildcats 80, No. 20 Penn State Nittany Lions 69
The Big Ten’s most surprising result of the day (and probably the last few weeks) took place in Evanston, as Northwestern pulled off an 80-69 upset of Penn State. It was Northwestern’s first Big Ten win over a team with a winning record this season and should provide the Wildcats some momentum heading into the Big Ten Tournament and offseason. Perhaps this could be the start of some magic next week.
For Penn State, this will be a throughly damaging loss. The Nittany Lions are playing really underwhelming basketball as of late and very well might drop a full seed line in the NCAA Tournament as a result of this defeat. The team will now prepare for the Big Ten Tournament having lost five of its last six games.
-Rutgers Scarlet Knights 71, Purdue Boilermakers 68 (OT)
What a game. While these teams have had some missteps so far this season, the final five minutes and the extra session of Saturday’s matchup between Purdue and Rutgers was an absolute slugfest. It felt like two teams playing great basketball delivering blows to one another. Both of these teams easily could have won this thing. Rutgers got just enough from Jacob Young to walk out with a victory.
Let’s be clear about this. Rutgers was on the right side of the bubble coming into this game and may very well have had enough wins to make it on Selection Sunday even without beating Purdue. With all that said, nobody felt certain. This game changes things. Rutgers is now virtually guaranteed to make the NCAA Tournament and snap the nation’s longest drought for a Power Five team. What a season for the Scarlet Knights and it’s not even over yet. Fans should get ready for two more weeks of great basketball.
For Purdue, this was a huge blow to the team’s at-large NCAA hopes. The Boilermakers are 16-15 overall and likely still in the mix for a bid, but the team is now really going to have to do something special in the Big Ten Tournament to even get back in the discussion. It’s probably going to take 18 or 19 wins to even get close, so we’re likely talking about an appearance in the semi-finals. That’s not going to be an easy task. Boilermaker fans will hope Matt Painter and his staff can make something magical happen.