The Big Ten had a loaded slate on Tuesday night with three games that all had NCAA Tournament implications. Purdue hosted Michigan State, Northwestern traveled to face Illinois, and Maryland hosted Nebraska.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Purdue Boilermakers 75, Michigan State Spartans 65
It feels weird to say Michigan State was expected to lose a game, but that’s where we are this year. The Spartans entered this game as significant underdogs and largely performed as expected, going down by double-digits to Purdue. Trevion Williams led the way for the Boilermakers, finishing with 28 points, six rebounds, and three assists.
Purdue improved to 14-8 overall, 9-6 in Big Ten play, and has now elevated itself near “lock” status for the NCAA Tournament, if it isn’t there already. The key game for the team’s postseason efforts will be on Saturday, when Purdue goes on the road to face Nebraska. Not necessarily because the game looks difficult on paper, but because a loss to the Huskers would be a huge blow to Purdue’s resume. Win there and fans should feel extraordinarily confident in the team’s NCAA hopes.
For Michigan State, this is likely the end of the line for any reasonable NCAA hopes. The program can still make the Big Dance, but it’s likely going to take winning the Big Ten Tournament or a something near a clean sweep of the team’s remaining games. And while we never rule out something in college basketball, neither of those scenarios seem likely right now. The Spartans are trending down and are 71st on KenPom. That doesn’t seem like a team capable of knocking off multiple top 10 teams in a few weeks. We’ll see, though.
Purdue will now prepare for Nebraska on the road on Saturday. Meanwhile, Michigan State will hope to bounce back with a key road win over Indiana on Saturday.
-No. 5 Illinois Fighting Illini 73, Northwestern Wildcats 66
After sweating out a tight win against Nebraska on Friday, Illini fans got to enjoy a more comfortable game on Tuesday, as Illinois cruised to a 73-66 over its in-state rival. Kofi Cockburn led the way with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Illinois improved to 15-5 overall and 11-3 in Big Ten with the win. Northwestern fell to 6-13 overall and 3-12 in Big Ten play.
Illinois will now hope to keep things rolling with Minnesota on the road on Saturday. Northwestern will try and snap its 12-game skid on Sunday against Wisconsin.
Husker fans were hoping last weekend’s magic would carry over to this game, but that wasn’t the case, as Maryland scored a convincing 64-50 win over the Huskers. The win pushed the Terps to 12-10 overall and 6-9 in Big Ten play, while the loss dropped Nebraska to 5-13 overall and 1-10 in Big Ten play.
This win won’t do a ton to boost Maryland’s NCAA hopes, but it did help the team avoid a bad loss. We’ll see if the Terps can do the same on Wednesday as these two teams will face off again in a bizarre back-to-back.