Saturday was quite a day for the Big Ten. The conference title was on the line and a number of ranked teams were in action. Michigan went on the road to face Indiana in the early game, Illinois and Wisconsin met in a ranked matchup afterward, and Minnesota and Nebraska battled in the late game.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 5 Illinois Fighting Illini 74, No. 23 Wisconsin Badgers 69
For the sixth time this season, Wisconsin faced off against one of the Big Ten’s elite in a marquee matchup. And unfortunately for Badger fans, the team is now 0-6 in those games. Fans knew it would be tough heading into tip, but with Ayo Dosunmu out due to injury, things looked far more hopeful. But 19 points from Kofi Cockburn was enough to push Illinois to the 74-69 win.
Illinois improved to 18-6 overall and 14-4 in Big Ten play with the win. The win also keeps the team alive in the Big Ten title race, even if only for a few more days. It’s hard to see Illinois winning the league title as it would require a perfect scenario of Illini wins and Michigan losses, but at least fans can keep hoping. The win also puts Illinois is great position for a one or two seed. Every road win like this goes a long way.
For Wisconsin, this is going to be a tough one to stomach. Illinois seemed to be ripe for an upset with Dosunmu’s absence, but the Badgers couldn’t take advantage. Wisconsin remains a quality team, it’s just clear it’s not on the same level as the conference’s elite tier. The Badgers now sit at 16-9 overall and 10-8 in Big Ten play.
Illinois will now prepare for a massive showdown with Michigan on the road on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Wisconsin will hope to rebound on the road against Purdue on Tuesday.
-No. 3 Michigan Wolverines 73, Indiana Hoosiers 57
Another game and another impressive win for Michigan. Some thought this could be a trap game for the Wolverines heading into tip with it being sandwiched between two top 10 opponents (Iowa and Illinois), but those fears proved to be unfounded as Michigan cruised to an easy win. The win marked the team’s seventh straight victory and pushed the Wolverines to 18-1 overall. Michigan is now just one win away from winning the Big Ten regular season title, which fans will hope the team gets on Tuesday at home against Illinois.
On the other side, Indiana fell to 12-12 overall and 7-10 with the loss. The Hoosiers are now projected outside the NCAA Tournament by most bracketologists and it’s easy to see why. Indiana has lost three straight, four of its last five games, and is reeling in any sense of the word. If Indiana is going to make the NCAAs, it’s going to need to get off the mat and do so quickly. We’ll see if the team can do that on Tuesday on the road against Michigan State.
-Nebraska Cornhuskers 78, Minnesota Golden Gophers 74
Well, this isn’t a result most saw coming. Minnesota entered the game as a decent favorite and desperately needed to take care of business against a struggling Husker squad to help its NCAA hopes. Instead, Minnesota came out flat and suffered its worst loss of the season. It was a crushing blow for Gopher fans and head coach Richard Pitino. For Nebraska, it was a great night in an otherwise lost season.
Whether Minnesota can recover from this remains to be seen, but it doesn’t seem likely. The Gophers have been nosediving for weeks and this just finished things off. The team is now solidly outside the NCAA field and probably can’t make up the lost ground without a few upsets. And that doesn’t seem likely, considering Minnesota’s lost five straight.
Minnesota will hope to get back on track on Wednesday on the road against Penn State while Nebraska gets Rutgers at home on Monday.