The 2022 Big Ten Tournament tipped off on Thursday with a loaded slate of action. We got a full NCAA bubble battle between Indiana and Michigan on and a few more potential upsets later in the afternoon and evening.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Indiana Hoosiers 74, Michigan Wolverines 69
Heading into tip, both sides desperately needed this one. Both were projected squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble and needed another win to solidify their respective positions. Michigan was thought to be in a slightly better position, but nothing was guaranteed with a loss. As such, emotions would be high.
The game itself would prove wild. Michigan absolutely dominated the first half and eventually got up as much as 17 points in the second half. Michigan’s guards were playing great in the lane and Hunter Dickinson was showing out. However, things flipped after that. Indiana’s defense stifled, Trayce Jackson-Davis stepped up, and Michigan kept turning over the ball. It eventually led to a 28-4 (!!!) run for the Hoosiers. Michigan had a plethora of chances to stop the comeback, but fell flat, allowing Indiana to grab the 74-69 win.
For Indiana, it’s hard to understate the significance of this one. It almost certainly pushes the Hoosiers on the right side of the NCAA bubble and should give the team some serious confidence heading into even more important games. That will begin with top seeded Illinois on Friday afternoon. Expect another physical game. Indiana lost its only regular season game against Illinois this season.
On the other side, Michigan fell to 17-14 overall with the loss and will now have to sweat it out on Selection Sunday. The loss was also rough enough to bring up to dreaded “choke” phrase, as it’s exactly what the Wolverines did here. Losing to Indiana would have been an acceptable result, as both teams were viewed pretty evenly heading into tip. However, once you get up 17 points, there’s really no excuse for losing. A team can’t outplay you at that point, you have to let them back in the game. And that’s what happened here. We’ll have to wait and see if Michigan will end up in the NCAA or NIT this weekend.
-No. 24 Iowa Hawkeyes 112, Northwestern Wildcats 76
This was about as impressive of a performance as you’ll ever see in the Big Ten Tournament. Iowa not only ran Northwestern off the court, but set the Big Ten Tournament’s all-time single game scoring record with an incredible 112 points. Keegan Murray led the way with 26 points, eight rebounds, and two assists. Iowa will now prepare for a game against Rutgers on Friday. Iowa lost its only game against the Scarlet Knights during the regular season.
For Northwestern, this will be the end of the road. The Wildcats finish the season at 15-16 overall and will miss the postseason yet again. What’s particularly disappointing about this finish is how well things began. The team started the season at 8-2 overall and got up to 36th on KenPom before falling apart in Big Ten play, with many of the losses coming by small margins. You have to wonder what might have happened if Northwestern had won some of those early games against teams like Michigan State, Penn State, and Maryland in January instead of losing all three by a few points. Perhaps things could have gone differently. Of course, we’ll never know.
-Michigan State Spartans 76, Maryland Terrapins 72
For the second game in a row, Michigan State faced off against Maryland and came out on top. The win pushed the Spartans to 21-11 overall and into a Friday matchup with Wisconsin. Max Christie led the way with 16 points, six rebounds, and two assists.
On the other side, Maryland fell to 15-17 overall with the loss. The team played decently, but was always a step or two behind the Spartans. The loss ends what’s been a thoroughly disappointing season for Terp fans. Despite solid preseason expectations, Maryland saw its head coach resign during non-conference play and the team finish below .500. The program will now look to hire its next head coach. We’ll have to wait and see who they select.
-Penn State Nittany Lions 71, Ohio State Buckeyes 68
Despite entering this game as a significant favorite and jumping out to an early lead, Ohio State fell apart in this one, allowing Penn State to grab a shocking 71-68 upset win. Jalen Pickett and Sam Sessoms led the way, finishing with 34 combined points. The win will push Penn State into a Friday night meeting with Purdue. The Nittany Lions lost their only regular season meeting against Purdue in January, though the game was competitive.
For Ohio State, this will be a tough one to stomach. The Buckeyes swept Penn State during the regular season and really needed this win after losing at home to Michigan on Sunday. And while Ohio State should make the Big Dance pretty comfortably, the team’s seeding is certainly going to suffer. The Buckeyes will also enter next week with little to no momentum. The team is just 1-4 over its last five games, 3-5 over its last eight games, and 6-7 over its last 13 games. Not exactly great stats for Buckeye fans.