The Big Ten had a loaded slate to close things out on Sunday, including a variety of ranked teams in action at home and on the road. A share of the league title was also on the line for Illinois, just needing a Wisconsin loss and a win to get there.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Nebraska Cornhuskers 74, No. 10 Wisconsin Badgers 73
If you had put this game on the docket a few weeks ago, I’m not sure Nebraska’s own players would have picked the Huskers to win the game. Wisconsin was rolling and Nebraska was amid one of its worst seasons in recent history. However, things had changed considerably since then. The Huskers were showing improved play while Wisconsin had little on the line, having already locked up the Big Ten title earlier in the week. It would be up to Wisconsin to take care of business on Senior Day.
Unfortunately for Badger fans, that wouldn’t be the case.
Nebraska not only won the game, but controlled much of the afternoon as well. In fact, Wisconsin needed some lucky bounces to even get it as close as it was in the final minutes. the Huskers absolutely outplayed the Badgers and deserved the win. Alonzo Verge led the way with 26 points, six assists, and five rebounds. Derrick Walker also had 15 points.
Obviously, this was a huge win for the Huskers. While it won’t change the team’s projections for the season, it will give fans something to remember fondly from the year. It also gives the program some real momentum heading into the Big Ten Tournament and beyond. In particular, you wonder if the success of the last few weeks could be the breakthrough the program has so desperately needed under Fred Hoiberg. We’ll have to wait and see, but this feels like the first positivity in Lincoln since Hoiberg was hired. And that’s a good sign.
On the other side, this is certainly going to be a tough one for Badger fans to stomach. The loss not only cost Wisconsin an outright Big Ten title, but it also cost the team the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament and potentially a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. That’s a massive blow for a game that looked incredibly winnable. Fans will hope this isn’t a sign of things to come, because it’s certainly damaging right now.
Nebraska will now enter the Big Ten Tournament as the 13 seed and face Northwestern on Wednesday. Wisconsin will be the two and will face either Maryland or Michigan State on Friday.
-No. 20 Illinois Fighting Illini 74, No. 24 Iowa Hawkeyes 72
Both these teams entered with momentum and some real things on the line. Illinois had won two straight, including a tough road win in Ann Arbor, and Iowa entered having won five in a row and eight of the team’s last nine games. A win would give Illinois a share of the Big Ten title.
The game would ultimately go down to the wire. Iowa controlled large portions of the second half, but Illinois got enough from Kofi Cockburn to squeeze out a win in the closing minutes. The big man finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Fans then got to witness the court storm to celebrate Illinois’ Big Ten title:
Got to watch Illinois clinch a share of the big ten title and storm the court in my last game as part of the orange Krush. Honestly a dream come true pic.twitter.com/819aSXeAS7— Max Claypool (@MadMaxClaypool) March 7, 2022
Illinois will now enter the Big Ten Tournament as the top seed and will tip off against either Indiana or Michigan on Friday afternoon. Iowa fell to the five seed and will face the winner of Nebraska and Northwestern on Thursday.
-Michigan Wolverines 75, No. 23 Ohio State Buckeyes 69
Despite playing this one short-handed (Hunter Dickinson was out with illness), Michigan was able to come out of Columbus with a win. It was an impressive outing for the Wolverines, led largely by point guard DeVante’ Jones, who finished with 21 points and nine assists. Michigan improved to 17-13 overall and 11-9 in Big Ten play with the win while Ohio State fell to 19-10 overall and 12-8 in Big Ten play with the loss.
The win not only helped Michigan’s Big Ten Tournament seeding, but it also likely pushed the Wolverines into the NCAA field. The Wolverines have needed a road win like this for a few weeks and finally broke through here. Fans will hope that can continue in the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan will be the eight seed and will open with Indiana on Thursday. Ohio State will be the six seed and will face either Minnesota or Penn State on Thursday night.
-Northwestern Wildcats 75, Minnesota Golden Gophers 62
While this was a quiet game nationally, it was an important one for both sides. Northwestern was eventually able to score an easy double-digit win. Pete Nance led the way with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Northwestern will now enter the Big Ten Tournament as the 12 seed, facing off against Nebraska on Wednesday. Minnesota will be the 14 seed and will get Penn State on Wednesday night.
Like Michigan, this was a game Rutgers desperately needed for its NCAA hopes. Fortunately for Scarlet Knight fans, the team found a way to get it done, scoring a narrow 59-58 win at home over Penn State. Ron Harper led the way with 15 points and four rebounds. The win pushed Rutgers to 18-12 overall, 12-8 in Big Ten play, and the on the verge of its second straight NCAA Tournament. Penn State fell to 12-16 overall and 7-13 in Big Ten play.
Rutgers will now enter the Big Ten Tournament as the four seed and will face either Iowa, Nebraska, or Northwestern on Friday. Penn State will be the 11 seed and will get Minnesota on Wednesday.