It was a thrilling weekend in the Big Ten, to say the least. Three games were decided by five points or fewer, including a monumental upset, and one more went to overtime. The other two matchups had two-possession margins in the final five minutes.
Here are The Catch and Shoot’s reactions to a great weekend of basketball:
—The story of the weekend in the Big Ten is Rutgers upsetting Wisconsin. Coming into conference play, there was talk that Wisconsin could run the table in the Big Ten and Rutgers could go winless, although both scenarios were highly unlikely.
Still, that is telling.
Rutgers took advantage of a short-handed Wisconsin squad that was without player of the year candidate Frank Kaminsky and shocked the No. 4/3 Badgers, 67-62. Wisconsin’s starting point guard, Traevon Jackson, also left mid-game with an injury.
Rutgers senior guard Myles Mack posted a game-high 21 points while junior forward Kadeem Jack recorded 20. Of their combined 41 points, 31 of them came in the second half. Talk about a veteran duo carrying a team on its back.
Afterwards, coach Eddie Jordan, who also played at Rutgers, was understandably emotional.
Andere is video of the Scarlet Knights’ postseason celebration:
What does this all mean for Rutgers? First of all, it puts the Rutgers in a tie for seventh place in the Big Ten and helps out a potential postseason résumé.
Looking more long term, this is the type of marquee victory that will help Rutgers on the recruiting trail as the program tries to bring in more Big Ten talent.
—Despite not getting an offensive rebound for almost all of regulation, Northwestern took Michigan State to overtime. The Spartans survived 84-77 in the extra period as the Wildcats’ offense stalled, but this was the best Northwestern has looked in Big Ten play.
The offense was gelling, and although Michigan State also lit up the scoreboard, many of its points came on difficult shots.
Here’s one surprising stat from this game. Of Northwestern guard Tre Demps‘ 17 points, 12 of them came in the final seven minutes of regulation. During that stretch, Demps shot 3-for-5 from the field and made four free throws.
Demps also had six assists, but only one dime in the final 24 minutes of the game.
—Nebraska’s win Sunday over Illinois could be a crucial outcome for both sides. The Cornhuskers still have plenty of work to do in terms of earning another NCAA Tournament bid, but with this victory they are now 2-0 against the Top 50 RPI. (The bad news is they have three sub-100 losses.)
Nebraska is now 10-6 and 2-2 in the Big Ten. Remember that last year the Cornhuskers were 8-8 and 0-4 in conference play before making their big run in late January/February.
Meanwhile, this was Illinois’ first truly “bad” loss of the year. The Illini needed to avoid sub-100 losses in Big Ten play because they entered Sunday 0-4 against teams between No. 51 and No. 100 in RPI.
Illinois still has plenty of good opportunities and may even still be a NCAA Tournament right now, but Wednesday’s game at Northwestern is starting to look like a must-win.
—As bad as Michigan was in non-conference play, the Wolverines have turned it around in the Big Ten. Michigan is now 3-1 in conference after holding off Minnesota.
The Wolverines’ schedule has not been tough, but that’s still good enough for a share of first place in the Big Ten.
—It seems like a given Ohio State will make the NCAA Tournament, but that is still up in the air. Right now, the Buckeyes are a bubble team because of their inability to beat good teams on the road. Most recently, they lost Saturday at Indiana, 69-66.
Ohio State is 1-2 against the Top 50 RPI, and the win was at home against struggling Illinois. The Buckeyes’ only win away from home is against Minnesota, which sits just outside the Top 100 RPI.
The Buckeyes are too talented to miss the field altogether, but they could easily find themselves with a double-digit seed in the Big Dance
Big Ten Power Rankings
3. Michigan State
5. Ohio State
14. Penn State