Indiana travels 50 miles north to Indianapolis on Thursday for the 2014 Big Ten tournament, where the 8th seeded Hoosiers will open opposite 9th seeded Illinois. The winner will advance to meet top seeded Michigan at 12 p.m. ET on Friday. The Fighting Illini are 18-13 overall and have won four of their last five games.
The game will be broadcast at 12 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network and on the IU radio network:
Ready or not, postseason play is here. And after an entertaining regular season in the Big Ten, the conference figures to take center stage of the college hoops world this weekend in Indianapolis. For the fourth straight season, the Big Ten is the top league in the country according to the KenPom rankings and while it may not have a national champion since 2000, the quality of the league from top to bottom is unmatched.
Indiana, of course, has fallen back into the bottom half of the league after winning it outright last season for the first time in 20 years. Most of the preseason prognostications slotted the Hoosiers as the fifth or sixth best team in the conference, but IU never managed to build the consistency needed to reach its full potential and finds itself in need of four wins to reach the NCAA tournament.
That all goes out the window tomorrow for teams like IU, Illinois, Purdue, Penn State, Northwestern and Minnesota, at least temporarily, as all 12 teams come together at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with an automatic NCAA tournament bid on the line. If the Hoosiers can make a run to Sunday and win it for the first time ever, it would be a surprising turn of events on an otherwise disappointing season. If not, the NIT awaits.
Indiana closes out the regular season with a trip to Michigan, which clinched its first outright Big Ten championship since 1986 on Tuesday with a relentless beatdown of Illinois in Champaign. The Wolverines are 22-7 overall, 15-3 in the conference and are ranked No. 12 in the latest Associated Press top 25 poll.
The game will be broadcast at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN and on the IU radio network:
As I wrote recently in the premium forum, Indiana’s up and down season can be summed up perfectly by this fact: The Hoosiers are 4-1 against Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio State and 2-4 against Penn State, Northwestern and Nebraska.
At their best, Indiana can play with anyone in the conference and at its worst, it can lose at home to Penn State and Northwestern. Chalk it up to youth, turnovers, poor shooting and offensive play, an inability to close out second half leads or a variety of other theories that have been tossed around throughout the season, but 30 games in, Indiana has been defined by inconsistency.
Saturday’s opponent Michigan, which Indiana has beaten four of its last five tries, will be looking to avenge its first conference loss back in early February and a painful home loss a season ago that cost the Wolverines (and two other teams) a shared Big Ten title with the Hoosiers. So while it may seem like there isn’t as much to play for on both sides after Michigan wrapped up the Big Ten title earlier in the week and the Hoosiers saw their at-large hopes fade away with Wednesday’s loss to Nebraska, the revenge factor could certainly be prevalent.
Indiana finishes off its home schedule on Wednesday when it welcomes Nebraska to Assembly Hall on senior night. The Cornhuskers, who are 17-11 overall and 9-7 in the Big Ten, won the first meeting between the two teams, 60-55, on Jan. 30 in Lincoln.
The game will be broadcast on BTN at 7 p.m. ET and on the IU radio network (Sirius 92, XM 190):
Senior night at Indiana is always one of the most anticipated games of the season, regardless of the opponent. Schools across the country handle the honoring of their senior classes differently, but it’s hard to argue that any tradition is better than what takes place in Bloomington. Win or lose, fans stick around almost unanimously to listen to the coach’s postgame comments as well as those of the graduating class, who are joined on Branch McCracken Court by their families.
The night, obviously, is largely defined by the senior speeches which are always filled with a wide range of emotions. The proceedings last March were especially captivating given what Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and Derek Elston went through over their four years in Bloomington. There were smiles and there were tears as those three addressed the Assembly Hall faithful and much of the same is expected on Wednesday when IU honors Will Sheehey, Taylor Wayer, Jeff Howard and Evan Gordon.
But what can’t be lost in the emotion of a big evening for the program is the fact that there’s a significant game to be played before the ceremony takes center stage. Nebraska, much like Indiana, is fighting for its NCAA tournament life and this game represents a major opportunity for both teams to inch closer to 20 wins.
Indiana returns to Branch McCracken Court at Assembly Hall on Sunday afternoon for the second contest in a three-game home stand. The Hoosiers will welcome No. 22 Ohio State, which is coming off a loss at Penn State, to Bloomington. The Buckeyes are 22-7 overall and 9-7 in the Big Ten.
The game will be broadcast on CBS at 4 p.m. ET and on the IU radio network (Sirius 91, XM 91).
Despite its setback on Thursday in State College, Ohio State has been one of the conference’s top teams after a disappointing to start to league play. The Buckeyes went unbeaten in the non-conference, but lost five of its first eight Big Ten games.
A loss to Penn State in Columbus on Jan. 29, however, was backed up by road wins over Wisconsin and Iowa, which got the Buckeyes rolling again. They’re now 6-2 over their last eight games, with the only setbacks in that stretch coming at home against conference-leading Michigan and the loss Thursday at the Bryce Jordan Center.
This won’t go down as one of Thad Matta’s best teams, but it’s still elite defensively and good enough to win in March because of its experienced core of players that includes two seniors in the backcourt.
So what’s on the line for each team on Sunday? Indiana obviously needs any win it can get with just three to go in the regular season and Ohio State is still fighting for a Big Ten tournament bye and NCAA tournament seeding. The stakes certainly aren’t as high as last March when the Buckeyes spoiled senior night in Bloomington, but a late-season CBS game should still produce quite the atmosphere.
The Hawkeyes traveled to Bloomington last Monday, Feb. 17 for their game with the Hoosiers that was scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 18, only to have it called off after a beam fell into the seats in Assembly Hall.
So Iowa went back to Iowa City on Tuesday night and prepared for a home game against Wisconsin, which it lost, and then went on the road to Minneapolis on Tuesday night and lost again. And with those setbacks, any talk of the Hawkeyes as a member of the conference title race has dissipated.
For Indiana, this is the second of a three-game stretch against ranked teams and the first of three straight contests at home. This is the type of game Indiana has played its best in over the past few seasons: Big stage, ranked opponent and what should be a lively home atmosphere. Will the Hoosiers deal the Hawkeyes their third straight loss?
Indiana begins a stretch of three straight games against ranked opponents with a meeting against Wisconsin tonight at the Kohl Center in Madison. The Badgers have won five straight games, including back-to-back road wins at Michigan and Iowa.
The game will be broadcast on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET and on the IU radio network:
If we’ve learned anything about Wisconsin in the Bo Ryan era, it’s to never count the Badgers out in the Big Ten race.
After a 75-72 loss in Bloomington on Jan. 18 sent Wisconsin into a tailspin that included five losses in six games, Ryan has his team right back in the thick of the conference race. At 9-5 in league play and 22-5 overall, Wisconsin might have the most impressive NCAA tournament resume of any Big Ten team.
Among their conference wins: at Michigan, at Iowa and Michigan State and Iowa at home. The non-conference work is impressive as well as the Badgers beat Florida, Virginia and Saint Louis before the start of league play.
More importantly, Wisconsin seems to be playing its best basketball as the beginning of March quickly approaches. Their remaining schedule is favorable with Indiana and Purdue at home and Penn State and Nebraska on the road. While Michigan is the clear cut favorite to win the Big Ten regular season crown, a second place finish appears clearly within reach for Wisconsin. And given where things stood less than a month ago following consecutive home losses to Northwestern and Ohio State, it’s been an impressive turnaround.
After an unexpected postponement of Tuesday’s game with Iowa at Assembly Hall, Indiana travels to Evanston to meet Northwestern on Saturday for the second contest in what is now a three-game road trip. The Wildcats are 12-15 overall and 5-9 in Big Ten play.
The game will be broadcast on BTN at 8:15 p.m. ET and on the IU radio network:
It’s been one of the more bizarre and turbulent 10-day stretches in IU basketball history.
Whether the first three game losing streak of season continues beyond Saturday is to be determined, but let’s quickly recap the news of the past ten days.
First, IU couldn’t finish off Penn State at home after leading by double digits with less than three minutes to play. Then, sophomore forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea was arrested and charged with two misdemeanors. The Hoosiers followed the Penn State game with a blowout loss to rival Purdue, their worst of the season. And then, and this is where the bizarre part comes in, Tuesday’s game with Iowa had to be postponed after seats were damaged in Assembly Hall from a piece of metal that fell from the ceiling.
Naturally, this brings up the question: What’s next?
With a week off following the Purdue loss, Indiana heads to Welsh Ryan Arena, the most road friendly environment in the Big Ten for the Hoosiers because of a strong alumni presence in the area. This is IU’s best remaining chance for a conference road win, but what happens next is anybody’s guess.