Big Ten Game On: 02.21.12 EditionPosted by Ryan Terpstra on February 21st, 2012
It’s a big night for the second place teams in the Big Ten as both Ohio State and Michigan look to keep pace with conference leader Michigan State. It’s an equally big night for two teams that are desperately trying to make their way into the NCAA tournament as well. Game On!!!
Illinois at #8 Ohio State, 7 PM, ESPN/ESPN3
- The Buckeyes are smarting after recent losses to MSU and Michigan, and now is the time to gather themselves and bounce back. The Big Ten Conference title is still very much within their grasp if they can get back on the winning track en route to a showdown against the Spartans in East Lansing on March 4. However, they must figure out a way to use the talents of Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas, and William Buford properly. There is no question that OSU possesses plenty of talent, but mentally the Buckeyes need to find themselves. They were out-toughed by Michigan State and made too many mistakes against Michigan. Illinois is a team prone to making mistakes, and the Buckeyes need to take advantage. It won’t be easy, though, because if Bruce Weber has any inclinations on saving his job, he must finish the season strong and make the NCAA Tournament, and that includes beating Ohio State. The Illini have already done it once this season back on January 10, and even thought they’ve struggled mightily since then (1-8 in the following nine games), would it be ridiculous to suggest that Illinois is the team with the least pressure to win? Not much is expected of Brandon Paul and his crew, and they have to have confidence that they can upset a team that they’ve beaten once before just a little more than a month ago.
- Ah, the yearly bubble watch that is Northwestern basketball in mid-February. Wildcat fans know the drill. They have a nice squad, some decent wins, but just not enough to ensure their first-ever invite to the Big Dance. Well, here we are again. NU sits at 16-10 overall, 6-8 in the Big Ten, and here comes a highly-ranked Michigan team that could provide a resume-boosting victory. Northwestern has done this before, knocking off Michigan State in Evanston earlier this season. The program certainly needs a victory in the worst way, and the team wants to atone for blowing a double-digit lead in Ann Arbor en route to a 66-64 OT loss back on January 11. Look for John Shurna to come out firing, and make good on his 20 PPG average. For Michigan, they need this game as well, knowing that Michigan State and Ohio State will eventually clash, and the Wolverines are in great position to capture their first Big Ten title since 1986. But John Beilein’s crew must keep winning in order to accomplish that. Michigan had its worst shooting performance of their season in the previous Northwestern matchup, and will look for Jordan Morgan (11 points, 11 rebounds vs OSU) to continue his stretch of great play against the smallish Wildcat front line.