Big Ten Morning Five: 03.01.12 EditionPosted by Ryan Terpstra on March 1st, 2012
- This season for Northwestern, heartbreak seems as associated with the team as purple and white. The school has suffered four losses by two points or less after falling to Ohio State 75-73 last night. It was a win the Wildcats desperately needed, and down 13 points in the second half, it looked like one they would not get. But a furious rally, capped by a Alex Marcotullio three-pointer with 7.7 seconds remaining, gave the fans at Welsh-Ryan Arena hope. But then, Jared Sullinger banked in a shot on the other end with 3.3 seconds left, and once again, Northwestern came up a little short. The Wildcats still have an outside chance at an NCAA tournament berth, but they need to take care of business at Iowa and make some noise in the Big Ten Tournament. Opponents know that John Shurna and company will be coming into every game from now on with a must-win mentality.
- No Buckeye came up bigger in that win against Northwestern than Jared Sullinger, who tallied 22 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks in 37 minutes of play. Most of all, Sullinger has said he won’t worry about the way his play is officiated anymore. After admitting that Big Ten officials had been on his mind in a loss against Wisconsin, he only picked up three personal fouls against the Wildcats. He said the lack of mental focus had been affecting his game, and head coach Thad Matta has helped him pull out of that funk. His re-found aggressiveness couldn’t have come at a better time for Ohio State.
- There are more bubble teams than just Northwestern in the Big Ten, and Illinois has a chance to make some noise as they host #13 Michigan tonight. Bruce Weber’s seat is very hot right now in Champaign, but a late NCAA Tournament push would definitely help his case. It’s up to Weber to keep hope alive and push the right buttons for his Illini team to keep winning and finish strong enough to merit consideration to the Big Dance. For motivation, Weber has already played the tape of Illinois overcoming a 15-point defecit in four minutes to beat Arizona in the 2005 NCAA regional that sent his team to the Final Four.
- Indiana basketball has experienced a big surge this season under Tom Crean. The Hoosiers have beaten three top-five teams for the first time since 1975-76, and have beaten the #1 and #2-ranked teams in the same season for the first time in program history. Among Hoosier fans, the debate can begin: Was beating Kentucky or Michigan State the bigger victory? Many fans would be quick to say Kentucky, but if you dig deeper into the discussion, the history between IU and MSU makes it a much more interesting argument.
- After losing its first game on their home court this season to Purdue last Saturday, Michigan was thought to be on the outside looking in on the Big Ten race. After Michigan State’s loss to Indiana, though, the Wolverines still have a chance to share the title with their in-state rivals. While an outright championship is always nice, a chance to share a conference crown is certainly one the Wolverines will embrace. Michigan hasn’t hung a conference championship banner in 26 years, and for a fan base that has bemoaned seeing its banners removed from the rafters, it would be a good feeling to see John Beilein signal the return of Michigan hoops by raising a new one.