Big Ten “Other” Postseason Recap: Minnesota Pushes for a Trip to NYCPosted by Brendan Brody on March 25th, 2014
The Big Ten has three teams still playing in the Sweet Sixteen, and after Penn State’s loss to Siena on Monday night, it now has one team still alive to win one of the other three postseason tournaments. Here’s a brief rundown on what’s been going on with Illinois, Minnesota, and Penn State as they finished out their seasons in the NIT and the CBI over the course of the last week.
Illinois: The Illini got a raw deal in the fact that they had to play both of their NIT games on the road despite being a #2 seed. They started things out last week with an ugly win at Boston University, getting down 30-13 early but managing to go on a 53-32 run over the last 24 minutes to finish off a four-point win. Illinois shot 8-of-17 from three and were +12 on the boards in the victory. This did not carry over to Illinois’ second contest on Sunday against Clemson. In a defensive struggle, the Illini were outrebounded by seven and shot only 14 percent from behind the arc (3-of-21). Clemson is a strong defensive team, but this game summed up the Illinois season. They struggled to make any shots, didn’t have a good option on the low block, and despite forcing 15 turnovers, couldn’t close things out in the end in losing by one point, 50-49.
Minnesota: The Gophers, on the other hand, are still alive and kicking with a match-up Tuesday night against Southern Mississippi and a berth to the NIT semifinals in New York City on the line. Things have gone about as well as they could have gone so far for Richard Pitino’s team. Seniors like Maverick Ahanmisi and Austin Hollins are playing with an urgency befitting of players that don’t yet want their careers to end. Meanwhile, Joey King, Elliott Eliason, and Maurice Walker have all had a meaningful impact at various points during two wins over High Point and Saint Mary’s. Pitino’s first season at the helm has to considered a success, and the more the Gophers keep winning, the better things will look heading into 2014-15.
Penn State: Like Illinois, Penn State played one good game and one bad game in their first postseason foray since 2011. The Nittany Lions destroyed Hampton on the glass and got to the line 40 times in their first round win over the Pirates. They had 42 rebounds to Hampton’s 18 and got 25 minutes and 10 points from freshman Geno Thorpe. In Monday night’s second round game against Siena, they were flat. They missed countless layups and easy chances around the rim, ending up with a paltry 0.83 points per possession and 29.8 percent mark from the field for the game. While they have everyone back next season except for Tim Frazier, there are still going to be question marks facing this team. We know that D.J. Newbill will be one of the best players in the Big Ten, but unless Penn State develops another consistent scorer from the trio of Thorpe, Jon Johnson, and Graham Woodward, and unless Brandon Taylor, Ross Travis, or Donovon Jack take significant steps forward, this will still be a team expected to finish in the bottom half of the Big Ten.