Big Ten Tournament Takeaways: Friday Afternoon

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 11th, 2016

The Big Ten Tournament’s afternoon session on Friday yielded two starkly different outcomes. In the opener, Michigan upset top-seeded Indiana in dramatic fashion, knocking down a three-pointer just before the buzzer to preserve its NCAA Tournament at-large hopes. The second game was far less dramatic, but perhaps a louder statement – Purdue throttled #12 seed Illinois, 89-58, in one of the more dominant quarterfinal matchups you will ever see. Here are four takeaways from this afternoon’s games.

Michigan reserve Kameron Chatman preserved the Wolverine's NCAA Tournament hopes on Friday (KIICHIRO SATO, NY Daily News)

Kameron Chatman preserved Michigan’s NCAA Tournament hopes on Friday. (KIICHIRO SATO, NY Daily News)

Indiana: Despite the massive, swarming fan base that filled Bankers Life Fieldhouse like a sea of crimson, Indiana was never able to go on one of its patented runs Friday afternoon. That, plus a high turnover rate and poor shooting from behind the arc (4-of-17 3FG), doomed the Big Ten champs. Tom Crean‘s bunch never went on a run of more than seven points, and was not able to take advantage of its fresh legs like the eighth-year head coach had hoped. “We weren’t as fast in the first half as we were in the second half, and that’s not how we play,” Crean said afterwards. While freshman OG Anunoby had another nice performance (13 points on 6-of-6 shooting), Yogi Ferrell – who seemed in utter command during the Hoosiers’ blowout win over Michigan in February – struggled to find nearly as many good looks against a much-improved Wolverines defense. Indiana’s own inability to cover Duncan Robison and Kameron Chatman on the game’s final two possessions ultimately sealed their fate. The good news? The Hoosiers should be a #3 seed when the NCAA Tournament bracket is published on Sunday, and will have plenty of time to rediscover the confident basketball that carried it through February.

Michigan: Yes, desperation seems to matter in college basketball. Little more than a month after surrendering a 25-0 run to Indiana and losing by 13 points, Michigan – desperately needing a victory in order to lock up an NCAA Tournament bid – never allowed the Hoosiers to break loose in front of its “home” crowd. The Wolverines were physical, consistently forcing turnovers, closing off the baseline and squelching every Indiana mini-surge. And despite shooting just 6-of-21 from behind the arc, John Beilein’s crew received key contributions from unlikely sources – including nine points from freshman forward Mortiz Wagner, 15 points from Muhammed-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and one, huge three-pointer from seldom-used sophomore Kameron Chatman. Another win tomorrow against #4 seed Purdue, and Michigan probably won’t even have to worry about playing in Dayton next week.

Purdue: After two-plus days of mayhem, Purdue restored order to the Big Ten Tournament by crushing Illinois on Friday afternoon, using its superior size and depth to bully the #12 seed on both ends of the floor. Big men AJ Hammons, Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan – all 21 feet of them – combined for 37 points (on 18-of-25 FG) and 23 rebounds, while the Boilermakers as a team shot a blistering 13-of-27 from behind the arc. Defensively, Matt Painter’s group held the Illini to sub-40 percent shooting from the field. Winners of four straight, Purdue suddenly looks like a team capable of not only winning this tournament, but perhaps pushing its way deep into March. The next step in that journey begins tomorrow against unlikely semifinalist Michigan.

Illinois: A day after shocking Iowa, Illinois simply did not have the guns – or the legs – to compete with a much fresher, bigger and deeper Purdue team. The Illini, who shut down nearly every Hawkeye other than Jarrod Uthoff or Peter Jok on Thursday, were overwhelmed by Purdue’s size on both ends of the court, resulting in too many one-and-done trips offensively and not enough stops defensively. By game’s end, even high-energy head coach John Groce appeared worn out: “Obviously, they were a buzzsaw today,” he said. It was a tough ending to another difficult season for Groce, but at least he can look forward to the vast majority of his roster returning in 2016-17.

Tommy Lemoine (250 Posts)

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