Big Ten tournament: What's on tap for Friday
The quarterfinal round of the Big Ten tournament features four games with NCAA tournament bubble implications. Here's a rundown of Friday's games:
Ohio State vs. Northwestern, noon: This game might not mean much for Ohio State, but for the Wildcats -- they of the 71-year NCAA tournament droubt -- this contest marks the next obstacle in their daunting challenge of having to win the Big Ten tournament in order to creep into the Field of 68. The last time these two teams played, Northwestern was without its leading scorer, forward John Shurna (concussion), and lost at home by one point, 58-57. Shurna scored just two points in 35 minutes during Northwestern's 75-65 win Thursday over Minnesota, and the Wildcats will need a much stronger effort from him Friday if they are to contend with an Ohio State frontcourt that includes uber-talented freshman Jared Sullinger.
Michigan vs. Illinois, 2:30 p.m.: Both of these teams are in at the moment, but both also could use another strong performance just to be sure. Michigan has won three of its last four games, but the Wolverines fell, 54-52, at Illinois on Feb. 16. Illinois is the lower seed in this matchup, but a win would do more to bolster Michigan's NCAA tournament resume. The Wolverines' two best wins since early December came against Michigan State, a bubble team in a more tenuous position than Michigan. The key individual battle in this game will be Illinois' Demetri McCamey against Michigan's Darius Morris.
Purdue vs. Michigan State, 6:30 p.m.: By squeaking past Iowa on Thursday night, Michigan State earned a win it absolutely had to have. The Spartans are on the right side of the bubble at the moment, but they are far from in the clear. A win over Purdue (No. 8 RPI in the nation) would lock up an at-large bid for Michigan State, but that task will be easier said than done. Purdue already has defeated the Spartans by double digits twice this season, including the 20-point loss the Boilermakers handed Michigan State on Feb. 27 at East Lansing. The Spartans certainly are not without talent; it's chemistry they frequently seem to lack. If coach Tom Izzo can get the Durrell Summers who played the final minutes of Michigan State's 66-61 win Thursday over Iowa to show up for the entire game against Purdue, the Spartans' chances of contending with JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore will improve significantly. Michigan State point guard Kalin Lucas sprained his ankle during last night's win, and his status will be critical to the Spartans' chances for success against Purdue, as well.
Wisconsin vs. Penn State, 9 p.m.: Even after defeating Indiana, 61-55, on Thursday, Penn State remains on the outside looking in when it comes to earning an NCAA tournament at-large berth. While a win over Wisconsin (No. 12 RPI in the nation) certainly would help Penn State's cause, the Nittany Lions may need at least to advance to Sunday's Big Ten tournament title game before they could feel secure about their NCAA tournament status. Heck, Penn State's chances might well hinge on whether it can win the Big Ten tournament and earn the conference's automatic berth. The Nittany Lions will need an improved performance from Taylor Battle (13 points, 3 fo 12 shooting vs. Indiana) against Wisconsin and its star guard, Jordan Taylor.
| March 11, 2011; 10:55 AM ET
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