There was only one upset yesterday at the Big Ten Tournament.
Unfortunately for Michigan’s title chances, it didn’t come in the final game of the opening round, as No. 6 seed Indiana – desperate to wrap-up an NCAA Tournament berth – smoked No. 11 seed Penn State, 77-49.
The lone upset of the day came when 10th-seeded Northwestern stunned No. 7 seed Minnesota, almost assuredly sending the Golden Gophers into the NIT. That means Michigan (10-6 Big Ten, 17-12 overall) will have to knock off Indiana and Illinois – teams the Wolverines are a combined 0-3 against this year – to reach the title game Sunday.
Step one starts tonight at 9:10 p.m. when the Wolverines try to avenge a 63-49 loss from Feb. 12 against Indiana (9-8, 19-11).
“There’s no tomorrow,” Michigan senior LaVell Blanchard said. “If we lose, then guess what happens? My career’s over at Michigan, so we’ve got to focus on this game.
“You want to end up on a great note as a senior. That’s one of the things that you always dream about is winning your last game. Even though it can’t be a national championship, it could be the Big Ten Tournament for us.”
In the 14-point loss to the Hoosiers last month, the Wolverines were completely stymied on offense, held to 18 first-half points and 37.5 percent shooting for the game.
Indiana used a predominantly small lineup against Michigan, starting three guards – Tom Coverdale, Bracey Wright and Marshall Strickland – as well as the undersized A.J. Moye. The unusual matchups helped the Hoosiers hold Blanchard and freshman Lester Abram to a combined 11 points on 4-of-2 shooting.
Yesterday in their win over Penn State, the Hoosiers also showed an ability to go big, often playing forward Jeff Newton and center George Leach at the same times. Newton finished with 21 points, while Leach chipped in 11 and three monster blocks. Indiana is a dangerous opponent that may still feel like it is in need of a win to clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament.