The Big Ten Tournament starts Wednesday in Washington. Here's a look at the day's games.
No. 12 Nebraska vs. No. 13 Penn State
3:30 p.m. CT, ESPN 2
Both teams finished the regular season in a bad way. The Huskers ended with four straight losses — including a 36-point mauling in the regular-season finale against Michigan — and have won just three games since starting Big Ten play 3-0. The Nittany Lions haven't fared much better, currently on a five-game losing streak with just three wins since starting conference play 3-2. So is this a battle of losers? Technically, perhaps, but these teams have consistently played opponents close all season. Penn State has beaten Maryland, Minnesota and Michigan State, while Nebraska has wins over Maryland, Iowa and Purdue. The winner gets Michigan State on Thursday.
Look for Tai Webster and Tony Carr to be the key figures. Webster, Nebraska's All-Big Ten Second Team guard, is the conference's third-best scorer, averaging 17.2 points per game. Sunday's loss to Michigan was the first game all season in which he failed to score in double figures. Webster also ranks in the top 10 in the league in assists and steals. Carr, meanwhile, is part of a promising future for the Lions. The Penn State freshman made the conference's All-Freshman Team after averaging 13.2 points per game, ranking in the top 10 assists and being one of just two freshman to rank in the top 10 in the league in minutes played.
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No. 11 Ohio State vs. No. 14 Rutgers
6 p.m. CT, Big Ten Network
This one would seem to be a bit one-sided, what with the Buckeyes being the Buckeyes and the Scarlet Knights being the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers was the Big Ten's worst team this season with just three conference wins, making it the underdog even in Ohio State's worst season since Thad Matta took over as head coach. But close games have been a hallmark for both these teams this season. The Buckeyes lost six Big Ten games by six points or fewer, while the Knights lost seven conference games by single digits. And both teams played in thrilling regular-season finales, Ohio State losing by just four points after erasing an 18-point deficit against Indiana, and Rutgers getting a last-second game-winner to upset Illinois. The winner gets Northwestern on Thursday night.
Corey Sanders is Rutgers' leading scorer with 13 points a game, an average good for top 20 in the Big Ten, where he also ranks in the top 15 in assists and the top 10 in steals. But he's been especially good during conference play, averaging 14.7 points per game with three 20-point performances, good enough to place him 11th in the league in conference-only scoring. A trio of scorers gets it done for Ohio State: Jae'Sean Tate, Marc Loving and JaQuan Lyle. All three ranked in the top 26 in the league in scoring during conference play. But Tate stands out, also averaging 6.4 rebounds a game, 2.0 assists a game and 1.1 steals a game in addition to his 14.2 points per game.