The Big Ten Tournament continues Thursday in Washington. Here's a look at the day's games. All times are Central.
No. 8 Michigan vs. No. 9 Illinois
11 a.m., Big Ten Network
What was an intriguing matchup between a hot Michigan team and an Illinois team trying to get on the right side of the NCAA tournament bubble is now all about the Wolverines' terrifying plane situation on Wednesday. High winds caused Michigan's plane to abort takeoff and slide off the runway, stranding the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. Fortunately no one was hurt, but it all means that Michigan won't arrive in Washington until around 6:30 a.m., just four and a half hours before tipoff of the 11 a.m. bout with Illinois. What effect that will have on the Wolverines remains to be seen, but perhaps more interesting is what effect a potentially jetlagged opponent will have on the Illini. Can John Groce's team take advantage of the situation and score a win that could get it into the Big Dance? Or will this whole deal have no effect at all, leaving an Illinois team that most recently lost to Rutgers still up against a team that won its regular-season finale by 36?
No. 5 Michigan State vs. No. 13 Penn State
1:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
Penn State's already beaten Michigan State once this season. Can it make it two in a row? Certainly the Nittany Lions benefited from Nebraska's woeful shooting on Wednesday night. Even the Huskers' all-conference guard Tai Webster accounted for just 12 points and fouled out. But the overtime win showed some resilience in this Penn State team as well as an impressive weapon. Big man Mike Watkins was outstanding with 18 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks, the last number a Big Ten Tournament single-game record. The Spartans are the obvious favorite with Big Ten Freshman of the Year Miles Bridges and Big Ten All-Freshman Team snub Nick Ward. But Ward wasn't a snub because of his defense, which Tom Izzo admits isn't the best. What if Watkins goes off for a second straight day? Will it be the upset at The Palestra all over again?
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No. 7 Iowa vs. No. 10 Indiana
5:30 p.m., ESPN 2
This one would seem to be an easy pick, as Iowa is as hot as anyone riding a four-game winning streak into the Big Ten Tournament and Indiana is fresh off dropping eight of its last 11 regular-season games. But you kind of have to throw everything out the window with a matchup between these two because they are the two of the three best scoring-offense teams in the conference and the two worst scoring-defense teams in the conference. Iowa averages 80.2 points per game but allows 77.1 points per game. Indiana averages 80.4 points per game but allows 73.3 points per game. The last time these two got together, the Hawkeyes won by a 96-90 score in overtime. The Hoosiers might get another game like the one they just played, a 96-92 win over Ohio State in which they led by as many as 18 before blowing that lead completely and squeaking out a win.
No. 6 Northwestern vs. No. 14 Rutgers
8 p.m., ESPN 2
Rutgers surprised with a landmark win over Ohio State on Wednesday night, and the Scarlet Knights looked all right doing it, dominating the boards and turning 19 offensive rebounds into 22 second-chance points. Their shooting numbers were still pretty ugly, but that's OK because Northwestern doesn't rely on offense to get the job done, either. Now, the Wildcats certainly could put on an offensive show if Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey can solve their shooting struggles and help Bryant McIntosh out. But an offensive show doesn't seem to be in the cards considering these two teams both scored in the 60s in both of their prior matchups this season. The Cats have been one of the Big Ten's best defensive teams this season, second in the league in scoring defense (64.9 points a game) and in field-goal percentage defense (39.8 percent). But as Rutgers showed Wednesday, it doesn't need to shoot well to win. The Knights are the conference's best offensive-rebounding team, while the Cats rank 11th out of 14 in rebounding margin.