Big Ten tournament 2018: Scores, analysis, picks, latest from Madison Square Garden
CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander is on the scene at the Big Ten Tournament and is providing updates and insider analysis all weekend. Be sure to frequently check in for the latest news, highlights and discussion from Manhattan.
NEW YORK — Chris Holtmann would be fine with never seeing MSG in early March again.
Not only is Holtmann 0-4 in his career in conference tournament play at the World’s Most Famous Arena, but every single loss has come as a result of his team having a bye. Second-seeded Ohio State was knocked off, 69-68, by No. 7 Penn State after Tony Carr found Josh Reaves on this gorgeous play in the closing seconds of their Friday night quarterfinal.
Holtmann told CBS Sports afterward that, athletically, Penn State was a bad matchup for Ohio State — as has been the case all season. In fact, one NBA scout told Holtmann that PSU is the second most impressive team, physically, in the Big Ten. Ohio State has won many more games than originally expected this season for a few reasons, but its team’s athleticism is not high on the list. Against the Nittany Lions, Ohio State ran a stagnated offense around the perimeter and got beat on the offensive boards a lot.
“We did not have an answer for Carr,” Holtmann also said.
Carr had 25 points, six rebounds and five assists. He was tremendous, and a big counter for what was the strongest game in weeks for OSU’s Keita Bates-Diop.
Ohio State (24-8) now endures a long wait until its next game, in the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes likely fall to the 5 line. Holtmann told me he has already consulted with Brad Stevens about the prep for such a wait; Stevens dealt with this a few times back when Butler was in the Horizon League and had to wait almost two weeks before tipping in the NCAAs.
For Ohio State, the critical thing is not to rely on Keita Bates-Diop to bail out the entire team. The Big Ten Player of the Year had 25 points to match Carr, but a major factor in OSU’s loss was a rash of contested 3s late in the shot clock. Without imposing guards, Penn State won the body battle. Plus, Bates-Diop was stripped by Shep Garner on the possession before PSU took the lead. Guard play will be why OSU could struggle to make a deep run in the NCAAs.
As for Penn State, a few things to note:
- The Nittany Lions are 3-0 this season against Ohio State. The Buckeyes figure to be a 5 seed, a 6 at worst. So here’s a wonderment I have: How many times has a 5 seed or better ever lost three times in the same season to a team that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament?
- I’m not counting Penn State out yet, but it’s definitely not in the field as of Friday night/Saturday morning. Another win, and then the discussion can begin. Beating Purdue on Saturday afternoon would absolutely create a valid case for PSU, which is 3-7 in Quadrant 1 performance, 2-2 in Q2, and it has three losses total in Q3 and Q4.
- Carr massively helped his draft stock and overall reputation in recent months. His body language and on-floor demeanor have picked up. With this, Penn State’s become a viable threat in the league. Carr’s a fun talent — and he hasn’t scraped his ceiling.
Rutgers’ ride was a great bonus
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany rankled a lot of Big Ten traditionalists by opting to move the league’s tournament east. Last year it was in Washington, D.C. Now, New York. Rutgers is the only team local to the area, and even still, Piscataway is an hour’s commute from Manhattan. Nevertheless, things worked out splendidly for Delany, the Big Ten and Rutgers fans.
Scarlet Knight backers bought up a lot of tickets and were plenty loud on Thursday and Friday. Rutgers — remember, the 14 seed in this bracket — fell 82-75 to No. 2 Purdue.
“I love the crowd,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “I’m glad people came out. It was a tough weather night, too. So I think you’re getting a dose of what we can be at Rutgers. I’m so excited about the future. I really am. And we’re going to get better and better.”
By going 2-1 from the 14 line in this tournament, Rutgers fans are going to expect a bump next season in year No. 3 for Pikiell. Maybe not even a single-digit seed in the 2019 league tournament, but certainly 10th or 11th. Even that is progress.
Wisconsin’s streak is over
The first matchup of Friday at MSG was Michigan State-Wisconsin, with Sparty holding on, 63-60. The outcome dropped Wisconsin to 15-18, officially bringing an end to Bucky’s streak of 19 straight NCAA Tournament performances. It’s going to be weird to see an NCAA Tournament without Wisconsin in the field, but the fact this program has built itself into a near-automatic in the modern era — after being an also-ran for much of the 20th century, is worth pointing out.
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard, who has been with the program since 2001, had a great quote when asked to reflect on the accomplishment of 19 years and disappoint of 2018.
“We’ve never talked about a streak,” he said. “I don’t get caught up into streaks. I understand that. But how about admiring the great string that’s been put together? That’s pretty dang impressive. I think the next one, I know Michigan State has one, Kansas has one. Duke maybe has one. Gonzaga has one. Then I saw the next closest was seven years. After that, Iowa State and somebody else has, Cincinnati maybe that has it at seven years. How about applauding those 19 teams that were able to make it. I’ll tell you what, there’s a lot more that could go wrong than can go right. If you have injuries or have things happen at the wrong time to you, there’s a lot of teams would have — 400-some Division I teams and we’re only one of four or five that have strings this long.
“I think we reflect back and admire the coaches and the players and the tradition that’s been established and appreciate that. Because that’s pretty special. Nineteen years in a row is hard. And obviously there’s a few that — Michigan State has a string that’s going at 20 or something like that. But that’s hard to do. And our goal will be to try to get back there next year not where the idea that we’re going to start 19 in a row again. Let’s just do the best we can do to get ready for next year, try to win the Big Ten Championship and take that process-oriented approach.”
Going forward, Wisconsin could be a top-25 team come the preseason. Almost everyone is expected to come back. Ethan Happ, if he stays, will be a senior and probable All-America choice. Gard will have the pieces, and pressure, to get back to the NCAAs.
Nebraska almost certainly headed to the NIT
I spent some time one on one with Tim Miles after Nebraska’s 77-58 loss to Michigan on Friday. The Cornhuskers are probably a top-40 team in America. The problem is they definitely don’t have a top-40 resume, and against Michigan they didn’t put on a convincing performance in defeat. For a longer look at how Nebraska got to this point — some of it by things out of its control —
Michigan-Michigan State matchup a beauty
The Wolverines and Spartans have combined to win 20 straight games. Here’s a twist you probably haven’t heard enough about: Michigan is better on defense than it is on offense. That almost never happens with John Beilein teams.
In fact, this season marks the first time an NCAA Tournament-caliber Michigan team coached by Beilein has ranked higher on defense than on offense at KenPom.com. Michigan’s last seven wins have come by an average of 13.7 points. In the only game this season between MSU and U of M, Sparty lost on its home floor, 82-72. Saturday’s semifinal will tip at 2 p.m. ET on CBS.
Penn State-Purdue will tip at approximately 4:30 p.m. ET, also on CBS. The picks? Michigan State-Michigan has the potential to be a tremendous game. I will go with MSU 70-65. And with Purdue, I expect the Boilermakers to unexpectedly have less of an issue with Penn State that they did with Rutgers. Boilers win 77-66.
We’ll continue to provide updates, insight and interviews at CBSSports.com and on CBS Sports HQ.