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March 5, 2013A look at the week that was for U-M's top competition in the race for the Big Ten crown
No. 2 Indiana: 25-4 (13-3)
A tumultuous week around the conference resulted in title confirmation for Indiana despite a surprising 77-73 loss to a struggling Minnesota team in Minneapolis Feb. 26. The Hoosiers bounced back with a 73-60 win over Iowa March 2 to earn at least a share of the program's 21st Big Ten title.
Guard Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the second time this season after averaging 14.5 points and 5.0 assists last week. Junior guard Victor Oladipo is fourth in the nation in field goal percentage (63.4 percent) and senior guard Jordan Hulls ranks third in the country in 3-point percentage (69.7 percent).
IU holds a two game lead in the standings with only two games remaining, but will have a target on its back when it hosts No. 14 Ohio State and travels to Ann Arbor to trade blows with No. 7 Michigan.
Indiana continues to lead the nation in scoring margin (20.1) and ranks second in the nation in points per game (81.9). With the conquest of the Hawkeyes, the Hoosiers became only the sixth team in program history to win 25 games in a single season.
"It certainly pales next to Calbert Cheaney's class that finished 105-27 from 1989-93. Or Dane Fife's class, which was 89-45 from 1998-2002.
"But the record doesn't show what Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and Derek Elston accomplished in four seasons.
"They are leaving IU basketball in infinitely better shape than they found it."
No. 10 Michigan State: 22-7 (11-5)
Despite six days of rest and preparation, Michigan State stumbled in the clutch for a third-consecutive game, this time in a 58-57 loss to in-state rival Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Atop the conference standings just weeks ago, the Spartans have dropped three consecutive-games - all to ranked foes - and conclude their turbulent midseason gauntlet at home against Wisconsin March 7. They now find themselves two games behind Indiana and in a four-team logjam in second place.
Junior guard Keith Appling's struggles continued, scoring just nine points and committing two costly turnovers down the stretch against the Wolverines. In his last three games, he is averaging just 6.0 points on 21.7 percent shooting.
Contrarily, both freshman guard Gary Harris (13.3 points, 2.5 rebounds) and junior big man Adreian Payne (10.1 points, 7.1rebounds) were once again potent offensively in the loss. Payne notched a double-double with 17 points and 12 boards in the game, and Harris added 16 points.
MSU caps its regular season March 10 in East Lansing against Northwestern in the first meeting between the two this season.
"The last time these players are interviewed in a locker room this season is just as likely to be at the Final Four in Atlanta as it is anywhere before it along the way.
"And Nix, Appling and Payne know that, as well."
No. 14 Ohio State: 21-7 (11-5)
The only top-five Big Ten team to escape the week unscathed, Ohio State moved into a second-place tie on the conference leaderboard.
The Buckeyes pulled away from Michigan State 68-60 in Columbus on the shoulders of junior guard Aaron Craft's career-best 21-point outburst Feb. 24 and devastated Northwestern 63-53 in Evanston to cap the week. With his seven rebounds against the Spartans, junior forward Deshaun Thomas (1,452 points/511 rebounds) became just the 25th player in program history to record 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.
Currently on a three-game winning streak, Thad Matta's Scarlet and Gray squads have enjoyed immense success late in the season. Since 2005, OSU is 45-12 in the month of March (.789) which ranks Matta fourth among active D1 coaches. This success will greatly be tested when the Buckeyes travel to Indiana March 5; IU dominated the previous matchup 81-68 in Columbus.
Ohio State concludes its regular season March 10 at home against Illinois, a team it was blown out by 74-55 earlier in the season.
"It's not an ideal situation for the No. 14 Buckeyes, but at least they will have something tangible to focus on in the cacophony."
No. 22 Wisconsin: 20-9 (11-5)
A listless Wisconsin side was trounced at home 69-56 by Purdue March 3; it was the worst home loss to an unranked foe in the Bo Ryan era, just the third time UW has dropped a contest to an unranked opponent at the Kohl Center in its last 71 tries, and the first time the Badgers have fallen on Senior Day under his tutelage.
The Badgers, who dominated Nebraska 77-46 earlier in the week, are still mathematically alive in the Big Ten race, but need to close out the season with road victories against Michigan State (March 7) and Penn State (March 10), and need two Indiana losses.
While still a likely lock for the NCAA tournament, a strong finish could still greatly improve Wisconsin's bracket stock - particularly a win over the third-ranked Spartans. The Badgers were out-slugged 49-47 by MSU in Madison Jan. 22.
"No two games are the same, but this one felt like UW's 72-65 loss to Iowa in last season's Big Ten home opener for the Badgers on Dec. 31, 2011.
Indiana: 25-4 (13-3)
Michigan: 24-5 (11-5)
Michigan State: 22-7 (11-5)
Ohio State: 21-7 (11-5)
Wisconsin: 20-9 (11-5)
Illinois: 21-9 (8-8)
Minnesota: 20-9 (8-8)
Iowa: 18-11 (7-9)
Purdue: 14-15 (7-9)
Nebraska: 13-16 (4-12)
Northwestern: 13-16 (4-12)
Penn State: 9-19 (1-14)
Big Ten Teams in the AP Top 25
Also receiving votes: Illinois, Minnesota
Big Ten Player of the Year Tracker