Parts of the first day of the Big Ten tournament lived up to its billing. Other parts didn't. But regardless, the bottom eight squads put on a decent show in the first round before some of the country's best get to work Friday.
The highlight of the day was a Brandon Paul buzzer-beater to keep Illinois on the good side of the bubble. Minnesota seems likely to stay in the NCAA Tournament despite the loss. Meanwhile, Iowa's win over Northwestern might have been good enough to keep them dancing, although they'll need another one to feel truly safe.
Here's a full look at Thursday's games:
No. 8 Illinois 51, No. 9 Minnesota 49
Paul was the hero here, with John Groce running an iso for his senior guard with the score knotted at 49. A few dribbles to the left, a fadeaway over two defenders — one of whom was esteemed shotblocker Trevor Mbakwe — and we had a game-winner as the clock expired.
The Illini started out well ahead, with the Gophers only scoring 16 points in the first half. But they responded, with Austin Hollins and Andre Hollins combining for 29 points, and from nowhere, Minnesota had a chance to win. But instead, D.J. Richardson drilled a three to tie the game at 49, Austin Hollins unnecessarily stepped on the sideline with 14 seconds left, and the final possession — and the game-winner — went to Paul.
No. 5 Michigan 83, No. 12 Penn State 66
It looked for a while like the Wolverines might once again fall to the Nittany Lions: Penn State entered their Feb. 27 game against Michigan with an 0-14 conference record, and pulled off one of the least-likely upsets in college basketball this season. And on Thursday, they got out to a hot start, leading 14-3 about five minutes in and entering the halftime break down just two.
It didn't pan out. Michigan busted out a 18-3 run shortly after the start of the second half, Trey Burke had 21 points — and three blocks—- and the Wolverines would lead by as many as 19 to move on to the quarterfinals.
No. 10 Nebraska 57, No. 7 Purdue 55
The Huskers got their first Big Ten Tournament win since joining the conference last year, although this wasn't a particularly memorable game. Both teams started out ice cold from beyond the arc, and it was just poor interior defense from Purdue that allowed Nebraska to get going. But they did: freshman Shavon Shields had 15 in the first half, and a 9-0 run to start the second half.
Purdue senior D.J. Byrd got hot when it counted, hitting two threes down the stretch to cut Nebraska's lead to one on two separate occasions, but the Boilermakers couldn't break through. After the teams traded missed free throw after missed free throw, Nebraska rebounded one of their missed free throws, and Purdue's attempts to tie on the other end both hit back iron.
No. 6 Iowa 73, No. 11 Northwestern 59
A badly injured Northwestern team was putrid from the field to start, going scoreless for over seven minutes while Iowa jumped out to an 11-0 lead. They'd grow that margin even after Iowa got on the score sheet, leading by as much as 18 in the first. The win cemented Iowa's spot on the bubble and ended Northwestern's year—and possibly Bill Carmody's career. Carmody has been the Wildcats' head coach since 2000.
Check out the updated bracket here.