ANN ARBOR, Mich. – It just felt right Sunday.
One of the wildest, most competitive Big Ten seasons in history crowned an outright champion in yet another wildly competitive game.
No. 2 Indiana defeated No. 7 Michigan 72-71 in the Crisler Center to give the Hoosiers their first outright league title since 1993 and deny three other teams a piece of the crown.
The Hoosiers (16-5, 14-4), who already had at least a share of the title entering Sunday, captured the crown by overcoming a five-point deficit in the final minute.
Every Big Ten game is tough and physical, and a lot of them come down to the last five minutes, said Indiana’s Cody Zeller, who had 25 points and 10 rebounds and scored the final six points against Michigan.
I guess you could say that is how the season has gone.
With Indiana’s victory over Michigan, the chances of four teams sharing the title went away.
The Hoosiers opened the door for having to share the title with possibly Michigan (25-6, 12-6), Michigan State and Ohio State when they lost to the Buckeyes at home Tuesday.
The No. 14 Buckeyes (23-7, 13-5), which defeated Illinois 68-65 in the afternoon, and No. 10 Michigan State (24-7, 13-5), which beat Northwestern 71-61 in the evening, did what they needed to do to share the title. But the Wolverines couldn’t hand the Hoosiers a third loss in four games on the season’s final day.
This really hurts, Michigan’s Trey Burke said. This was for a championship.
Now Big Ten players will turn their attention to different titles – the conference’s tournament championship and the national title.
Indiana is the No. 1 seed for the Big Ten tournament, which begins Thursday in Chicago. The Hoosiers will play at noon Friday against the winner of Thursday’s game between Illinois (21-11, 8-10) and Minnesota (20-11, 8-10).
The Hoosiers may not have a lot at stake in the conference tournament as they likely already sealed a No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament by winning the Big Ten.
I think you win this league, and it is the best league in the country, yeah, I would say so, IU coach Tom Crean said of securing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. I think so.
Michigan’s loss didn’t just cost it a share of the regular-season title, it also cost the Wolverines a first-round bye. Michigan is the No. 5 seed in the tournament and plays No. 12 Penn State (10-20, 2-16) in the second game Thursday. The winner of that game plays No. 4 Wisconsin (21-10, 12-6) on Friday.
Purdue (15-16, 8-10) is the No. 7 seed and will open tournament play at 5:30 p.m. Thursday against No. 10 Nebraska (14-17, 5-13) with the winner play No. 2 Ohio State on Friday.
The bracket rounds out with No. 6 Iowa (20-11, 9-9) playing No. 11 Northwestern (13-18, 4-14) in Thursday’s final game with the winner playing No. 3 Michigan State on Friday.