The state’s two Big Ten schools could begin the offseason as soon as tonight, depending on how they fare in the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament.
Indiana (17-14, 7-11 Big Ten) has an outside chance at an NIT berth if the Hoosiers don’t win the conference tournament and the automatic NCAA tournament berth that goes with it.
Purdue (15-16, 5-13) isn’t going anywhere in the postseason without a conference tournament title.
The Hoosiers and coach Tom Crean will have to overcome some history to make a run in the Big Ten tournament. Crean is 2-5 in the tournament; only Penn State’s Patrick Chambers (0-2) has a worse record among active coaches.
The Boilermakers and coach Matt Painter will have to make history to advance. Since the Big Ten expanded to 12 schools with Nebraska joining in 2012, the No. 12 seeds are 0-2 in the tournament.
A look at the first-round matchups for IU and Purdue, plus the rest of the Big Ten tournament field:
No. 8 Indiana vs.
No. 9 Illinois, noon today
The Hoosiers and Illini split the season-series, with each team winning on its home floor.
IU’s win on Jan. 26 came in the midst of an eight-game losing streak for Illinois (18-13, 7-11), which prompted coach John Groce to bench senior starters Jon Ekey and Joseph Bertrand in favor of freshmen Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill.
“Kendrick Nunn, with more minutes, provides just a little bit more explosiveness to their game that creates things for other people,” Crean said. “The way he plays is he is a very, very high-energy type of player and a lot of similarities, in my mind, to Victor Oladipo. Kendrick’s offense is ahead of where Victor’s was at the same age. No question about it.”
The winner gets No. 1 seed Michigan (23-7, 15-3) in the first of Friday’s second-round games. The Hoosiers closed the regular season with a loss at Michigan, but Crean knows to not look too far ahead.
“If you look ahead to Day 2, you could be done on Day 1 and you don’t want any part of that,” Crean said. “You have to be so locked into what is in front of you.
“So everything for us is totally get ourselves better and get ready to play Illinois. Then, in the short turnaround like that, if you’re successful, then you are just looking at making sure that you go back and remind your guys of certain things. The most important thing is that you get better during the week, that your individual improvement is as strong as your team improvement. You stay focused with that and that you put everything into the team that you’re playing because that’s what the season is like. So I don’t think we’d get away from that at all no matter what time it is.”
No. 12 Purdue vs. No. 5 Ohio State, about 2:30 p.m.
The Boilermakers stumble into the Big Ten tournament with six straight losses and a 2-11 record since winning three straight in mid-January.
Painter took the blame for Purdue’s struggles after Sunday’s loss to Northwestern.
“It’s my job to get guys to play together,” he said. “It’s my job to get guys to play hard. It’s my job to get guys to play smart. And we don’t do any of those and so that is my fault. When you start off, people will always give you a break, but when you’re somewhere around nine years, they shouldn’t. They absolutely shouldn’t because it is my fault that we’re in position.”
The Buckeyes (23-8, 10-8) righted their ship somewhat with a 69-67 win over Michigan State in the regular-season finale. Ohio State has won five straight overall against Purdue.
The winner gets No. 4 seed Nebraska (19-11, 11-7) on Friday.
The first round concludes with No. 7 Minnesota (19-12, 8-10) against No. 10 Penn State (15-16, 6-12) at 6:30 p.m., followed by No. 6 Iowa (20-11, 9-9) vs. No. 11 Northwestern (13-18, 6-12).