Ranking the 10 Best Big Ten Tourney Games in Its History
The Big Ten regular season is complete.
Whoever is going to survive the gauntlet in the Big Ten Tournament will be more than ready for the NCAA tournament.
Every week it seemed like a significant Big Ten contest came down to the final possession. Most fittingly, the regular-season champion in the toughest conference was decided on the final day in the same fashion.
For Big Ten fans, they will have to stay entertained the next three nights by other conference tournament games until the Big Ten takes the stage in Chicago, on Thursday.
However, if that isn't good enough, here are the Top 10 games in Big Ten Tournament history.
10. 2011: No. 6 Penn State 36, No. 3 Wisconsin 33
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Did I say best games? I'm going to stretch that definition.
Call it good defense. Call it terrible offense. Okay, it was more terrible offense.
This was a game where no one could hit a shot and both teams were constantly settling for jumpers. According to Michael Marot of the Huffington Post, this was the lowest scoring game in Big Ten Tournament history.
However, even though this game drove you crazy, you had to know who was going to eventually grind out this tortuous, yet entertaining battle.
Speaking of battle, it was Talor Battle who couldn't buy a bucket for Penn State. He went 3-18 from the field and played all 40 minutes.
He made the first shot of the game from behind the arc just 12 seconds in, then didn't score a point until the 5:29 mark in the second half. Battle was the only one to take a shot for Penn State from that point forward, but his final six points was enough for the Nittany Lions to upset the 13th-ranked Badgers.
Not only was it amazing that the final score was this low, it's more shocking that both teams only combined for 12 turnovers.
Penn State went on to defeat No. 7 Michigan State in the semifinals, but lost to No. 1 Ohio State in the finals.
This run propelled the Nittany Lions to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2001.
For Wisconsin, who shot 2-21 from three-point range, the Badgers earned a No. 4 seed in the dance and advanced to the Sweet 16.
9. 2005: No. 7 Iowa 71, No. 2 Michigan State 69
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As a No. 2 seed Michigan State was poised to give No. 1 ranked Illinois a run if the Spartans could make it to the finals.
Iowa started off the season 12-1 in non-conference play, with its only loss coming in the finals of the Maui Invitational against eventual national champion, North Carolina.
Although, conference play was a struggle for the Hawkeyes, as they only managed a 7-9 record.
Nonetheless, the two teams went back and forth for most of the game, the Spartans led the Hawkeyes 58-55 with just under six minutes remaining.
Then Iowa went into attack mode, converting 10 of 15 free throws in the final stretch and took the lead.
Michigan State cut its deficit to one after a Shannon Brown three-pointer with 29.5 seconds left. The Spartans elected not to foul right away.
The Hawkeyes momentarily crumbled, turning the ball over and fouling Michigan State's best free-throw shooter, Alan Anderson.
Anderson, who was 87.7 percent from the line in the 2004-05 season, bricked both attempts and Jack Brownlee of the Hawkeyes secured the rebound and was fouled with 1.2 seconds left.
Brownlee missed the first, but made the second. Jeff Horner stole the Spartans' deep inbound pass to seal the victory.
Michigan State averaged 77.7 percent from the line that year, but was 15-30 against Iowa.
After this loss, Michigan State plummeted to a No. 5 seed for March Madness. However, the Spartans blitzed through the Austin Regional, including victories over Duke and Kentucky, making it to the Final Four.
Michigan State then lost to North Carolina.
Iowa lost to Wisconsin on a buzzer beater in the semifinals, but this win helped the Hawkeyes grab one of the last few at-large spots in the NCAA tournament.
8. 2008: No. 1 Wisconsin 65, No. 4 Michigan State 63
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Two Big Ten heavyweights were set to battle in the post. Wisconsin's Brian Butch, Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft squaring off against Michigan State's Raymar Morgan, Goran Suton and Drew Naymick.
However, the Badgers dominated the paint.
Wisconsin's three big men combined for 48 points and forced the three big men for the Spartans, plus Idong Ibok off the bench to foul out.
Wisconsin was also 26-37 from the free-throw line and out-reboudned Michigan State by eight.
Michigan State did most of its damage with its guards, Drew Neitzel and Kalin Lucas controlled the perimeter and combined for 44 points on 15-31 shooting.
The two teams were tied with under a minute to go.
Other than for a brief moment with four minutes to go in the first half, Wisconsin hadn't led all game.
With Lucas on the drive for Michigan State, Michael Flowers stole Lucas' pass and scored the layup to put the Badgers up two with 27.2 seconds remaining.
Lucas missed the following layup and the Spartans fouled Wisconsin's Jason Bohannon, an 86.7 percent free-throw shooter during the 2007-2008 season.
Remarkably, Bohannon missed both attempts, giving Michigan State one final chance. Neitzel took the ball down court and launched a three-pointer for the win, but it bounced off the back part of the rim.
Wisconsin went on to win the Big Ten title against Illinois. The Badgers received a No. 3 seed in the dance, but were upset by Davidson and Stephen Curry in the Sweet 16.
The Spartans earned a No. 5 seed and also made it to the Sweet 16, eventually losing to Memphis and Derrick Rose.
7. 2010: No. 1 Ohio State 88, No. 5 Illinois 81 2OT
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Evan Turner was the story of the 2010 Big Ten Tournament.
After knocking down an improbable buzzer-beater against Michigan in the quarterfinals, Turner went for 31 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in Ohio State's double-overtime victory in the semifinals.
Illinois had just come off beating 18th-ranked Wisconsin, but the Illini had still lost five of their last seven and were desperate for one more big win to get on the correct side of the bubble.
The Illini led 50-39 with 12:58 remaining in the game, but failed to score a point for over seven minutes and later trailed 59-50.
Illinois showed resiliency and took a 66-64 lead.
Turner then made a layup to tie the game. On the final possession, Illinois' Mike Davis made a layup, but didn't get the shot off in time.
Overtime was the same story.
Illinois was up two points with under a minute to go but Turner converted another tying basket and the Illini couldn't connect on the other end.
Ohio State went on to win in double overtime.
The Buckeyes crushed Minnesota 90-61 in the finals and went dancing as a No. 2 seed. However, Ohio State was upset by Tennessee in the Sweet 16.
With the loss, the Illini accepted an NIT bid and eventually fell to Dayton in the quarterfinals.
6. 2005: No. 3 Wisconsin 59, No. 7 Iowa 56
Wisconsin was trying to repeat as Big Ten Tournament champions. Iowa was trying to get one more quality win to ensure its birth to the dance.
The two teams only met once in the regular season, with the game taking place in Madison, Wis.
The Hawkeyes led by as much as 13 in the second half, but gave it back as the Badgers took the contest by three points.
In the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, Wisconsin primarily controlled the tempo with its slow pace. The Badgers led most of the game, although Iowa was always within striking distance.
Wisconsin led by two late, but after Iowa's Adam Haluska missed a three-pointer, Greg Brunner grabbed the offensive rebound and put it back in to tie the game with 3.7 seconds left.
After a pair of timeouts, Alando Tucker of Wisconsin took the ball down the court and banked in a three-pointer as time expired for the win.
With this victory, Wisconsin advanced to square off with top-ranked Illinois in the finals.
After coming up short in the finals, the Badgers received a No. 6 seed, advanced to the Elite Eight and lost to 2005 national champion, North Carolina.
Iowa's bench only took two shots the entire game and did not score.
The Hawkeyes earned a No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament, eventually losing to Cincinnati in the first round.
A buzzer-beater win for Wisconsin and a close loss for Iowa sounds very similar to the trends of their 2013 seasons.
5. 2010: No. 1 Ohio State 69, No. 8 Michigan 68
These two schools might have the best rivalry in college football.
Still, the Buckeyes applied a huge stinger to the Wolverines on the hardwood.
The 2009-10 season was perplexing for Michigan. Just one year prior, John Beilein got the Wolverines to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998 (1995 if you don't count the vacated wins, via Sports-Reference.com).
However, Michigan was 15-16 on the season coming into its quarterfinal matchup with Ohio State.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes were the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and seeking a No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament.
It was a slow start for Ohio State, but the Buckeyes went on a 16-2 run to close the first half and were up 10 at halftime.
The Wolverines responded and pushed the Buckeyes until Michigan finally took the lead on a Manny Harris bucket with 30 seconds remaining.
David Lighty of Ohio State responded with a jumper of his own to tie the game, but Harris went right back and drained another shot with 2.2 seconds on the clock.
Michigan put itself in perfect position to pull off the upset.
Then, for whatever reason, Beilein decided to not guard the inbound pass. On top of that, Turner had all the room in the world to work with, and splashed the buzzer-beater just inside the half-court line.
This was particularly painful for the Michigan fans.
Not only was this the Wolverines' 11th loss in 13 games to the Buckeyes (per ESPN Stats & Information), they also hadn't beaten Ohio State in football since 2003.
Luckily for the maize and blue faithful, it's much more balanced today.
4. 2002: No. 9 Iowa 62, No. 4 Indiana 60
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Iowa and Indiana started building one of the best basketball rivalries in Big Ten basketball.
The Hawkeyes, despite having a 5-10 Big Ten record, were trying to become back-to-back Big Ten Tournament champions under Steve Alford, one of Indiana's greatest scorers of all time.
Iowa defeated Indiana 63-61 in the 2001 Big Ten Tournament finals.
Not only that, there was Iowa's star player Luke Recker, a transfer from Indiana. The Hawkeyes were coming off an upset win over No. 1 seed Wisconsin, where Recker hit the game-winning shot with 1.4 seconds left.
Meanwhile, Mike Davis was in his second year as head coach with Indiana after taking over for the legendary Bob Knight. This Hoosiers team featured stars like Jared Jeffries and Tom Coverdale.
They had something special planned for March Madness.
Indiana led most of the game, but it was Recker who brought Iowa back for the win. Recker drained a three-pointer with 58 seconds left to tie the game. Then he nailed the buzzer-beater over Jeffries as time expired.
Iowa lost to Ohio State in the finals, but Recker's heroics did enough damage to get the Hawkeyes to the NIT.
Even though the Hoosiers couldn't get the win, they almost completed one of the greatest NCAA tournament runs.
As a No. 5 seed, Indiana advanced all the way to the national title game to face Maryland. The Terrapins were victorious, but with the exception of Butler in 2010 and 2011, the Hoosiers are only team seeded fifth or worse to make the title game since 2000.
3. 2001: No. 7 Penn State 65, No. 2 Michigan State 63
The defending national champions and a team that had only two NCAA tournament appearances since 1965.
The No. 3 team in the nation against a team on the bubble.
Michigan State had just punished Penn State 76-57 in State College two weeks prior. The Spartans had phenomenal players like Jason Richardson and Andre Hutson. They also had current NBA All-Star, Zach Randolph coming off the bench to bring them a spark in the post.
But that's why you play the game.
Penn State's Joe Crispin played a spectacular game and made the clutch shot.
It was a typical Big Ten game that involved physical play and tough rebounding. Every time it looked like Michigan State was going to extend the lead in the early part of the second half, Penn State would respond.
Eventually, lead changes were happening frequently down the stretch.
The Nittany Lions held a one-point advantage on the Spartans with under a minute to go. Then with the shot clock running down, Crispin was bumped as he went up for the shot, but still drained the dagger three-pointer to give Penn State a two-possession lead.
Penn State held on for the win and Crispin had a game-high 22 points.
The Nittany Lions earned their first NCAA tournament birth since 1996 with a No. 7 seed.
They made it to the Sweet 16, including a second-round upset over No. 2 seed North Carolina.
Michigan State still earned a No. 1 seed in the South Regional and advanced to the Final Four, eventually losing to Arizona.
2. 1999: No. 11 Illinois 79, No. 2 Ohio State 77
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The Big Ten Tournament's greatest upset.
Ohio State was loaded with talent, mainly highlighted by Scoonie Penn and Michael Redd. The Buckeyes had also won eight of their last nine.
Then there was Illinois.
Lon Kruger was in his third year after taking over for Lou Henson (won 423 games in 21 seasons according to BTN.com). Kruger led the Illini to the NCAA tournament in his first two seasons and tied for first in the Big Ten in the 1997-98 campaign.
However, the 1998-99 Illinois team finished the regular season with an atrocious 11-17 record, won only three Big Ten games and only had one senior.
Freshman guard Cory Bradford averaged 15.4 points per game, being the only player on his team to average in double figures.
Nonetheless, the Illini rallied around each other in Chicago, and Illinois stole the show of the 1999 Big Ten Tournament.
After upsetting No. 6 Minnesota and No. 3 Indiana in the first two rounds, Illinois stunned the heavily favored Buckeyes by two points in the semifinals.
Illinois' season ended when it lost to Michigan State in the finals.
However, this Illini team is the only No. 11 seed to make the finals of the Big Ten Tournament and the only to win a game, period.
Ohio State rebounded and made it to the Final Four as a No. 4 seed. Both the Buckeyes and Spartans lost in the Final Four.
1. 2008: No. 6 Minnesota 59, No. 3 Indiana 58
This is about as crazy of a finish you can find.
With Indiana's Eric Gordon at the free-throw line and the Hoosiers trailing by two with 3.4 seconds left, Gordon missed the first attempt.
Gordon then intentionally missed the second, and D.J. White came to the rescue with the putback to tie the game, plus the foul.
White, who dominated the game inside with 23 points and 13 rebounds, clanked the free throw, but Minnesota couldn't handle the rebound and Lawrence McKenzie fouled White after he grabbed his own miss.
White gave the Hoosiers a one-point lead by making one of two attempts with 1.5 seconds remaining.
After a timeout, the near impossible happened.
Travis Busch chucked the ball down the court, Blake Hoffarber came down with it in triple coverage and drained the shot on one foot for the win.
This was a spark for Minnesota in Tubby Smith's first season with the program. The Gophers lost in the first round of the NIT, but made the NCAA tournament the next two seasons.
For Indiana, this was the icing on the cake for a disappointing season.
The Hoosiers were No. 20 in the nation going into the Big Ten Tournament, but had recently lost head coach Kelvin Sampson due to recruiting violations and the two parties settled on a buyout (per ESPN.com).
This was the third loss for Indiana in four games. The Hoosiers then lost to Arkansas in the first round of the NCAA tournament.