Published Monday, February 11, 2013 at 9:06 pm / Updated at 9:11 pm
Barfknecht: League gone wild — in a positive way

Sometimes, when the basketball is as good as it has been in the Big Ten Conference this season, you’ve just got to stop and say “Wow!”

This league — in a sport criticized for playing a regular season that supposedly doesn’t matter — left fans gasping after last week’s upsets, turnarounds, half-court shots and double-overtime thrillers.

Five Big Ten teams now are in the Associated Press Top 20: No. 1 Indiana, No. 4 Michigan, No. 8 Michigan State, No. 13 Ohio State and No. 20 Wisconsin.

Also, four Big Ten individuals are being discussed as serious national player of the year candidates: Michigan point guard Trey Burke, Indiana guard Victor Oladipo, Indiana center Cody Zeller and Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas.

No wonder BTN just posted its highest one-month ratings since the network went on the air in 2007.

“The Big Ten is so crazy,” Illinois guard Brandon Paul said. “It’s tough anywhere you go.”

The Illini (17-8, 4-7) saved their NCAA tournament hopes by first upsetting No. 1 Indiana 74-72, scoring on an inbounds pass with ninth-tenths of a second left, and then toppling No. 18 Minnesota on the road 57-53 despite going without a field goal the first 9Ĺ minutes.

“We got two big wins,” first-year coach John Groce said, “but the most important thing was how we played.

“We played the right way. We played with some togetherness and toughness. We’re starting to trust our system, and I was really proud of the fight. We had to come from double-digit deficits in both games.”

Indiana (21-3, 9-2) hung on to the No. 1 ranking Monday because it shook off the Illinois loss to drill No. 10 Ohio State 81-68 on the road with three 20-point scorers — Oladipo 26, Zeller 24 and Christian Watford 20.

“Instead of carrying our disappointment into a ‘woe is me’ mentality,” IU coach Tom Crean said, “it triggered in us how to get better. There was a different level of sense of urgency.”

Michigan and Ohio State went to overtime before the Wolverines won 76-74. Tim Hardaway Jr. made five straight 3-pointers in the second half.

But the game that still had the league buzzing Monday was Wisconsin’s 65-62 overtime win Saturday over Michigan.

Hardaway hit a 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds left for a 60-57 lead. But Wisconsin guard Ben Brust sank a 45-footer at the buzzer to force overtime, then hit a 3 late in overtime for the clinching points.

“Ben Brust thinks he can make a shot even when he is outside the building,” Badgers coach Bo Ryan said.

The finish was so remarkable that Indiana’s Crean was still talking about it Monday.

“Tim Hardaway makes a big-time play with 2.4 seconds to go,” Crean said. “Then Ben Brust takes a shot from half-court that is challenged, but he shoots it like it’s going to go in. He doesn’t shoot a ‘hope’ shot. He doesn’t shoot a ‘wish’ shot. He shoots a jump shot.

“The execution that goes on in this league is really, really strong. You don’t see a lot of teams who aren’t well-prepared on how to win a game.”

By the way, that Wisconsin overtime thriller over Michigan? It came three days after the Badgers needed two overtimes to beat Iowa.

Catch your breath quickly.

The mayhem resumes Tuesday night when No. 4 Michigan plays at No. 8 Michigan State — the first time these rivals have met when both were in the Top 10.

Contact the writer:


Contact the writer: Lee Barfknecht    |   402-444-1024    |  

Lee Barfknecht has won nine national writing awards from four separate organizations, and is a 12-time winner of the Nebraska sportswriter of the year award. He covers Big Ten football and basketball, Nebraska basketball and other college financial issues for The World-Herald.

Read more related stories


< >
2013 college football preview
View our 2013 college football preview, a 26-page, three-part section filled with coverage of the Huskers, Big Ten conference and more.
Big Red Bowl Retrospective
See complete historical results, game recaps and photo coverage from the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football bowl game appearances, from the 1941 Rose Bowl up to today.
Big Ten football recruits
The World-Herald's Big Ten recruiting database contains every football recruit that signed with a Big Ten school from 2002 to 2011, complete with color-coded interactive map representations, player information, high-concentrations recruiting clusters and more.
Devaney Center timeline
Check out a World-Herald timeline to see the evolution of memorable moments at the Devaney Center, complete with photos, videos, memorable quotes and more.
Follow OWHbigred on Twitter
Looking for the latest Husker sports news from The Omaha World-Herald and Follow us on Twitter!
Husker scholarship distribution chart
Want to see how many scholarships NU has invested at each position? Wondering how the Huskers have appropriated their offers by class? Check out our handy chart to look further into how Bo Pelini has built his team.
Husker Signing Day 2013
The World-Herald's top-notch coverage of the Nebraska football's class of 2013, complete with videos, photos, articles, live recruit interviews, interactive components and more.
Husker turnovers: A slippery slope
Bo Pelini has coached 68 games at Nebraska. When NUís turnover margin is positive or even, the Huskers are 35-2. When they lose the turnover battle, theyíre 13-18. Why hasnít Nebraska joined the nationís elite? More than anything, itís turnovers.
Interactive: Bo Pelini's contract
View an interactive PDF of Pelini's revised contract signed by the NU football coach, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Darin Erstad's contract (2012)
View an interactive PDF of NU baseball coach Darin Erstad's contract released in August 2012, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Tim Miles' contract
View an interactive PDF of Tim Miles' contract signed by the Nebraska men's basketball coach on May 4, 2012, complete with brief legal explanations, comparisons to other Big Ten coaches and more.'s Big Ten coverage
Delivering the best news coverage and analysis of the Big Ten Conference, from and other top news outlets from around country.
Husker Recruiting: Changes shrink NU's sphere of influence
For decades, the Great Plains represented fertile recruiting ground for Tom Osborne's football program. Restoring that lost tradition won't be easy.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Shoreline Golf Club
$40 for 2 Players, 18 Holes of Golf with Cart ($85 Value)
Buy Now
< >