Some perceive the Big Ten to play slow, methodical and physical. The conference, claim the naysayers, is a different breed of defensive basketball.
Thursday on the first day of the 2007 Big Ten Tournament, six teams did little to refute that argument including Michigan, 49-40 victors over Minnesota.
Michigan (21-11) is now looking for a bit of payback on Friday at Noon against top seed Ohio State (27-3), who defeated the Wolverines on Saturday in Ann Arbor. The Buckeyes scored the game's final 10 points for a 65-61 victory, diminishing Michigan's chances for an at-large invitation to the NCAA Tournament announced Sunday.
But the Wolverines now have a chance at redemption. With a win, Michigan could linger in final discussions for one of the very precious few spots that will be the subject of discussion this weekend by the selection committee.
Of course, Michigan has it's sights set on a Big Ten Tournament Championship, which would make the at-large talk a moot point. But first, Michigan must get through the No. 1-ranked team in the country to further improve an 8-8 conference resume. The Wolverines are also battling Illinois, a 66-60 winner against Penn State, Michigan State, who beat Northwestern 62-57 and Purdue for spots into the tournament.
The conference as a whole, which has come under major scrutiny for the low-scoring, physical contests, could still wind up with as many as 5-7 teams make the tournament with a perfect storm. Ohio State, Wisconsin and Indiana are considered locks and Michigan State is also likely on the inside. Purdue is gunning for a win Friday against Iowa, Michigan State will battle Wisconsin for the third time in two weeks and Indiana and Illinois will tangle Friday evening.
Saturday, Michigan held a 61-56 lead with 3:56 left against the Buckeyes and appeared to be on it's way to a signature victory. However, turnovers missed opportunities cost the Wolverines in the stretch run and Ohio State escaped for a fifth consecutive victory against Michigan.
Michigan placed just one player in double-figures Thursday - senior Dion Harris scored 14 for the Wolverines. Courtney Sims, who had 11 points against Ohio State Saturday, scored just 4 points but grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds. Harris had a game-high 19 points for Michigan last week.
Ohio State enters the game with 14 consecutive victories. The Buckeyes haven't lost since Jan. 9 in Madison against Wisconsin.
Today is the first time the two teams have met in the Big Ten Tournament since a 75-68 Ohio State victory in 2002. Ohio State also beat Michigan 87-69 as the No. 2-seed in the 1999 Big Ten Tournament.
The Buckeyes have entered the tournament as the No. 1-seed for the third time since the inception of postseason play for the conference in 1998. Ohio State and Illinois are tied for the lead with three times apiece. Wisconsin and Michigan State both have been the No. 1-seed twice each.
The winner of the Ohio State - Michigan game will play the winner of Purdue and Iowa. That will be televised on CBS at 1:40 PM eastern on Saturday.
While the Buckeyes have won the tournament just once in 10 years, the Wolverines are looking for the first two-game win streak in the Big Ten Tournament since winning it the first year in 1998.
What: Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals; No. 1 Ohio State (27-3) vs. No. 8 Michigan (21-11)
Where: United Center; Chicago, Ill.
When: Today, Noon
TV: ESPN (Brent Musberger and Steve Lavin)
PG Jerret Smith (6-3 Soph.) - 5.1 PPG, 3.4 APG
SG Dion Harris (6-4 Sr.) - 13.6 PPG, 38.9 percent FG
SF Lester Abram (6-6 Sr.) - 8.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG
PF Brent Petway (6-8 Sr.) - 6.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG
C Courtney Sims (6-11 Sr.) - 11.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG
PG Mike Conley (6-1 Fr.) - 10.1 PPG, 6.4 APG
SG Jamar Butler (6-2 Jr.) - 8.6 PPG, 39.9 percent FG
SF Ron Lewis (6-5 Sr.) - 11.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG
PF Ivan Harris (6-8 Sr.) - 8.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG
C Greg Oden (7-1 Fr.) - 15.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG