3:30 PM ET, March 13, 2011
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
With a No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament nearly certain, perhaps the biggest motivation for Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament championship game is making one more case to be the top overall seed.Not having to sweat out the selection show is all the incentive Penn State needs.The top-ranked Buckeyes try to make it back-to-back Big Ten titles Sunday in Indianapolis by continuing their dominance of the Nittany Lions, who can wrap up their first NCAA berth in a decade with their first conference tournament crown.Ohio State (31-2) rolled into Conseco Fieldhouse having won four straight games by an average of 21.2 points, including a 93-65 walloping of then-No. 10 Wisconsin a week ago.The Buckeyes got a scare in Friday's quarterfinals before edging Northwestern 67-61, but had an easier time Saturday against Michigan. Ohio State led by 18 late in the second half, then held off a Wolverines run to win 68-61 and advance to its third straight Big Ten championship game.Coach Thad Matta's team should have a No. 1 seed locked up in the NCAA tournament, and Big 12 champion Kansas appears to be the only other candidate for the tournament's top overall slot. Matta, though, thinks his players will find plenty of value in trying to become the conference's first back-to-back winners since Michigan State in 1999 and 2000."We're going to prepare like it's the next game on the schedule because it is and the thing that I love about this team, that's sort of how they want it," Matta said. "It's another opportunity to play a game. That's how I've seen their minds work all year."Penn State (19-13) is certainly relishing the chance to earn a tourney bid.By all accounts, the sixth-seeded Nittany Lions entered the week on the outside of the NCAA tournament bubble, but they may have played themselves in for the first time since 2001. After an ugly 36-33 quarterfinal victory over No. 13 Wisconsin on Friday, Penn State was in control for most of its semifinal contest with Michigan State on Saturday, getting 25 points from star Talor Battle and 22 from Tim Frazier in a 61-48 victory."Whatever happens, we need to be in the tournament," coach Ed DeChellis said. "We've done the things that people said we needed to do, and our RPI is great and our strength of schedule is one of the top seven in the country. I don't know who else you want us to play."Even if the Nittany Lions punched their ticket with Saturday's win, a victory in the championship game could be critical. That would allow Penn State to avoid being one of the NCAA's "First Four," which will pit the final at-large qualifiers against each other Tuesday and Wednesday.The Nittany Lions will have quite a bit of history working against them, however. They've lost 15 consecutive games to the Buckeyes since a 64-47 win Jan. 10, 2004 -- the first game DeChellis coached against Ohio State.Penn State went toe to toe with the Buckeyes in Columbus in a 69-66 loss Jan. 15, but Jon Diebler made sure Ohio State would cruise in the March 1 rematch in Happy Valley. The Buckeyes' senior guard hit 10 of 12 3-pointers and scored a career-high 30 points in a 82-61 rout.If Diebler isn't hitting Sunday, Ohio State can always go to Jared Sullinger, who's averaged 17.0 points and 15.5 boards in Ohio State's first two tournament games. He'll try to join former Buckeye Mike Conley as the only freshmen to win Big Ten tournament MVP honors.Penn State is 0-12 all-time against No. 1 ranked teams.
Big Ten Tournament
|Avg Points Allowed||62.4||59.8|
|Conference||Big Ten||Big Ten|
BIG TEN MEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP * Ohio State: defending champion; only team to win back-to-back titles was Michigan State in 1999 and 2000 * Ohio State: 3rd consecutive appearance in title game; 7th appearance overall (including vacated appearance in 2002) * No. 1 seed has only won 5 of 13 Big Ten Men's Basketball Championships * Penn State: 1st title game appearance * Ohio State swept season series 2-0
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