The team with the most Big Ten Tournament titles finally begins action in the 2013 edition of the event, as the second- seeded Ohio State Buckeyes tangle with the 10th-seeded Nebraska Cornhuskers at the United Center on Friday evening.
Nebraska is the newest member of the Big Ten, and so far the team has yet to really make its mark. This season, the Cornhuskers are 15-17 overall and they went a dismal 5-13 in conference. Nebraska dropped a 74-60 decision at Iowa to close out the regular season, but picked up a 57-55 triumph over Purdue in the opening round of this event on Thursday. It was the first tourney win for the Huskers in this, their second year in the Big Ten.
Ohio State staked its claim to an impressive 23-7 overall mark this season, winning 13 of its 18 Big Ten bouts along the way. The Buckeyes have won more Big Ten Tournament titles than any school (four), and they come in with the second-most wins in the event (23-11), just one behind Illinois which took the lead by beating Minnesota in Thursday's opening round. OSU has appeared in six of the last seven championship games, winning three times, including back-to- back titles in 2010-11. Last year, the Buckeyes fell to Michigan State, 68-64.
Ohio State owns an 8-2 lead in the all-time series with Nebraska, and the Buckeyes won both meetings during the regular season.
Coming into the tournament, Nebraska was averaging a league-low 58.6 ppg, that figure ranking the team 331st of 345 Division I programs. There is talent on the roster however, as All-Big Ten Honorable Mention selection Dylan Talley (14.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 76 assists), Ray Gallegos (12.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 43 steals) and Brandon Ubel (11.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg) all averaged double-digits during the regular season. It was Shavon Shields who shined brightest in the team's narrow win over Purdue on Thursday however, as he went 8-of-12 from the field to tally 19 points, and Ubel was next with 16 to go along with a club-best eight rebounds. The Huskers made good on 44.7 percent of their total shots, but missed eight of their 11 3-point attempts. Defensively, the team limited the Boilermakers to 40.4 percent field goal efficiency, which included a dismal 2-of-12 showing from beyond the arc.
Ohio State is led by the Big Ten's leading scorer in Deshaun Thomas (19.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg). The backcourt duo of Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (10.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Aaron Craft (9.7 ppg, 4.5 apg) help round out what is a solid roster assembled by coach Thad Matta. OSU comes into this event as winners of five straight, which includes triumphs over Minnesota, Michigan State, Indiana and Illinois. The Buckeyes have been the most dominant team in the Big Ten Tournament of late, winning eight of their last nine and 15 of their last 19 games. Matta is 16-5 all-time in the event with three titles (2007, 2010, 2011), and five total championship game appearances (2006, 2009).