Big Ten Notebook: McCaffery confident, Izzo amazed

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By Ian Murphy

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Indiana captured the Big Ten regular-season title, which Iowa jockeyed for throughout the season, outright on Sunday with an 80-62 win over a reeling Maryland team.

It’s the program’s second Big Ten title in the last four years. Indiana locked up the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament as well and will await the winner of Thursday’s Michigan-Northwestern game.

“We’ve earned it, we’re proud of it, and we’re excited to see how we play in Indianapolis,” head coach Tom Crean said.

The Hoosiers finished 15-3 on the year in the Big Ten after tearing up the conference over the first and last months of the season with a small slump in the middle.

However, the Hoosiers aren’t done yet. Crean said Indiana continues to practice at a high level, with players staying late to take more shots afterward.

“The conference tournament, our guys are getting better. They’re excited to play, they’re excited to practice.” Crean said. “For us, it’s the next step.”

And while they are preparing for the tournament, Crean recognized the depth of the Big Ten and made sure to commend his team for the regular-season title.

“The bottom line, when you go through this from Dec. 30 to March 6, and you go through a league like this, that’s an incredible achievement for anyone,” he said.

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Iowa confident

Not only did the Hawkeyes secure a win over Michigan to stop the Big Ten bleeding over the last few weeks, but the Hawkeyes landed a very good draw in the tournament.

Iowa will play with the winner of Minnesota/Illinois; should it win, it would play a Purdue team it has beaten two times this year.

The Hawkeyes finsihed with the same record as Maryland and Purdue, but were on the short end of the tiebreaker. Head coach Fran McCaffery, however, had no complaints and no wishes to change the system. He offered a simple solution.

“I probably should be in favor of change because we’ve lost out the last two years,” McCaffery said. “I’ve never really studied it … If you want to move up, win more games.”

Michigan State wary of tough tournament

Michigan State, a trendy Final Four pick this season, enters the week ranked second in the country, but the Spartans aren’t looking past anyone in the Big Ten field.

“Michigan State, Maryland, Iowa, have all been in the top 10,” head coach Tom Izzo said. “Now you’ve got Purdue and Indiana. It’s going to be harder to move on in the Big Ten Tournament than it is in the NCAA Tournament.”

Izzo is right to keep his team aware of what’s going on. Indiana is two wins ahead of the rest of the field, but the next seven teams in the conference are separated by just three wins.

The head coach said the tournament could shake down in a very similar way to March Madness.

“I think it is going to mirror the national tournament,” Izzo said. “This is the craziest Big Ten season I’ve ever been a part of.”

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