The final day of regular season action in the Big Ten was a dramatic one from early afternoon to the evening as Nebraska stunned No. 10 Wisconsin earlier in the day before No. 20 Illinois held off No. 24 Iowa later making the Badgers and Illini co-champions on a day that was expected to be a coronation for Wisconsin on its home court.
The Badgers, the class of the conference for much of the season, was favored by 12.5 points over Nebraska, the worst team in the Big Ten. And it looked as if Vegas had it right: Wisconsin led by as many as 10 points midway through the second half. But the complexion of the game changed when Badgers star Johnny Davis was fouled on a flagrant call attacking the basket. He sustained a lower body injury on the play, which took place with 17:32 remaining in the second half, and he did not return. Down the stretch, Huskers forward Alonzo Verge Jr. accounted for 11 points in the final 10 minutes to close out the unlikely road win for Nebraska.
With the 74-73 loss, Wisconsin failed to clinch the outright regular season Big Ten crown, opening a door for Illinois to share the title with a win Sunday night against Iowa which it took advantage of. The Illini trailed the majority of the game at home against the Hawkeyes -- and by as many as 15 -- before taking the lead with five minutes remaining in the second half and never relinquishing it in a 74-72 victory. It's the Illini's first conference championship since 2005 -- the year it finished as the national runner-up.
"It was a weird day, a weird, weird day," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. "Laying in my recliner, 15-20 minutes, eyes closed, flip to my phone and Nebraska is up one [on Wisconsin]."
Indeed it was a weird day. Underwood added that he didn't mention the Nebraska upset over Wisconsin to his team, but it seems his team knew the stakes and opportunity changed significantly with the Badgers going down.
Big picture, Sunday was significant in the Big Ten in several ways with Illinois, not Wisconsin, earning the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Elsewhere in the conference, an impactful 75-69 road win over rival Ohio State for Michigan thrust the Wolverines into the NCAA Tournament picture as one of CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm's "Last Four In" the field after the day's games.