Recap of Saturday’s Big Ten NCAA Tournament: Three teams fall

The 2023 NCAA Tournament Round of 16 kicked off Saturday and fans could enjoy three Big Ten teams in action. Unfortunately, it was once again a tough game for the league.

Let’s look at what happened.

No. 2 Texas Longhorns 71, No. 10 Penn State Nittany Lions 66

It’s been quite a run for Penn State. After missing the NCAA tournament for more than a decade, Penn State entered this year’s Big Ten tournament and was on the verge of securing a bid. The Nittany Lions then roared out of the gate and knocked out three NCAA teams before coming up short in the championship game against Purdue. Penn State then picked it up again as the Big Dance began, defeating Texas A&M on Thursday.

Unfortunately, this dynamic was missing on Saturday evening. While Penn State withstood multiple thrusts from Texas, the team couldn’t do enough in the closing minutes to claim the win. Dylan Disu was Penn State’s main problem in the game as the talented forward clinched the win with an impressive 28 points and 10 rebounds. Jalen Pickett was held in the loss with just 11 points and a 63 offensive rating.

Penn State fell to 23-14 overall in the loss, capping off a highly successful campaign under Micah Shrewsberry. In only his second season at the helm, he overcame Penn State’s NCAA tournament drought and finished the program with the highest winning total since 2018. It was a massive recovery for a program amid college basketball’s drought.

The question now is whether Shrewsberry will stay in Penn State or move elsewhere. He’s attracting serious attention from some big names and will have some difficult decisions to make in the coming weeks. Penn State is reportedly poised to offer him a major extension. We’ll have to wait and see what Shresberry decides. His decision will also obviously have a big impact on what the Penn State roster looks like next season.

-NO. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide 73, No. 8 Maryland Turtles 51

The Terps had an impressive win Thursday, defeating West Virginia in a hard-fought contest. Unfortunately, Alabama proved too much on Saturday as Maryland fell in double digits on the loaded Crimson Tide. Maryland’s vaunted defense allowed Alabama to score 1.09 points per possession and Jahvon Quinerly finished the game with 22 points.

Maryland fell to 22-13 overall, capping a positive season. While the Terps certainly had hopes for more from the NCAA tournament, it’s hard to complain about an appearance in the round of 32 in a coach’s first season, which is what happened here. Kevin Willard re-established Maryland as a relevant program nationally. His goal for next year must be to raise the bar and fight for a Big Ten title and a top seed in March.

The team’s roster will be particularly interesting to watch this offseason. The Terps started with four “seniors” and counted on one more as one of their best banking options. Of course, given the current state of national eligibility, that doesn’t mean much and Maryland will certainly be active in the transfer portal again. Except lots of new faces.

-NO. 2 UCLA Bruins 68, No. 7 Northwestern Wildcats 63

For the second time in program history, Northwestern not only received an NCAA offer, but advanced to the Round of 32. Unfortunately, the Wildcats were unable to advance further and failed against UCLA on Saturday night. The game was quite competitive. Northwestern just didn’t have enough to overcome a few early missteps. Boo Buie led the Wildcats in the loss, finishing with 18 points.

Northwestern fell to 22-12 overall with the loss. Like Penn State, this was an immensely successful season at Evanston. Going into the season with mediocre expectations and Chris Collins in the hot seat, the Wildcats overcame those challenges to earn an NCAA bid, a top spot in the Big Ten tournament and a trip to the Round of 32. It will easily go down as one of the best seasons in program history.

The focus of this offseason is on the transfer portal and what Collins is doing to replace the expected mass exodus this spring. Northwestern started three “seniors” and had another in its heavy rotation. We’ll see how things play out, but the Wildcats are expected to look significantly different next season.

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