It’s a great time to be an Indianapolis basketball fan. The IHSAA state basketball tournament is heating up, Purdue University, Butler University and IUPUI are in position to make appearances in the men’s NCAA tournament, the Final Four, hosted at Lucas Oil Stadium, is a month away, and the Men’s Big Ten Tournament will be in town next weekend. Lost in the shuffle is the Women’s Big Ten Tournament, currently underway at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Action got kicked off on Thursday afternoon with the #7 Michigan Wolverines taking on the #10 Northwestern Wildcats. The Wolverines won 67-54, moving on to play in-state rival #2 Michigan State in the first game Friday afternoon. The second contest featured #6 Penn State vs. #11 Minnesota. Former Ben Davis High School standout Alex Bentley had nine points and four assists to help the Nittany Lions come away with a 63-52 victory. Penn State will take on #3 Iowa in the second game on Friday. The afternoon of basketball at Conseco, located in beautiful downtown Indianapolis, concluded with the #8 Indiana Hoosiers taking on the #9 Illinois Fighting Illini.
The Lady Hoosiers, needing a tournament championship to secure a bid to the NCAA tournament, started off slowly against Illinois, but found themselves trailing by just a single point at intermission. The second half brought more cold shooting, and Illinois slowly increased their lead throughout the second half, but the Hoosiers refused to go away without a fight. Trailing by nine with just over a minute left to play, Jori Davis hit a three-pointer, and then, along with Ashlee Mells, added two free throws to cut the margin to 53-51 with 30 seconds to play. Unfortunately for the IU faithful in the crowd, Illinois proceeded to hit six straight foul shots to secure a 59-53 victory. Illinois moves on to play #1 Ohio State, while the Hoosiers season comes to a premature end.
The Purdue women finished fifth in the conference, earning a first round bye, but they’re in the same boat as Indiana, needing a Big Ten Tournament title to keep their streak of 16 consecutive NCAA berths alive. Historically, they’ve fared very well in this tournament, winning seven titles — more than any other Big Ten school — but injuries have depleted their depth, causing them to lose four of their last five regular season games. They’ll face #4 Wisconsin Friday night at 8:30.
If you find yourself wearing an Ohio State sweatshirt (or t-shirt, considering the warming weather this weekend) and you’re looking for a place to watch the games with other like-minded fans, the downtown Indianapolis bar scene has you covered. In fact, they have all Big Ten fans covered. 11 separate establishments are opening their doors for designated fan bases to drink, eat and cheer with people of the same persuasion. The list includes:
Illinois – The Ram Restaurant and Brewery
Indiana – Kilroy’s Bar & Grill
Iowa – Claddagh Irish Pub
Michigan – O’Reilly’s Irish Bar and Restaurant
Michigan State – Slippery Noodle Inn
Minnesota – Alcatraz Brewing Company
Northwestern – Buffalo Wings & Rings
Ohio State – Champps Americana Restaurant and Bar
Penn State – Harry & Izzy’s
Purdue – Scotty’s Brewhouse
Wisconsin – Buffalo Wild Wings