Big Ten Taking College Basketball By Storm as Indiana Defends No. 1 Rank, Beats Michigan State

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

One of the greatest writers of my childhood, Christopher Wallace, coined the insightful phrase “‘Cause if you don’t know, now you know!”

On a night where I wasn’t going out of my way to listen to my man Biggie, this line stuck out in my head as I watched No.1 Indiana come from behind late and get a tough road win against No. 4 Michigan State. Down 67-63 with just about a minute and a half to go in the game, tough shots, tough stops and even tougher free throws clinched a 72-68 win for the Hoosiers.

Despite the chippy play between Indiana star Cody Zeller and Spartans big Derrick Nix down the stretch, and in spite of what seemed like what took a half hour to play the final 20 seconds or so of the game, this was unquestionably one of the most exciting games of the 2012-13 college basketball season. But maybe more important than tonight’s great game is the way the Big 10 has taken the NCAA by storm this season.

Not only did the Michigan State-Indiana match up call for college basketball legend Dick Vitale, not only did hoops God Magic Johnson join the booth, but you know you’re the big-time game–and in the big-time conference–when you get Mr. Mike Tirico on the play-by-play.

And from the opening call, the excitement didn’t drop off.

On a night where Indiana got its first win at the Breslin Center since Feb. 28, 1991, it was National Player of the Year candidate Victor Oladipo who led the way for Indiana with 19 points, nine rebounds and five steals, just a few days after spraining his left ankle in Saturday’s win over Purdue. Oladipo’s effort was matched just about every bit by Michigan State freshman Gary Harris, who led the way for the Spartans with 19 points of his own, and has been one of the conference’s best first year players.

Even if you can’t stand Big 10 basketball and you think every game will end in a 40-40 tie with a whole lot of tough defensive possessions and old(er) men screaming on the sidelines, you can’t deny how incredible this season has been. With five (seven different teams on the season) top-20 teams in the conference right now, we’ve seen games that have been called upsets but certainly don’t look like upsets.

With Michigan and Indiana looking like the two best teams in the conference, or even the country, Wisconsin’s beaten both of those teams–as well as Illinois and Ohio State–but has lost to Minnesota, who has also beaten Michigan State but lost to both Indiana and Michigan.

It’s a topsy turvy conference (aside from Michigan and Indiana being a lock for the top three), but one thing’s for sure. These teams are all very good and they’ll be teams to circle quite a few times come March.

As I’m sure Dickie V said a thousand times throughout the broadcast, “it’s awesome baby!”

For hoops, hip-hop and other random sports and pop culture commentary, follow Jared Mintz on Twitter @JaredMintzTruth

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