To the extent that an often badly played game between two bad teams can be exciting, Illinois' 64-63 win over Penn State in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament was exciting.
How's that for a ringing endorsement?
Illinois' Chester Frazier hit a layup with seconds to go, and the buzzer-beating shot from Penn State's Talor Battle missed, allowing Illinois to win a game in which they blew a 62-52 lead, bumbling and stumbling around on the court while Penn State went on an 11-0 run in crunch time. It was reminiscent of the Illini's loss to Virginia Tech in last year's NCAA Tournament, except for the Frazier game-winner, which represented Illinois' only points of the last four minutes.
No, it wasn't pretty, but the ending was exciting enough to rouse the fans at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, which had resembled a mausoleum for most of the game, and for the Michigan-Iowa game that preceded it. The game was live blogged at Deadspin, and the commentary there pretty well sums up how the game could be both ugly and exciting. For Penn State, the season is over; for Illinois, the season will end, one can only assume, with a loss tomorrow against Purdue.