For the 21st time, the Big Ten will be holding its annual tournament to determine who gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
This year, the games will be held at the prestigious Madison Square Garden in New York City. With the Big East holding its annual tournament in the second week of March, the Big Ten had to move its tournament up a week in order to make sure they could still use the venue.
However, the adjustment caused cramped schedules for many teams in the conference. As a result, commissioner Jim Delaney promised that it wouldn’t happen again and said the Big Ten would only return to MSG if they could share the same week as the Big East. Otherwise, they won’t be returning to 4 Pennsylvania Plaza anytime soon.
Never the less, this year’s tournament will proceed at the world’s most famous arena with plenty on the line.
March Madness Implications
The Big Ten currently has four teams in the top 25; Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan, all of whom are safe bets to be dancing in March. The earlier two have legitimate shots of entering March Madness as number-one seeds. Outside of them, however, only one team has a real shot at crashing the bracket.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers currently sit with a 22-9 record and the No. 4 seed in this year’s conference tournament. As of Joe Lunardi’s latest edition of “Bracketology”, the big red are on the outside looking in as part of the “First Four Out”.
Though the team finished undefeated at home in conference play, not to mention their only loss at home came at the hands of No. 6 Kansas on a buzzer-beater, the Cornhuskers have what many would call a flimsy resume. Their four best wins all came at home and their best one was against No. 15 Michigan back in January.
In order to push their way in, Nebraska will need to prove that it can be just as dangerous away from home as they are in Lincoln.
As the result of an FBI investigation, many programs throughout college basketball have been linked to several violations including Maryland and regular-season champion Michigan State.
To add insult to injury, MSU’s leading scorer and potential NBA-lottery-pick Miles Bridges was accused of receiving impartial benefits. Such actions could rule him out for the Spartans’ games ahead which would be detrimental to it’s efforts at a number-one seed in the big dance.
With all this in mind, lets take a look at the games ahead; (all numbers reflect tournament seed)
No. 11 Minnesota Over No. 14 Rutgers
Richard Pitino’s squad has taken a big step back since being nationally ranked a year ago, but he’ll get the Golden Gophers ready for the big stage and a handy win over the Scarlet Knights in their own backyard.
No. 12 Iowa Over No. 13 Illinois
Although the Hawkeyes enter the contest having lost seven of their last nine, they were able to knock off the Illini on the road back in January. They’ll show similar poise as the move on to the second round.
No. 8 Maryland Over No. 9 Wisconsin
The Badgers have shown that they can be very dangerous in recent weeks, but with the Terrapins’ tournament hopes on life support, they pull out a narrow win to move on.
No. 5 Michigan Over No. 12 Iowa
The Wolverines are one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten right now thanks to a defense that ranks eighth in average points allowed. That combined with their ability to sharpshoot from beyond the arc at any given moment will be all they need in this game.
No. 7 Penn State Over No. 10 Northwestern
The Nittany Lions enter the tournament having lost three straight, but they still have enough fight in them to play another day.
No. 11 Minnesota Over No. 6 Indiana
Indiana may have won the last two meetings against the Golden Gophers, but Minnesota has the experience and players to knock off the Hoosiers in their third contest.
No. 1 Michigan State Over No. 8 Maryland
The Spartans take their first Big Ten Tournament game in stride regardless of Miles Bridges’ availability. They’ll prove why they’re the second best team in the nation.
No. 5 Michigan Over No. 4 Nebraska
The Cornhuskers’ biggest win of the season came against Michigan in January. This time the Wolverines continue their hot streak and advance to their third consecutive Big Ten semifinal game.
No. 2 Ohio State Over No. 7 Penn State
The Nittany Lions’ two wins over the Buckeyes are keeping them in the conversation for a spot in March Madness. However, Keita Bates-Diop and the Buckeyes will do everything they need to do to make sure they aren’t swept of the season series.
No. 3 Purdue Over No. 11 Minnesota
From Isaac Haas to Vincent and Carsen Edwards, the Boilermakers produce a scary amount of depth, certainly enough to get them to the semifinals.
No. 1 Michigan State Over No. 5 Michigan
Perhaps the only team scarier than the Wolverines, the Spartans have just enough to beat the maize and blue in a rematch of their game in January.
No. 3 Purdue over No. 2 Ohio State
The last contest between these two teams came down to a blown Boilermaker lead and a missed shot by Isaac Haas. This time around, Purdue will get a lead and won’t let go en route to its second conference tournament final in three years.
No. 1 Michigan State Over No. 3 Purdue
The Spartans win their third conference tournament title in five years and cement themselves as a number-one seed going into the NCAA Tournament.