The Big Ten has proven time and time again why it's the top conference this year. With five teams ranked in the Top 25 and two teams (Minnesota and Illinois) getting votes, this season has been one of The Big Ten's best in recent history.
It appears that those seven teams will represent the conference in the NCAA tournament.
The Big Ten tournament will be stronger than ever because of these quality teams. This is the main reason why the tournament sold out for the first time in the event's history. After five years of playing in Indianapolis at the Conseco/Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the tournament returns back to the United Center in Chicago.
The Windy City will host a tournament that could have surprises, since there has been a fair deal of parity this season. Any team can beat anyone because of the talent on each squad. This year’s tournament should provide excitement and intensity to all the Big Ten fans in the stands.
One of the teams that could surprise the rest of the conference is the Purdue Boilermakers. They are a young team with lots of talent, but haven't been able to play up to their potential each game this season. At this point, they won't make the NCAA tournament, but here are two reasons why they could make a splash at the Big Ten tournament:
Scoring Consistency from DJ Byrd and A.J. Hammons
Terone Johnson has been excellent throughout the whole season by providing this team with scoring when it needs it most. He's averaging 17.5 points over the last four games. Johnson will need help from other supporting players to make an impact on the scoring end if the Boilermakers are going to have success in the tournament.
Two players that have to step up in the tournament are DJ Byrd and A.J. Hammons.
Byrd can be a successful outside shooter if he can get on a streak. He had 22 points (6-for-9 from three-point range) against Wisconsin on the road, then only three points vs. Michigan.
AJ Hammons has to provide a solid inside game, which he has shown in certain games. He put up 30 points against Indiana in their first game, then only six points in their second meeting. If both of these players can play up to their ability, then Purdue could make some noise in the tournament.
Rebounding is Key to Success
Purdue ranks 15th in the country in rebounding. This team averages almost 40 rebounds per game, which has turned into its catalyst this season. Out-rebounding the opponent has been very important to the Boilermakers.
A.J. Hammons leads the team with 6.2 rebounds per game. However, the reason why Purdue ranks so high is because of guards like Terone Johnson and DJ Byrd contributing as well.
Head coach Matt Painter has done a good job of making sure all of his players on the court storm the hoop for boards. They need to out-rebound opponents next weekend if they are going to make a run in the tournament.