Big Ten Tournament 2013: Teams That Must Tune Up for NCAA Tournament

Alex KayCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2013

EAST LANSING, MI - MARCH 07:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans congratulates Keith Appling #11 as he leaves the floor in the second half while playing the Wisconsin Badgers at the Jack T. Breslin Student Events Center on March 7, 2013 in East Lansing, Michigan. Michigan State won the game 58-43. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The 2013 Big Ten Tournament is going to feature some of the most exciting teams in the nation going head-to-head in what should be a solid prequel to the NCAA tournament later this March.

With up to eight potential squads in the running to be added to the field by the committee on Selection Sunday, you can be assured the level of play in this event will be through the roof.

Let’s take a look at a few programs that will need to use this stiff competition to their advantage and make some final tune-ups to grab momentum before March Madness begins in earnest.


Illinois Fighting Illini

The Illini are looking good to make the tournament, even after a 63-55 loss on the road against Iowa.

However, the Hawkeyes are a tough opponent and it shouldn’t kill Illinois in the eyes of the committee. Regardless, it should be a wake-up call to a team that should be in line for a No. 7 through 9 seed in the bracket.

This group isn’t going to have an easy road and could be bounced out in the Round of 64 if it isn't careful.

There has to be better ball movement (only eight assists again Iowa) and the bench actually needs to contribute something—Joseph Bertrand and Tyler Griffey combined for just nine points and eight rebounds in 44 minutes.

Should Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson get hot from deep, there’s no telling how far the Illini can go, but they won’t be going anywhere unless everyone starts facilitating and the reserves step up.


Michigan State Spartans

Sparty snapped an ugly three-game losing streak on Thursday night, but needs to finish working out the kinks in order to make another deep tourney run under coach Tom Izzo.

Michigan State is likely to nab a No. 2 or 3 seed in the conference tournament and anything but a Finals appearance would be a disappointment for this squad.

One way to avoid an early exit is to is to avoid the same issue that plagued the program over its three recent losses: second-half collapses.

Against Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan, the Spartans led at halftime but could not find a way to close out their opposition in the final 20 minutes.

It seems they broke that funk by mounting a seven-point lead after the first period and winning the second by eight for a 58-48 beat down of their Big Ten rival. Let’s see if they can continue that trend in the conference tournament.


Indiana Hoosiers

The Hoosiers fell to Ohio State on Tuesday night, making their Sunday season finale on the road at Michigan a must-win game to outright win the B1G.

This loss not only jeopardized IU’s chances of claiming the conference crown, but also exposed a few ways to beat them in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

The Buckeyes slowed the game down to their own pace and kept the Hoosiers off the charity stripe, coughing up the rock instead of drawing fouls on many different drives to the basket.

With such a dominant roster, Indiana has to find a way to establish the tempo and force opponents to match, not the other way around. It also needs to take far more than 13 free throws after putting up 53 field-goal attempts, a ratio that is simply unacceptable for a team with such great players in the paint.

We expect it won’t be a major issue going forward, but these are some areas of concern for IU, and could eventually be the downfall of this program in 2013.