With arguably the deepest stable of teams in the nation, the 2013 Big Ten Tournament undoubtedly has the most hype of any conference tournament this year.
Equipped with three Top 5 teams in the preseason, the Big Ten came into the 2012-13 campaign with a ton of hype and lived up to every bit. The conference still boasts five teams inside the AP Top 25 rankings, and plenty more are sitting on the bubble heading into this week’s action.
As a cabal of tournaments are all going on at the same time, it’s almost always impossible to keep up with the dates and times of each game. No one wants to sit down at his or her television expecting to see some top-flight Big Ten action and accidentally stumble upon the Big Sky Conference. (No disrespect, Big Sky fans...but come on.)
With that in mind, here is a complete breakdown of when and where to watch the 2013 Big Ten Tournament, along with a look at a few bubble teams to keep an eye on.
Complete Television Schedule
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Game 1: No. 8 vs. No. 9, 12 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Game 2: No. 5 vs. No. 12, 2:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Game 3: No. 7 vs. No. 10, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 4: No. 6 vs. No. 11, 9 p.m.* (ESPN2)
Friday, March 15, 2013
Game 5: No. 1 vs. Game 1 Winner, 12 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 6: No. 4 vs. Game 2 Winner, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 7: No. 2 vs. Game 3 Winner, 6:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Game 8: No. 3 vs. Game 4 Winner, 9 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Saturday, March 16, 2013
Game 9: Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner, 1:40 p.m. (CBS)
Game 10: Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner, 4 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, March 17, 2013 (Championship Game)
Game 11: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 Winner, 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
Bubble Teams to Watch
Minnesota Golden Gophers (20-11, RPI: 20)
Once seemingly a mortal lock to make the Big Dance, Minnesota has replanted itself firmly on the bubble with two season-ending losses. Had those come against the Michigans, Ohio States and Indianas of the world, it would be no harm, no foul. The Gophers have a Top 25 RPI, three wins over similarly ranked squads and started hot enough to stay on the national radar.
However, not even their win over then-top-ranked Indiana can act as a savior for a team that loses to Purdue and Nebraska. That season-ending swoon gives the Gophers an 8-10 record in the Big Ten and 10 losses over their past 15 games. In other words: Things could be going better for Tubby Smith’s crew.
Trevor Mbakwe, Andre Hollins and Rodney Williams are a talented enough group that they can atone for those losses with a deep run. But based on what we’ve seen from the Gophers of late, their wild inconsistencies may have finally come back to haunt them.
Anything less than a strong victory in the first game and valiant effort in their second, and Minnesota may be NIT bound. Two wins, and they’re a lock.
Iowa Hawkeyes (20-11, RPI: 75)
Getting a win over Nebraska on Saturday to close out the Big Ten schedule was huge for the Hawkeyes. Among teams still hanging on the bubble, Iowa has the flimsiest resume by a pretty wide margin. The team’s only “signature” win from an RPI sense came against a team hanging out on the bubble with them (Minnesota). Though taking down Wisconsin looked impressive at the time, the Badgers have been on a late-season swoon, and Illinois isn’t going to shift the committee’s barometer much.
Overall, Iowa’s resume is indicative of a team that’s only good on the most superficial levels. They boast a resume that’s been inflated by wins over the dregs of the nation but really haven’t done much to impress against even mediocre opponents.
The Hawkeyes are 6-10 versus squads inside the RPI Top 150 and 13-1 against everyone else. That almost always spells doom on Selection Sunday—especially if the record dips with a first-game loss in the conference tourney.
Beyond the mediocre at best resume is a squad that rates out pretty darned well with the eyeball test, though. They rebound well, play smart defense and are brilliantly coached by Fran McCaffery. Those eyeball assessments also work out metrically. Ken Pomeroy has Iowa as his 31st-ranked team in the land, thanks mostly to the team’s top-shelf defense. They are a top-20 team in both overall defensive efficiency and effective field-goal percentage against.
If the field was selected today, Iowa would barely get a sniff of consideration. But this team could be a sleeping giant. A surprising run in the Big Ten tournament later, and Iowa could get some tangible consideration.
Illinois Fighting Illini (21-10, RPI: 36)
A virtual lock to make the Dance at the moment, Illinois would have to do a lot of damage to wind up on the outside looking in a week from now. It is one of two teams to beat top-ranked Gonzaga and has additional signature wins over Indiana, Ohio State and Butler. With a 5-4 record against teams inside the RPI Top 25, the Illini have likely done enough damage against top-flight opponents for the committee to ignore the chinks in its resume—for now.
The problem is the Illini have just the type of schedule that could do critical damage.
Jon Groce’s squad finishes its regular-season schedule on Sunday in a road tilt against No. 14 Ohio State. If the Buckeyes are able lay the same type of whooping Illinois laid on them earlier this season—the Illini won by 19 points back in January—then that would mark three consecutive losses against top-flight opponents.
While the overall scope of the season matters, so do recent trends. Losing three in a row against good teams isn’t the best way to convince people you’re capable of beating those good teams in the Tournament.
With that, the team’s first conference tournament contest becomes vital. One win, and they’re sitting just as pretty as they are right now. But an early elimination could prove a fatal blow—especially if Iowa or Minnesota make a deep run.
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