With five teams ranked in the Top 25, the Big Ten could be setting up to have the most exciting postseason tournament in college basketball.
The Indiana Hoosiers beat the Michigan Wolverines, 72-71, to win the school's first outright conference title since 1992-93. The victory also let the conference avoid chaos, as there won't be that four-way tie for the title.
With so many good teams in the top half of the conference, the Big Ten Tournament should be must-watch television for any college basketball fan.
Most of the fun, though, will come from seeing which teams will emerge from what is also a very competitive middle of the standings. You've got plenty of Big Ten teams on the bubble, with the tournament results determining which schools will be left out in the cold come the NCAA Tourney.
Here's when and where to catch each tournament game, along with the sleeper teams who could bolster their NCAA Tournament resumes.
Bracket (Courtesy of Big Ten Network)
*All times are ET
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Game 1: No. 8 vs. No. 9, 11 a.m. (Big Ten Network)
Game 2: No. 5 vs. No. 12, 1:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Game 3: No. 7 vs. No. 10, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 4: No. 6 vs. No. 11, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Friday, March 15, 2013
Game 5: No. 1 vs. Game 1 Winner, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Game 6: No. 4 vs. Game 2 Winner, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 7: No. 2 vs. Game 3 Winner, 5:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Game 8: No. 3 vs. Game 4 Winner, 8 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Saturday, March 16, 2013
Game 9: Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner, 12:40 p.m. (CBS)
Game 10: Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner, 3 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Championship Game, 2:30 p.m. (CBS)
Minnesota Golden Gophers (20-11, 9-9 Big Ten)
The season could hardly have started any better for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The school started the season 15-1, including wins over the Memphis Tigers, Illinois Fighting Illini and Michigan State Spartans. After an 88-81 loss to the Hoosiers, the wheels completely fell off. Minnesota only won five of its last 15 games.
Even with that poor run, it's still hard to completely write off the Golden Gophers. During that stretch, they still managed to beat Indiana and the Wisconsin Badgers.
With Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota has a solid presence in the post. He's averaging 10.0 points and 8.7 rebounds a game. On the perimeter, there's Andre Hollins, who's shooting 40.1 percent from behind the three-point line.
Tubby Smith has reached the mountaintop before, so he's got plenty of experience getting his team to play its best basketball of the season when it counts the most.
Illinois Fighting Illini (21-11, 8-10 Big Ten)
There has perhaps been no Big Ten team more schizophrenic than Illinois. The Fighting Illini started the season 14-2, a run which culminated with a 74-55 drubbing of the Ohio State Buckeyes. The school turned around and lost six of its next seven games before upsetting the Hoosiers as time expired.
While Illinois is coming in pretty cold, having lost three of four games, there's no doubt that it can beat the best teams in the conference. It's all a matter of John Groce getting the best out of his players.
Brandon Paul will be the biggest X-factor. The senior guard scored 35 points on 10-of-16 shooting in Illinois' upset of the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Paul also helps to form what is a strong core of senior leadership with D.J. Richardson and Tyler Griffey. That can often make up the talent gap in March.
Iowa Hawkeyes (20-11, 9-9 Big Ten)
While Iowa does have home wins over Minnesota and Wisconsin, it doesn't really have that signature upset in the same way Minnesota and Illinois do.
More so than Illinois and Minnesota, the Iowa Hawkeyes need a strong finish at the Big Ten Tournament to have any hope of reaching the Big Dance. At this point, Iowa only ranks 72nd in RPI with a strength of schedule at 119. Those aren't very good numbers if you're looking at blind resumes.
The Hawkeyes finished the regular season strong, winning six of their last eight games. That's some positive momentum that can be pivotal in a knockout situation like the Big Ten Tournament.
Fran McCaffery has done a good job righting the ship at Iowa after the decline that Todd Lickliter set in motion. With only two seniors, this might not be the year for the Hawkeyes.
Still, there's enough talent in this squad for Iowa to pull off enough upsets to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
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