The Indiana Hoosiers won the Big Ten Conference championship outright in 2012-13, finishing 14-4 in the conference to head to Chicago as the No. 1 seed in the upcoming 2013 Big Ten men's basketball tournament.
Led by Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo, Tom Crean's Hoosiers boast very few weaknesses and are the favorite to win the 12-team tournament this March. But if Indiana's four Big Ten losses have taught us anything, it's that the Hoosiers can be beaten in Chicago this weekend.
With the Big Ten tournament scheduled to tipoff on Thursday, below we'll highlight the biggest threats to the Hoosiers' chances of heading to the Big Dance as conference tournament champions.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Tubby Smith's Golden Gophers were responsible for one of Indiana's four losses in the Big Ten this season. Minnesota dominated Indiana on the boards in that late-February victory, beating the Hoosiers 38-25 on the glass.
Senior forward Trevor Mbakwe will be a huge key for Minnesota if it can overcome Illinois in the first round, setting up a quarterfinal clash with top-seeded Indiana on Friday. Mbakwe is averaging 10 points and 8.7 rebounds per game this season, and he was absolutely vital defending and rebounding against Cody Zeller.
Although the Hoosiers did defeat Minnesota at home in January, this week's Big Ten tournament will be played on a neutral floor in Chicago. That said, if the Gophers can win the battle on the boards for a second-straight time, there's nothing holding them back from shocking Indiana again and advancing to the tournament semifinals.
Keep an eye on how Minnesota fares on the glass, as the Gophers rank third in the Big Ten this season in rebounding.
Michigan will be a favorite to knock off 12th-seeded Penn State in the first round of the tournament this week in Chicago, setting up a potential quarterfinal clash with fourth-seeded Wisconsin on Friday. The Badgers beat the Wolverines in the two teams' only meeting back in February, but they needed a miraculous half-court shot to send the game into overtime, where they would go on to win at home.
Which team is the biggest threat to Indiana at this week's Big Ten Tournament?
With Trey Burke and Michigan eyeing revenge this March, a Wolverines' victory in the quarters could then set up a potential Indiana-Michigan clash in Saturday's semifinals, assuming Indiana gets past the winner of Illinois-Minnesota.
John Beilein's Wolverines dropped both matchups against the Hoosiers this season, including a painful 72-71 loss at home this past weekend. A third showdown between these two teams could finally produce a different result.
With Burke averaging over 19 points and nearly seven assists per game, and Tim Hardaway Jr. pitching in nearly 15 points per outing, Michigan is more than capable of springing an upset on Tom Crean's Hoosiers in Chicago this week. It's only a matter of whether the Wolverines get a few lucky bounces to go their way the next time around.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State is one of only two teams to have beaten Indiana on its home floor this season. Wisconsin topped the Hoosiers in Bloomington in January, but the Buckeyes defeated them at Assembly Hall just last week.
Like Minnesota in February, Ohio State beat Indiana up on the boards (34-28) and shot slightly better than the Hoosiers from the field. Aaron Craft and company also played a clean game, committing just seven turnovers over the course of 40 minutes.
Thad Matta will want to follow that blueprint for success again in a potential Big Ten Championship Game showdown on Sunday in Chicago. On paper, the second-seeded Buckeyes are the biggest threat to Indiana, and the fact that they wouldn't face the Hoosiers until Sunday's title game is also a huge advantage, as each team would be gearing up for their third game in as many days.
If the Buckeyes can escape the quarters and semis, they've already proven they can overwhelm Indiana, no matter where the game is played.
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