The Big Ten is either the best or second-best college basketball conference in the entire country, and every team in the league will be at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis for the conference tournament from March 13-16.
It is the ninth time the event has taken place in Indianapolis.
Ohio State is the defending Big Ten tournament champions, as Aaron Craft (who was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament) and company knocked off Wisconsin in the title game. This year, it is archrival Michigan who checks in as the No. 1 seed.
The bracket sets up nicely for the Wolverines, as Rod Beard of The Detroit News points out:
Michigan is 7-1 against teams in its half of the Big Ten Tournament bracket (Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State and Purdue).— Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) March 10, 2014
Here is a look at the schedule and television information. Games will be live streamed on btn.com, ESPN3 and CBSSports.com, with the location of each individual contest corresponding to the television broadcast.
|Game||Date||Team One||Team Two||TV Broadcast||Time|
|1||March 13||Indiana||Illinois||Big Ten Network||12 PM ET|
|2||March 13||Ohio State||Purdue||Big Ten Network||25 mins after Game 1|
|3||March 13||Minnesota||Penn State||ESPN 2||6:30 PM ET|
|4||March 13||Iowa||Northwestern||ESPN 2||25 mins after Game 3|
|5||March 14||Michigan||Game 1 Winner||ESPN/ESPN 2||12 PM ET|
|6||March 14||Nebraska||Game 2 Winner||ESPN/ESPN 2||25 mins after Game 5|
|7||March 14||Wisconsin||Game 3 Winner||Big Ten Network||6:30 PM ET|
|8||March 14||Michigan State||Game 4 Winner||Big Ten Network||25 mins after Game 7|
|9||March 15||Game 5 Winner||Game 6 Winner||CBS||1:40 PM ET|
|10||March 15||Game 7 Winner||Game 8 Winner||CBS||25 mins after Game 10|
|11||March 16||Game 9 Winner||Game 10 Winner||CBS||3:30 PM ET|
Steve Helwagen of 247Sports shared the Big Ten tournament bracket:
big ten tourney bracket courtesy of btn OSU Purdue at 230 thurs pic.twitter.com/1HfR0Ph8Vl— Steve Helwagen (@SteveHelwagen) March 10, 2014
With the matchups officially set, let’s dig into a few storylines to watch heading into the weekend in Indianapolis.
The NCAA tournament is the overarching presence at any conference tournament, and the Big Ten features its share of bubble teams hoping to make a positive impression on the selection committee.
Minnesota and Nebraska are the two squads that immediately come to mind, although Indiana has an outside chance with a deep run.
The Cornhuskers took advantage of a golden opportunity Sunday by securing a signature victory with a home win over Wisconsin to finish the regular season. They also feature victories over the likes of Ohio State, Michigan State and fellow bubbler Minnesota on their resume. A win in Indianapolis will likely be enough to clinch a spot at the Big Dance (and Nebraska may not even need that).
As for the Golden Gophers, Minnesota finished 4-7 in its last 11 games, but it did beat Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa this year. Marcus R. Fuller of the Pioneer Press shared coach Richard Pitino’s thoughts on his team’s status:
Pitino said he doesn't t think #Gophers have to win the Big Ten tournament to make the NCAA tournament. He's right. Probably need two wins.— Marcus R. Fuller (@GophersNow) March 10, 2014
The good news for every team in Indianapolis is a conference tournament title will provide an automatic spot in the Big Dance.
While Indianapolis is smack in the middle of Big Ten country, anyone who has been to the league’s tournament knows that Indiana fans pack the place in droves when the Hoosiers are playing.
What’s more, Purdue often brings a sizable contingent of supporters.
Will Purdue or Indiana win a game in the Big Ten tournament?
Neither team is in a position to have a realistic chance of winning the tournament, but the home-court advantage their fans will create could lead to an upset or two. Of particular note is the potential Friday game between the top-seeded Michigan Wolverines and the Hoosiers.
Indiana just lost a heartbreaker in Ann Arbor Saturday by four points. The Hoosiers led by six at halftime but collapsed down the stretch in front of a raucous Michigan crowd.
If the majority of the fans are pulling for the cream and crimson in Indianapolis, it may be a different story.
Ohio State’s Dominance in Indy
Ohio State has had a roller-coaster of a season this year, with impressive victories over the likes of Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State and two head-scratching losses to Penn State.
The offense is difficult to watch at times, and the lack of a dominant inside presence has proven particularly costly in the physical Big Ten. However, Thad Matta has found a way to lead his team to success in the Big Ten tournament as of late.
The Buckeyes have won three of the past four conference tournament crowns, including last year’s version.
If they have any hope of cutting down the nets again, the defense will have to lead the way. Craft and company have a tendency to frustrate opponents on that end, which was evidenced in Tom Izzo’s comments after Ohio State beat Michigan State (via Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer):
If any of you guys from Ohio think this is the old smash mouth Michigan State team, you're kidding yourself. We're not that team, we haven't been that team for a while. ... We're a little wimpier than we used to be.
Strong defense or not, Ohio State simply hasn’t been consistent enough this year to be seen as a serious threat to win the Big Ten tournament.
The field is wide open in Indianapolis.
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