The Big Ten is jam-packed with loads of talent and figures to be one of the most exciting conference tournaments this year. With four Top 25 teams and six of its 12 teams finishing with a conference record of .500 or better, it appears as though we will have a highly contested event on our hands.
Michigan looks to be the team to beat, as the team finished off its regular season riding a hot streak. Five straight wins, including a decisive victory over Michigan State, should have the Wolverines' confidence soaring.
However, they will not be without some major competition. Wisconsin and Michigan State both fell in their respective season finales, but each had strong regular-season showings, winning 12 games apiece in Big Ten play.
Nebraska and Ohio State finished the regular season with big wins, giving them hot hands entering the tournament.
In fact, Nebraska's 77-68 win over Wisconsin to end the season was huge in terms of boosting the squad's confidence heading into tournament action. During the postgame press conference, Nebraska head coach Tim Miles spoke about how his team has changed over the past season, via the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com):
That's what we want Husker basketball to be about and that's what we want it to continue to be about. We've had a good run, a really good run. But we're only halfway through the journey.
This is my program. We don't carry any baggage. Everywhere we've been, I've been surrounded by great people and we win, and we're going to keep doing it. So all that cursed crap, all of the hexing and vexing and all that (stuff) that goes with it is exactly that.
We're certainly in for a treat, as plenty of teams have a solid chance to go the distance here. Let's take a look at the tournament seeds, odds, schedule and viewing information, followed by a prediction of how this tournament could possibly shake out.
What: Big Ten Conference Tournament
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Ind.
When: March 13-16
Live Stream: ESPN3
|Big Ten Conference Tournament Seeds and Odds|
|Big Ten Conference Tournament Schedule|
|Time (ET)||Team 1||Team 2||TV Info|
|Thurs., March 13|
|12 p.m.||No. 8 Indiana||No. 9 Illinois||BTN|
|Following Game 1||No. 5 Ohio State||No. 12 Purdue||BTN|
|6:30 p.m.||No. 7 Minnesota||No. 10 Penn State||ESPN2|
|Following Game 3||No. 6 Iowa||No. 11 Northwestern||ESPN2|
|Fri., March 14|
|12 p.m.||No. 1 Michigan||Game 1 Winner||ESPN|
|Following Game 5||No. 4 Nebraska||Game 2 Winner||ESPN|
|6:30 p.m.||No. 2 Wisconsin||Game 3 Winner||BTN|
|Following Game 7||No. 3 Michigan State||Game 4 Winner||BTN|
|Sat., March 15|
|1:40 p.m.||Game 5 Winner||Game 6 Winner||CBS|
|Following Game 9||Game 7 Winner||Game 8 Winner||CBS|
|Sun., March 16|
|3:30 p.m.||Game 9 Winner||Game 10 Winner||CBS|
Full tournament bracket can be found on BigTen.org.
Round 1 kicks off with Indiana facing Illinois. These teams split the regular season, but the Hoosiers have put together a better late-season stretch. That will be enough to advance them here. Ohio State will advance without a problem against a Purdue team riding a six-game losing streak.
Minnesota had Penn State's number during regular-season play, and that will continue in Round 1 of the tournament. Finally, Iowa will move to the quarterfinals against a Northwestern team that was blown out by the Hawkeyes twice this season.
The quarterfinals will bring about the end of the Hoosiers' run, as they will find themselves overpowered by a strong Michigan team. Nebraska will continue to ride its hot streak to a close win against Ohio State. Wisconsin will easily dispose of Minnesota, and and Iowa won't be able to keep up with Michigan State.
In the semifinals, Nebraska will put up a good fight against No. 1 Michigan. However, the Cornhuskers' streak will come to an end, as the Wolverines contain too much firepower. The last time Wisconsin met Michigan State, the Badgers came away with a two-point victory. Expect the same result, as Wisconsin will continue its good run through the tournament.
This brings us to the finals, where Michigan will take on Wisconsin.
These teams split their regular-season matchups, and a tight game should be expected. It will come down to the team riding a bigger hot streak in this one, as confidence entering this game will be a huge factor.
Expect a back-and-forth contest with many lead changes. However, it will be the depth and solid perimeter shooting of the Wolverines that allows them to grab a late lead and hold on to it for the win.
Tournament Winner: Michigan