Big Ten Tournament 2017: Preview, Predictions and Players to Watch

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 4, 2017

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - FEBRUARY 18: Caleb Swanigan #50 of the Purdue Boilermakers looks to the basket against Miles Bridges #22 of the Michigan State Spartans during the game at Mackey Arena on February 18, 2017 in West Lafayette, Indiana. Purdue defeated Michigan State 80-63. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Big Ten only has two teams ranked in the top 25 of the Sagarin ratings (Purdue at No. 12 and Wisconsin at No. 18), but it's certainly not lacking in depth this year.

ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi currently has seven teams in the NCAA tournament field, including Northwestern, which is on track to make its first-ever March Madness appearance. Only one conference (the ACC) is projected to have more teams make the field.

Here's a look at the schedule as it currently stands, as well as three players to watch and some predictions.

Only two teams have sewn up their seedsPurdue at No. 1 and Rutgers at No. 14. Everything else will be decided after the Big Ten regular season ends on Sunday.

 

Big Ten Tournament Schedule

DateGameRoundMatchupTime (ET)TV
Wednesday, March 81FirstNo. 13 seed vs. No. 12 seed4:30 p.m.ESPN2
Wednesday, March 82FirstRutgers vs. No. 11 seed7 p.m.BTN
Thursday, March 93SecondNo. 9 seed vs. No. 8 seedNoonBTN
Thursday, March 94SecondNo. 5 seed vs. Game 1 winner25 minutes after Game 3BTN
Thursday, March 95SecondNo. 10 seed vs. No. 7 seed6:30 p.m.ESPN2
Thursday, March 96SecondNo. 6 seed vs. Game 2 winner25 minutes after Game 5ESPN2
Friday, March 107QuarterfinalsPurdue vs. Game 3 winnerNoonESPN
Friday, March 108QuarterfinalsNo. 4 seed vs. Game 4 winner25 minutes after Game 7ESPN
Friday, March 109QuarterfinalsNo. 2 seed vs. Game 5 winner6:30 p.m.BTN
Friday, March 1010QuarterfinalsNo. 3 seed vs. Game 6 winner25 minutes after Game 9BTN
Saturday, March 1111SemifinalsGame 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner1 p.m.CBS Sports
Saturday, March 1112SemifinalsGame 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner3:30 p.m.CBS Sports
Sunday, March 1213FinalsGame 11 winner vs. Game 12 winner3 p.m.CBS Sports

Information via grfx.cstv.com. All games will take place at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

 

Players to Watch

Caleb Swanigan

Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan is receiving national attention for his incredible story. On Friday, CBS News had a segment on the Boilermaker star and future NBA draft pick detailing his childhood.

It's hard to write a quick summary of his story because that wouldn't give proper respect to the immense challenge he overcame, so all I will say is that watching that piece is well worth your time.

On the court, the future NBA draft pick has shined this season while leading Purdue to a Big Ten regular-season title. The 6'9", 250-pound big man is averaging 18.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. In fact, he's only failed to register a double-double five times this entire year. Swanigan is so proficient at achieving double-doubles that he might even break the Big Ten record.

Swanigan, a favorite for the Naismith Player of the Year, will be very difficult for any team in the country to deal with in March, let alone the Big Ten.

 

Nigel Hayes

The 6'8" senior forward, who doubles as the most interesting and outspoken man in college basketball, certainly has the tournament experience to lead the Badgers deep in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

He was a key member on the 2015 team that went to the national championship, losing to Duke. This season, Hayes is the leader of the Badgers, averaging 13.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.

Hayes also etched his name into Big Ten history recently:

Wisconsin is struggling down the stretch, losing five of its last six games, but behind Hayes, the team can right the ship.

 

Bryant McIntosh

The prediction here is that McIntosh is about to introduce himself onto the national stage this month.

The 6'3" junior point guard has been playing great basketball lately, averaging 17.4 points per game in his last nine contests. McIntosh averages 14.2 points and 5.4 assists for a Northwestern team that is just one game back of second place in the Big Ten.

McIntosh's most impressive performance occurred when he scored 25 points, dropped seven assists and pulled down seven boards at Wisconsin in a 66-59 win on February 12.

Don't be surprised if he does something similar numerous times in March.

 

Prediction

It's hard to pick anyone but Purdue, which is the best team and has the best player. 

The Boilermakers should hold serve and win the Big Ten title, and the Minnesota Golden Gophers will join them in the championship game.

After an ugly five-game losing streak, Minnesota has won eight games in a row to vault itself into a tie for second place with one conference game remaining. The Golden Gophers are 23-7 and beat Purdue, 91-82 in overtime on January 1.

Expect Purdue to get some revenge on Minnesota and cut down the nets this time.

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