JaJuan Johnson can see the NCAA Tournament in his future
The Big Ten men's basketball tournament, played at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, gets started this Thursday at 2:30 p.m. when Northwestern takes on Minnesota. The winner of the Big Ten tournament secures an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Everyone basketball fan knows going into the Big Ten tournament that Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin are all going to receive an invitation to the NCAA tournament regardless of what they do this week.
Ohio State and Purdue, with a strong showing in the Big Ten tournament, can secure a No. 1 seed. While a No. 1 seed is likely out of the reach of the Badgers, Wisconsin could likely secure a No. 2 seed with a conference championship.
Of course, the more difficult questions are how many more Big Ten teams will secure an NCAA tournament bid after the Big Ten championship game is played on Sunday, and how many games do those Big Ten squads on the NCAA bubble need to win to make it to the Big Dance?
Below, a quick look at what the Big Ten bubble teams need to do to get into the NCAA tournament.
Dememtri McCamey Needs to Play Well for the Illini to beat Michigan
In the second half of play in the Big Ten conference, the Illini only went 4-5, and their sole road victory was against Minnesota, who arguably had the worst second half of any team in the Big Ten.
Illini fans remember the bitterness of last year’s Selection Sunday program when their team was left at the altar and Minnesota was given an invitation despite the fact that Illinois had a better record than the Gophers and beat them during the regular season.
If the Illini can beat Michigan in their opening game of the Big Ten tournament, Illinois should make the NCAA tournament.
A loss to the Wolverines, and there will be anxious moments around television sets in Champaign on Sunday.
Demetri McCamey has been erratic during the second half of the season, and Illini fans hope he brings his A game to Indianapolis.
What Illini Need: Illinois needs at least one win.
Christian Watford is likely looking forward to next season
Indiana only makes the NCAA tournament if it can find the magic formula and make a miraculous run in the Big Ten tournament. However, it is hard to imagine Indiana doing anything other than going home early.
The Hoosiers have lost their last eight games and played with very little energy against Illinois in losing their season finale 72-48.
Indiana plays the Nittany Lions in its opening game of the tournament; the Hoosiers lost to Penn State 69-60 in their only meeting of the season in Happy Valley.
What Hoosiers Need: Big Ten Tournament Championship.
Matt Gatens may be the most underrated player in the Big Ten
The only postseason tournament the Hawkeyes can make this year is the NCAA tournament, as playing well enough to make the finals of the Big Ten tournament will not allow Iowa to secure a NIT bid. Could the Hawkeyes win the Big Ten tournament? Iowa shocked No. 6 Purdue in its season finale in Iowa City, but it is hard to imagine the Hawkeyes winning four games as deep as the Big Ten is this year.
Iowa opens against Michigan State. The Hawkeyes beat the Spartans 72-52 in Iowa City in its first meeting, but lost to them 85-66 in East Lansing.
History is not likely to repeat itself in the third meeting, as the game will likely go down to the final minute.
What Hawkeyes Need: Big Ten tournament championship
This could be the coming out party for Darius Morris
A victory by the Wolverines, and they ensure themselves of a bid in the NCAA tournament. They would have reached 20 wins and a .500 or better record in the Big Ten.
A loss by Michigan, and the Wolverines will likely be one of the last teams not to make the NCAA tournament.
Michigan has no signature wins on the season, as it went 0-7 against ranked opponents during the year. If Michigan loses in the first round, it will have failed to beat Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin or Illinois during the year.
What Wolverines Need: Michigan needs at least one win.
Kalin Lucas Needs to Play Well if the Spartans are to advance
The Spartans likely need at least two wins in the Big Ten tournament to make the NCAA tournament, as they struggled throughout the Big Ten season.
The bad news for Michigan State is that it is still playing inconsistently at the end of the year. The Spartans are 4-5 in their last nine games and dropped their last game of the season against in-state rival Michigan, 70-63.
The good news for the Spartans is that they open the Big Ten tournament against Iowa, and provided they get by the Hawkeyes, they play Purdue. The bad news for Michigan State is that Purdue beat the Spartans by 20 in West Lafayette and also beat them in East Lansing by 10 points.
What Spartans Need: Because Purdue is a ranked opponent, Michigan State likely needs only two wins to get to the NCAA tournament. Beating the Boilermakers, however, will be no easy task.
Trevor Mbakwe will need to own the paint for the Gophers
Minnesota has completely imploded as a basketball team. The Gophers are a horrendous 1-9 in their last 10 games.
The principal cause of the catastrophic downfall of Minnesota is the injury to point guard Al Nolen. The absence of leadership with a veteran ball handler to make the right decision at the end of the game has resulted in head coach Tubby Smith seeing leads evaporate in the final minutes of the game.
If Minnesota can finally figure out its point guard dilemma against the Northwestern Wildcats, it gets to take on No. 1 Ohio State, who just dispatched Wisconsin in arguably the Buckeyes' best game of the year.
What Gophers Need: Minnesota needs to get to the Big Ten Championship game in order to secure an NCAA bid. A victory over the No. 1 ranked Buckeyes, coupled with 19 wins, very likely puts the Gophers into the NCAA tournament. If they could make it to the Big Ten Championship game, similar to last year, then they are definitely going to the Big Dance.
John Shurna needs to reemerge for the Wildcats
Déjà vu all over again for the Wildcats, as they ended the season by beating Minnesota 68-57 and start the Big Ten Tournament against the Golden Gophers as well.
As most NCAA basketball fans know, Northwestern has never been invited to the NCAA tournament.
The streak of Northwestern not getting to the NCAA tournament could be extended for another year as the Wildcats finished with a paltry 7-11 Big Ten conference record, and it is three games shy of securing 20 wins on the season.
Northwestern has a lot of work to do.
What the Wildcats Need: Similar to the Gophers, Northwestern can make the NCAA tournament by making it to the Big Ten Championship game, because that would include a win over No. 1 Ohio State.
The last hurrah for Talor Battle?
The Nittany Lions have some quality wins on their NCAA tournament resume, as they have defeated Michigan State, Illinois and Wisconsin. Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, they don’t have enough wins on their resume.
Penn State received a favorable opening round draw against Indiana to start the Big Ten tournament.
If the Nittany Lions defeat Indiana, they get to take on Wisconsin, which is a team that plays a style of basketball suited to the talent on Penn State.
It would be a shame if Talor Battle closes out his Penn State career without making at least one NCAA tournament appearance.
What the Nittany Lions Need: Penn State gets to the NCAA tournament by making it to the Big Ten Tournament Championship game.