The Purdue Boilermakers were the kings of the Big Ten regular season, but winning that title in the Big Ten tournament may require them to raise their level of play.
That's because the Midwest-based Big Ten is not holding its annual end-of-season event in Chicago or Indianapolis, where it has been previously. The Big Ten conference tournament will be held at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C, starting March 8.
That's right in the backyard of the Maryland Terrapins, the No. 3 seed and a team that is hungry to win its first Big Ten conference tournament title.
The tournament will be televised by BTN, ESPN, ESPN2 and CBS. It will be live-streamed at btn2go.com.
|Big Ten Conference Tournament Schedule|
|Opening Round||Date||Time (ET)||TV|
|Penn State (13) vs. Nebraska (12)||March 8||4:30 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Rutgers (14) vs. Ohio State (11)||March 8||7 p.m.||BTN|
|Illinois (9) vs. Michigan (8)||March 9||12 noon||BTN|
|Penn State-Nebraska winner vs. Michigan State (5)||March 9||2:45 p.m. (appx.)||BTN|
|Indiana (10) vs. Iowa (7)||March 9||6:30 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Rutgers-Ohio State vs. Northwestern (6)||March 9||9:15 p.m. (appx.)||ESPN2|
|Illinois-Michigan winner vs. Purdue (1)||March 10||12 noon||ESPN|
|TBD vs. Minnesota (4)||March 10||2:45 p.m. (appx.)||ESPN|
|Indiana-Iowa winner vs. Wisconsin (2)||March 10||6:30 p.m.||BTN|
|TBD vs. Maryland (3)||March 10||9:15 p.m. (appx.)||BTN|
|TBD vs. TBD||March 11||1 p.m.||CBS|
|TBD vs. TBD||March 11||3:30 p.m.||CBS|
|TBD vs. TBD||March 12||3 p.m.||CBS|
The Boilermakers (25-6, 14-4) finished the regular season with a hard-fought 69-65 victory at Northwestern Sunday, as Vincent Edwards scored 25 points and Caleb Swanigan added 20 points and 14 rebounds.
Purdue got the best of a much-improved Northwestern (21-10, 10-8) team that is likely to be going to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. Head coach Chris Collins has turned a program that had known little but heartbreak and near-misses into a competitive team in one of the most established conferences in the country.
The Boilermakers are a strong team led by the powerful Swanigan, who has recorded 25 double-doubles this season. They rank 16th in the nation and appear to be in line for a fourth seed in the NCAA tournament.
The Terps (24-7, 12-6) should be in prime position to make a run at the conference tournament championship for the first time since joining the Big Ten in 2014.
While the Terps will be playing close to home, they have lost three of their last five games coming into the tournament. If they are going to turn things around, look for junior guard Melo Trimble to lead the way.
Trimble is averaging 16.9 points per game and is capable of an explosive scoring effort. He is getting help from Justin Jackson and Anthony Cowan, who are both averaging in double-figures for points scored.
Wisconsin (23-8, 12-6) is the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament, and while the Badgers have represented the conference well in recent years, it would be a surprise if this year's team had a long run in the NCAA tournament.
The Badgers registered a home victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the season finale, but they had lost their three previous games. Head coach Greg Gard is going to have to turn the team around quickly if Wisconsin is going to have a good chance at making a strong showing in the Big Ten tournament.
Senior guard Bronson Koenig is the Badgers' leading scorer with a mark of 14.1 points per game. He is a sensational free-throw shooter, connecting on 90.7 percent of his shots from the line.
He gets support from sophomore forward Ethan Happ, who is averaging 14.0 points and a team-high 8.9 rebounds per game. Senior forward Nigel Hayes is averaging 13.5 points per game and is also a big-time performer on the boards.
Minnesota (23-8, 11-7) came into its regular-season finale with an eight-game winning streak. However, the Golden Gophers were pummelled 66-49 by the Badgers, and they fell to the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten tournament.
The Gophers have already showed how they can rebound from disappointing slump after rallying from a five-game midseason losing streak. Junior guard Nate Mason has proved to be a go-to player as he leads the team with a 15.4 points per game mark. While Mason is connecting on just 38.4 percent of his shots from the field, he has shown he can hit key shots at vital moments.
Three of his teammates are averaging in double figures, including Amir Coffey, Jordan Murphy and Dupree McBrayer. The Gophers could have a chance to make a long run in the Big Ten tournament.
So could Northwestern, and that has rarely been said. While the Wildcats dropped their season finale to the Boilermakers, they showed their competitiveness as they cut a late nine-point lead to one point before falling short.
Swingman Scottie Lindsay and guard Bryant McIntosh are leading Northwestern with an average of 14.2 points per game, while Vic Law is averaging 12.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Dererk Pardon, who scored the winning basket at the buzzer in their 67-65 victory over Michigan on March 1, is the team's leading rebounder with 8.2 boards per game.
Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa are all solid teams, but none appear to be in a strong position to make a run at the Big Ten tournament title.
The Boilermakers could put their stamp on a brilliant season by winning the conference tournament as well as the regular-season title. This team has talent, depth and play with the requisite toughness needed to get the job done in the conference tournament.
Swanigan is the best player in the conference, and he is capable of putting his signature on every game he plays. Since the Boilermakers are regularly a good team, but not usually elite, look for them to continue to play hard in every conference tournament game and get to the championship game.
The Maryland Terrapins have long been one of the better college basketball programs, and they have played well since moving to the Big Ten. However, they have not won a title.
This could be the year that changes, since they are playing at the Verizon Center and should have a huge following in nearby Washington D.C. Look for the Terps to get a lift from the crowd, and they have a big-time leader in Trimble.
This is a great opportunity for Maryland, and the Terps will not let it slip through their grasp.
They will win the Big Ten conference tournament title.