After a topsy-turvy roller coaster of an unpredictable regular season, the Wisconsin Badgers emerged as the No. 1 seed for the 2020 Big Ten tournament.
Wisconsin will head to Indianapolis riding an eight-game winning streak, yet the Badgers aren't the favorite. That label instead falls on either Maryland or Michigan State, which also finished atop the conference but lost the tiebreaker.
Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State are all contenders, while Indiana, Purdue and Rutgers are potential NCAA tournament teams. Even if they're not cutting down the nets, a couple of wins would be immensely valuable for that latter group.
And, most importantly, the winner of the Big Ten tournament will receive an automatic berth to March Madness.
Live stream: BTN2go.com.
*denotes approximate start time and all times Eastern
First Round (Wednesday, March 11)
Game 1: No. 13 Northwestern vs. No. 12 Minnesota, 6 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
G2: No. 14 Nebraska vs. No. 11 Indiana, 8:30 p.m.* (BTN)
Second Round (Thursday, March 12)
G3: No. 9 Michigan vs. No. 8 Rutgers, Noon (BTN)
G4: Game 1 winner vs. No. 5 Iowa, 2:30 p.m.* (BTN)
G5: No. 10 Purdue vs. No. 7 Ohio State, 6:30 p.m. (BTN)
G6: Game 2 winner vs. No. 6 Penn State, 9 p.m.* (BTN)
Quarterfinals (Friday, March 13)
G7: Game 3 winner vs. No. 1 Wisconsin, Noon (BTN)
G8: Game 4 winner vs. No. 4 Illinois, 2:30 p.m.* (BTN)
G9: Game 5 winner vs. No. 2 Michigan State, 6:30 p.m. (BTN)
G10: Game 6 winner vs. No. 3 Maryland, 9 p.m.* (BTN)
Semifinals (Saturday, March 14)
G11: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 1 p.m. (CBS)
G12: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 3:30 p.m.* (CBS)
Championship (Sunday, March 15)
G13: Game 11 winner vs. Game 12 winner, 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
Michigan State endured a dismal 1-4 stretch in the opening half of February, falling to Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan and Maryland along the way. However, the Spartans closed the regular season with four straight wins over Top 25 teams.
It's all about getting hot at the perfect time, right?
The Spartans lean on veterans Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman Sr., but a freshman may be their key to a Big Ten tournament title. Over the last three games, Rocket Watts has averaged 17.8 points. He'd managed 7.5 per game previously.
MSU has desperately need a complementary scorer all season. If Watts' recent stretch is sustainable, the Big Ten tourney may simply be the start of a special run for the Spartans.
Maryland seems to present the greatest challenge to MSU, especially given the programs can meet in the semifinals. We're favoring the Spartans, though, because the Terps have struggled immensely from the perimeter in recent games.
On the opposite side of the bracket, Wisconsin has an opportunity to show its recent surge is truly meaningful.
Yes, the Badgers had little control of the schedule. What they've accomplished—particularly after Kobe King's decision to transfer mid-season—is nothing short of remarkable and should not be discounted. Still, it's fair to acknowledge the recent slate was largely against the Big Ten's lesser teams.
Continuing this streak will be difficult as the competition level increases. We're picking an upset in the quarterfinals, tabbing Michigan to upend Wisconsin before topping Iowa in the next round.
That would ensure the Big Ten title is going to a Michigan school—and the defending champions will retain the title.
Michigan State, put simply, is the league's best team if Winston and Tillman aren't shouldering the entire offensive burden. Watts and Aaron Henry have both played excellently in recent games, allowing the Spartans to start to nearing their preseason hype.
Better late than never. And hardly at a better time.
Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.