Big Ten Tournament Preview
Thursday marks the start of one of the more intriguing conference tournaments to date, the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis. The Big Ten has been a league filled with talent, yet plagued by inconsistency.
While Michigan won the conference in the regular season, there is no guarantee they even make it to the championship during the hectic conference tournament. The first round opens up with some pretty uninspiring matchups, such as Iowa vs. Northwestern and Ohio State vs. Purdue.
However, both Ohio State and Iowa, the favorites in those games, have proved to be incredibly inconsistent and an upset should surprise no one. Indiana and Illinois are two evenly matched teams and should make for an exciting game to kick off the tournament.
Other matchups in the opening round include, seven seed Minnesota(19-12, 8-10 in Big Ten) versus 10 seed Penn State(15-16, 6-12 in Big Ten) where the Golden Gophers recently defeated the Nittany Lions 81-63 in the regular season finale. No Big Ten team is more in need of a run to solidify a NCAA bid than Richard Pitino’s Golden Gophers. A win over the Nittany Lions brings a matchup with the Wisconsin Badgers. A win over the Badgers would do Minnesota wonders in the eyes of the selection committee.
Facing a Nittany Lions less than a week before their tournament meeting could be a wild card matchup in the first round. Despite Penn State not being able to finish above .500, they still have signature wins this season against teams like Ohio State, Indiana and Nebraska.
Pat Chambers' Nittany Lions would need a conference tournament championship to get into the big dance, but they need a few wins to get a bid for the NIT tournament. Penn State sits at 15-16 overall and finished 6-10 in Big Ten play. Wins over Minnesota and Wisconsin would help their case for an NIT bid.
Another team that could use another big win is the Nebraska Cornhuskers. After starting 0-4 in the conference, Big Ten first team selection, Terran Petteway, and the rest of the Huskers have rallied together to finish fourth in the conference (11-7). The Huskers face off with the winner of the matchup between Ohio State and Purdue. Another win for Big Ten Coach of the Year Tim Miles’ squad would surely slot them in the NCAA tournament.
As for the top three seeds, there is a lot to be gained. The team with the most to gain is Wisconsin. If Bo Ryan and the Badgers can run through the Big Ten tournament and win the title, they very well could earn the last number one seed. The Badgers won’t have an easy path, however, as they face the winner of the Minnesota vs Penn State game. If they win that contest, they could possibly face the winner of Michigan State and Iowa, two very talented, but underachieving teams.
Speaking of Michigan State, this tournament is going to be huge for the Spartans confidence. Tom Izzo’s squad has battled injuries all season long, but a run in the conference tournament would do wonders for this team’s seeding and confidence. The Spartans must use this time to figure out how healthy their talented, but injury plagued, trio of Keith Appling, Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson are.
The conference champion, Michigan, most likely can’t earn a number one seed in the tournament, but John Beilein’s team has the ability and the desire to win this tournament. Led by Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas, the Wolverines will have to fight off the winner of the Indiana vs. Illinois game before looking ahead to their tougher tournament matchups.
In a conference like the Big Ten, any team is capable of getting hot and winning the conference tournament. Whether it be Michigan or Purdue, the Big Ten is one of the most unpredictable conferences in recent memory. Teams on the bubble will be watching this tournament closely, hoping that a bottom seed doesn’t steal a bid to the NCAA tournament.
Jeff Jezewski is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Nasser Monayair is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Jeff Jezewski is a senior from Nanticoke, PA, aspiring to work professionally in the sports industry. Jeff is currently a production director for ComRadio while also serving as a play-by-play broadcaster and a producer.
In the summer of 2014, Jeff interned with Westwood One in New York City. Jeff served as a live event production intern in his time with the company. In the fall of 2014, he served as an intern for ESPN 1450 in State College.
In the summer of 2015, Jeff acted as a media relations intern for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.