It’s mid-March in Chicago and that means it’s time for the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament. 12 teams will be playing not only for a trophy but also for an automatic bid into the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
Here is how the schedule looked like:
At 11am sharp, the tournament opened when the #8 seed Illinois Fighting Illini take on the #9 seed Minnesota Golden Gophers. Back in February, the Illini beat the Gophers on their home court in a nationally televised game.
Both schools started off with strong performances in non-conference play but struggled once the Big Ten portion of their schedules began in January. Illinois and Minnesota surged in February and finished strong.
The plus side for the Illini is that they have a home court advantage of sorts by playing here at the Madhouse on Madison. Back in December, John Groce’s team sold out the UC in a nationally televised non-conference game against Auburn. They won the game in dominating fashion, they hope for a similar performance today.
The Fighting Illini are lead by guard Brandon Paul and center Nnanna Egwu. The Golden Gophers counter with their guard tandem of Andre and Austin Hollins. The winner of this game will face the #1 seed Indiana Hoosiers in tomorrow’s opening 2nd round game. Both teams own regular season victories over Indiana.
The second game on the schedule is between the #5 seed Michigan Wolverines and the #12 seed Penn State Nittany Lions. The Wolverines are just too strong and I expect them to win this game with no issues what so ever. Even though Penn State pulled off an upset victory over Michigan this year, the Wolverines won’t let themselves lose to the Lions twice.
The winner of this game will take on the #4 seed Wisconsin Badgers tomorrow in the 2nd round. Wisconsin has defeated both teams during the regular season this year. In the afternoon, the 7th seeded Purdue Boliermakers will go up against the 10th seeded Nebraska Cornhuskers. Purdue beat Nebraska on their home floor back in January. Both teams are below the .500 mark and they need a win or two if they are to have any postseason aspirations.
The Purdue/Nebraska winner will take on the #2 seed Ohio State Buckeyes tomorrow. And finally in the night cap, the 6th seeded Iowa Hawkeyes will take on the 11th seeded Northwestern Wildcats.
The Hawkeyes won both regular season meetings with the “Cardiac Cats” and scored a total of 141 points in those meetings. Iowa is a fundamentally sound team who makes very few mistakes. Plus, they also have a size advantage over Northwestern.Four of Iowa’s five starters measure 6’6″ or taller while the Wildcats only have two starters who measure in that category.
But regardless of who win’s this game, the winner will have the difficult task of going up against the #3 seed Michigan State Spartans on Friday. One thing about conference tournaments is that they always seem to separate the men from the boys. They also tend to bring out the best in teams that are considered underdogs. I expect these next four days to be no different.
You can follow me during the tournament on Twitter @GabeSalgado82