Big Ten Tournament Preview
As Selection Sunday and the NCAA Tournament await, the conference tournaments must be played out before the committee is finally ready to assemble the field of 68.
The Big Ten tournament is the last chance for some teams to make the last push for a top seed in the NCAA tournament, or consideration for entry into it.
The Big Ten tournament is going to be an exciting playoff series, as conference play took a sharp turn before the regular season ended. The Wisconsin Badgers fell from a top three seed to potentially a sixth seed with their late season (2-5) skid.
Michigan State and Minnesota found a hot streak at the right time, while Purdue held its own to seal the title of best team in the Big Ten.
Before we break down the Big Ten tournament, Penn State, Ohio State, Nebraska and, Rutgers are mathematically eliminated from an NCAA tournament, unless one shocks the world and wins the conference tournament to secure an automatic bid.
What to watch for:
1) Is Purdue the best team in the Big Ten?
Many analysts and college basketball fans are wondering if Purdue is truly the best team in the Big Ten. Led by big man Caleb Swanigan, the Boilermakers finished at No. 14 with a 14-4 conference record. Purdue’s offense is dynamic and one of the best in the country, averaging 80.5 points per game. Purdue is an excellent passing team, as they rank No. 2 in the nation in assists per game at 18.2. Teams matched up with the Boilermakers must be able to limit Swanigan, since it will be too tough to stop him. Purdue is undoubtedly the best team in the Big Ten, but they can be challenged by great competition.
2) Can Wisconsin bounce back from its horrid end to a solid season?
The Badgers dropped five of seven in the final games of the regular season, falling to Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, and Ohio State. Wisconsin is too good of a basketball team to let a poor finish slow them down in a place where head coach Greg Gard is highly familiar with. The Badgers are led by a plethora of talent in Bronson Koenig, Ethan Happ, and Nigel Hayes. Their skills and veteran leadership are what separate them from other Big Ten players. All season long, Happ reminded Badgers fans of former Wisconsin great Frank Kaminsky, who led the school to an NCAA finals loss to the Duke Blue Devils in 2015. Happ possesses a very similar skill set that makes him so difficult for other teams to stop. This team is too disciplined and talented to let a poor finish push them off course when it matters most. Wisconsin is well equipped to bounce back and take both tournaments by storm.
3) Is there a Cinderella team that can pull an upset in the Big Ten?
Enter head coach Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans. Izzo is a master at preparing his teams for the postseason and will do it again. The Spartans suffered a tremendous loss in senior guard Eron Harris, who was third on the team in scoring. Freshman Miles Bridges, who averages 16.6 points per game, has developed nicely and will be the face of Green & White moving forward. Izzo and company do have a tough potential matchup against a rested and scary good Minnesota Golden Gophers team that finished the season with an eight-game win streak before falling to Wisconsin.
4) Who is most likely poised for an upset?
Purdue, plain and simple. The Boilermakers have the most difficult road to travel to the Big Ten finals. They could play Michigan, Michigan State or Minnesota, and then face Maryland or Wisconsin in the later rounds. Minnesota provides the toughest matchup and is the most capable of unseating the Boilermakers because they are talented down low to combat Swanigan. Furthermore, Michigan is on the bubble and playing for an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament. In the past, we have seen underrated Michigan teams catch fire in March. While Purdue is the best team in the Big Ten, they are the most vulnerable to a bad loss in the tournament because of the talented, underrated teams that could ware them down.
5) Who wins?
Wisconsin wins the Big Ten tournament because they are too good to let its late season conundrum affect the postseason. Wisconsin is looked upon by many analysts as an overrated team and will use the criticism as an incentive to regain its elite status. The Badgers have an easy warm up game against the likes of Iowa or Indiana, before possibly meeting with Maryland and Purdue. The extra practice and rest time will reward Happ and his teammates immensely.
Zach Seyko is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in communication arts & sciences. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Senior / Broadcast Journalism