Big Ten Basketball Tournament Preview
Ben Jenkins, Jason Marcus and Joe Skinner preview the Big Ten Tournament at Madison Square Garden this week:
Normally during this time of year, Big Ten teams are closing out the regular season and putting the finishing touches on a tournament resume. This year is a little different with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s decision to play the conference tournament in Madison Square Garden moved the conference slate up a week.
The Big Ten Tournament's earlier start might make it harder for teams in the NCAA Tournament, as the extra rest might not be beneficial for some teams playing their best basketball at that time. One team that might be embracing the extended rest is Michigan State and Tom Izzo.
The Spartans are ranked second in the country and won the conference outright with a 16-2 record. They are clearly the team to beat in New York with their 12-game win streak being the longest in the nation.
The only other team in the Big Ten with a winning streak longer than three games is Michigan, who might be playing its best basketball of the season right now. The Wolverines are the last team to beat Michigan State, and their ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter will be the biggest threat in preventing the Spartans from making the final.
Ohio State and Purdue are the teams on the opposite side of the bracket that could potentially beat Michigan State. The Buckeyes were the only other team in the conference to knock off the Spartans, but a potential matchup with Penn State in the second round could be problematic.
They lost both games to the Nittany Lions with the recent loss being a 23-point blowout in Happy Valley. Mike Watkins' absence will not make Penn State as much of a threat, but the duo of Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens are capable of carrying the team deep into the conference tournament.
For most of the season, Purdue was the team to beat in the Big Ten, but it struggled to score the ball in its three-game losing streak. The Boilermakers have the talent to knock off Michigan State but need to play with consistency on the offensive end to knock off a dynamic Michigan State offense.
Nebraska is the dark horse of the tournament despite being the number four seed. The Cornhuskers are sitting on the tournament bubble after winning 10 of their final 12 games. The only problem for the Cornhuskers is a potential matchup with Michigan State in the semifinals. The Spartans already beat them by 29 in East Lansing earlier in the season, but things could be different this time around.
The start of the tournament on Wednesday features Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Rutgers. Of the four teams playing on Wednesday, Minnesota is the one most likely to make a deep tournament run. The Golden Gophers have been plagued with injuries and have been inconsistent, but they are talented and can beat a team like Indiana in the second round.
The Big Ten tournament is always exciting and the location of Madison Square Garden adds to the excitement. Michigan State is the clear favorite to win, but conference tournaments are always the time for top teams to get upset.
Joseph Esquivel-Murphy is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Senior / Broadcast Journalism