Big Ten Tournament Preview

Story posted March 8, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Tom Shively

Preseason favorite Maryland (24-7, 12-6) ran out of gas late in the season, but the Terps still finished in third place, joining Indiana (25-6, 15-3), Michigan State (26-5, 13-5), and Purdue (24-7, 12-6) in the top four, avoiding the first two rounds of the Big Ten Tournament.

Indiana won the outright regular season title for a 22nd time (tied with Purdue for most all-time), and look to build their NCAA Tournament resume even more after a shaky non-conference performance left a lot to be desired.  Michigan State, after spending some time at No. 1 in the nation, weathered the storm while Denzel Valentine was injured, finishing strong to grab the second seed after a fourth-place preseason projection.

Defending champion and national-runner up Wisconsin (20-11, 12-6) bounced back nicely from some early struggles as well, including the loss of longtime head coach Bo Ryan.  The Badgers have won 11 of their last 13 games and will be the sixth seed in Indianapolis.

Ohio State (19-12, 11-7) and Michigan (20-11, 10-8) are the conference’s two bubble residents and will need to rack up some wins in order to hear their names called on Selection Sunday.  They will each have to do so without their best players, JaeSean Tate and Caris LeVert, both of whom are lost for the season due to injury.

Schedule:

Wednesday, March 9

No. 13 Minnesota vs. No. 12 Illinois, 4:30 ET

No. 14 Rutgers vs. No. 11 Nebraska, 7 ET

Thursday, March 10

No. 9 Northwestern vs. No. 8 Michigan, 12 ET

Game 1 winner vs No. 5 Iowa, 2:30 ET

No. 10 Penn State vs. No. 7 Ohio State, 6:30 ET

Game 2 winner vs. No. 6 Wisconsin, 9 ET

Friday, March 11

Game 3 winner vs. No. 1 Indiana, 12 ET

Game 4 winner vs. No. 4 Purdue, 2:30 ET

Game 5 winner vs. No. 2 Michigan State, 6:30 ET

Game 6 winner vs. No. 3 Maryland, 9 ET

Saturday, March 12

Semifinal 1, 1 ET

Semifinal 2, 3:30 ET

Sunday, March 13

Championship Game, 3 ET

Players to Watch

Denzel Valentine of Michigan State appears to be the frontrunner for National Player of the Year and for good reason, leading the conference in points and assists per game at 19.6 and 7.5, respectively.  The Spartans have only lost two games with Valentine in the starting lineup.

Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes is the only remaining starter from last year’s Final Four team, and he has done a nice job to turn the Badgers around, averaging 16.5 ppg and 6.2 rpg to help put his team safely into the NCAA Tournament field for the 13th straight season.

Yogi Ferrell of Indiana has helped his team to defy expectations and comfortably win the regular season conference title, finishing in the top five in points and assists.  The senior was part of the 2013 Sweet Sixteen squad and looks to validate Indiana’s regular season title with a tournament championship.

Predictions

No team in America is hotter than Michigan State, and they will ride their recent success to a Big Ten Tournament title.  They will take down Purdue in the title game, whose triple threat of AJ Hammons, Isaac Haas, and Caleb Swanigan will be too much for top-seeded Indiana to handle in the semifinals.

Tom Shively is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism.  You can contact him at shivelyt97@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @t_shives.