BIG TEN CONFERENCE
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Record: 28-3, 16-2
The Badgers are the 1-seed and favorite to win this Tournament, and with how they’ve looked in the last three Games, there’s no reason to take anyone else. Wisconsin most recently carved through Ohio State… in Columbus.
No one else in the Big Ten has the players to defend the size and shooting of Wisconsin. From Frank Kaminsky on down, the Badgers just outmatch every other team in the conference. Purdue could give them a tough matchup in the size department in the semis, but the Boilermakers lack in other areas. This is Wisconsin’s Tournament to win, and they could grab a 1-seed for March Madness if they do.
Record: 26-5, 14-4
The Terrapins had a great non-Conference run and that continued into Conference play. Coming into this Tournament, they have won seven straight Games, although none of them being road Games against a team with a winning record. When on their Game, Maryland can play with anyone, but they don’t have the type of team that can do that every day.
The trio of Melo Trimble, Dez Wells and Jake LAyman is a solid core, but if the freshman Trimble isn’t hitting his shots, there is no telling what this group will do. If the Terps get by Northwestern/Iowa in their first Game, a 3-seed in NCAAs should be theirs, and then they’ll likely get Ohio State (lost at OSU 80-56) or Michigan State (swept), both winnable.
Record: 21-10, 12-6
The Spartans have been a bit tricky to bet on for most of the season, but in Conference play have actually been more trustworthy in road Games than at home, which could bode well for their Tournament chances. Of course, that also means they have confusing home losses (Illinois, Minnesota, Texas Southern).
Their first Game will likely be against Ohio State, a team they beat with a buzzer beater at home a month ago. If they win that, they’ll face a Maryland team that swept them in the regular season. Michigan State is a team that could lose to Ohio State in their first Game, or give Wisconsin some trouble in the title Game.
Record: 20-11, 12-6
The Boilermakers kind of came out of nowhere in Big Ten play and look to be headed for the NCAA Tournament, even if they lose their first Game (probably Iowa). Of course, nothing is taken for granted when it comes to the committee, though. After a poor non-Conference run with losses to North Florida and Gardner-Webb, Purdue has a number of nice wins in Big Ten play.
They are one of the few teams in the Conference that can fight Wisconsin size-for-size and may get to meet the Badgers in the semifinals.
Record: 21-10, 12-6
The Hawkeyes left the bubble a couple weeks ago as they have won six straight Games since losses to Minnesota and Northwestern. Iowa is playing its best basketball of the season and would like to meet up with Wisconsin again for the third time.
While Purdue has a shot against the Badgers, it’s hard to see Iowa doing much better against them than in previous matchups this season. Even though the Hawkeyes are hot, don’t expect them to reach the championship.
Record: 22-9, 11-7
The Buckeyes were ranked for most of the season, but a loss to Wisconsin knocked them out this week. A lot of people like to say OSU is an inconsistent team, but that isn’t really the case. They are 1-6 against the RPI Top 50, which probably says it all. Their best non-Conference win is against High Point. OSU is built around one guy and he’s really good, freshman D’Angelo Russell.
Expect the Bucks to be seeded in the 7- or 8- range unless they can get through Michigan State and Maryland to the title Game. Those Games are possible, but the only way that happens is if Russell is on his Game for three straight days. He had one of his worst Games of the year against MSU a month ago.
Record: 19-12, 9-9
The Hoosiers quickly fell to bubble material over the last week and that has brought doubt upon coach Tom Crean. They have lost Four of their last five Games, with three of those losses coming at home. They aren’t playing well and might have to beat Maryland to make March Madness.
Of course, Indiana has to beat Northwestern first, a team they lost to a couple weeks ago. But if they do win, IU did give Maryland trouble in both meetings this year.
Record: 19-12, 9-9
Illinois is probably in a little more trouble than Indiana having lost Four of their last six. A win over Michigan probably won’t be enough for the Illini to make the Tourney, which means beating Wisconsin is their only likelihood of making it. Good luck.
The Big Ten is a deep Conference and teams like Michigan, Minnesota or Northwestern could pull an upset or two, but none of them will be putting together a run for the championship.
It’s going to be difficult for anyone to knock the Badgers off. They are a senior-laden squad and are likely to get senior Traevon Jackson back. They are determined to get a 1-seed for March Madness, as well. Michigan State went on a run in last year’s Tourney and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them do the same against OSU and Maryland this season. But beating the Badgers isn’t likely.