Big Ten Tournament Preview: What's at Stake

Brian McBrideContributor IMarch 12, 2009

THURSDAY 3/12 - 12:00 PM et  (8)Minnesota vs. (9)Northwestern:

Minnesota - Earlier this season, after a 16-1 start that included huge wins against potential NCAA tournament number one seed Louisville and at Wisconsin, Minnesota looked like a lock to be dancing in March.  Since that time, the Gophers have been an underwhelming 5-8. 

Minnesota should have secured their spot in the NCAA tournament last week leading big at home against Michigan, but the Wolverines battled back to take the victory, making the Gopher's future slightly more unpredictable. 

A win against Northwestern should lock up an NCAA birth for the Gophers.

Northwestern - Northwestern has been hot and cold all year, but the Wildcats have secured big wins against Minnesota, Ohio State, and at Michigan State.  Currently, they are unlikely to be included in the NCAA tournament. 

If star forward Kevin Coble can get hot this weekend and make a run that at least gets through Minnesota and Michigan State, Northwestern will be firmly in talks to receive an at large bid; their first in school history.

THURSDAY 3/12 - 2:30 PM et (7)Michigan vs. (10)Iowa

Michigan- The Wolverines have a young squad that started the year off scorching with huge non-conference wins against UCLA and Duke.  Behind the stellar play of guard Manny Harris, the Wolverines have proven to be real contenders this season. 

At 19-12, Michigan sits atop the NCAA bubble.  They should win against a struggling Iowa squad, but to lock up their tournament birth they will also need to win their second round game against second seeded Illinois.

Iowa - Iowa has struggled this season at 15-16, playing horrendously on the road at 1-11.  They will not receive an at large bid to the tournament, so they are going to need to win the Big Ten to have a shot at the national championship.

Their NCAA tournament starts now.  They are just ten consecutive wins away from the National Glory.  In all likelihood, Iowa will find themselves in the NIT this year.

Thursday 3/12 - 5:00 PM et (6)Penn State vs. (11)Indiana

Penn State - At times, the Nittany Lions have been absolutely fabulous this year behind the Big Ten's leading scorer Talor Battle (17.3 ppg), while other times stumbling in games they should win; most notably, last weekend at Iowa.

Coming off the big loss at Iowa, PSU is going to want to get hot early.  They will make the field of 65 when the committee convenes Sunday evening, but the Nittany Lions want to build up some momentum heading into next week's tournament. Unfortunately, after Indiana, they face a dangerous Purdue squad.

Indiana - It has been a tough year for the Hoosiers and first year coach Tom Crean.  With only six wins on the season, this is not the type of year Indiana basketball fans are used to.  Tom Crean needs to get his team to take it to another level next season, because Hoosier fans expect wins.  If next season goes like this season, Tom Crean will find himself in the hot seat next March.

FRIDAY 3/13 - 12:00 PM et (1)Michigan State vs. (8) or (9)

Michigan State - Sparty has played great all year winning the Big Ten regular season title outright, led by Kalin Lucas who is the best point guard in the Big Ten.

MSU is safely in the NCAA tournament, but in light of recent comments by Tom Izzo, it appears he thinks the Spartans deserve a number one seed.  The Izzone will be in full effect as Michigan State looks to sweep the Big Ten and show the NCAA committee that they really do deserve to be a top seed.

FRIDAY 3/13 - 2:30 PM et (4)Wisconsin vs. (5)Ohio State

Wisconsin - This Wisconsin team is as disciplined as any Bo Ryan club.  Their subdued swing offense and defensive patience has made the Badgers a team that can compete with anyone in the country.  They slipped in mid-January with an 0-6 stretch and were swept by rival Minnesota, but the Badgers are not easily shaken and are always dangerous come tournament time.

Ohio State - Thad Matta has put together yet another team that can compete.  The Buckeyes came out firing this year starting 10-1, but have leveled off as the season progressed. 

Ohio State will have a very difficult time against Wisconsin, and I don't think they have enough to get past them.  Their resume will carry the Buckeyes into the NCAA tournament, but I don't expect much out of this team.

FRIDAY 3/13 - 6:30 PM et (2) Illinois vs. (7) or (10)

Illinois - Illinois has been a quiet force this year.  They don't have the star power of years past, but they have been winning consistently.  Expect this tournament to put Illinois on the national radar as a team to be feared in the NCAA Championship hunt.  I think Illinois will be playing for the Big Ten championship come Sunday.

Friday 3/13 - 9:00 PM et (3)Purdue vs. (6) or (11)

Purdue- After the success of last year's freshman phenom Robbie Hummel, there were high hopes in Purdue at the start of this season.  Unfortunately, injuries have plagued the boilermakers and I don't think they have the strength to make a long postseason run. 

My player to watch in this year's Big Ten tournament is Chris Kramer.  He is fiery, and tenacious on defense and is always playing harder than the nine other guys on the court.  While I don't expect much this year, look for a well healed Boilermaker's squad to go deep in 2010.