Hoge: Big Ten Tournament Preview And Analysis
Sports Fan Insider
By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) The Big Ten Tournament tips off Thursday in Indianapolis and I will be there throughout the weekend with the latest updates, analysis and video from Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
In the meantime, here’s a look at what’s at stake for all 12 Big Ten teams as well as a look at the best matchups and other analysis:
1. Michigan State Spartans (24-7 overall, 13-5 Big Ten)
Outlook: The Spartans come into the Big Ten Tournament having lost their last two games and freshman Branden Dawson to a torn ACL. Their quarterfinal matchup against either Iowa or Illinois won’t be easy, and they’ll likely have to face either Wisconsin or Indiana — probably the two hottest teams in the conference right now — in the semis.
What’s At Stake: Michigan State still has a chance to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but the Spartans will likely have to make it to Sunday to get that nod.
2. Michigan Wolverines (23-8, 13-5)
Outlook: The Wolverines are on the easier side of the bracket, but they can’t feel too good about the prospect of facing Northwestern in the quarterfinals. The Wildcats are probably the hungriest team in the tournament and already pushed Michigan to overtime twice this season. Still, if Michigan can get past Friday, they might just win the thing.
What’s At Stake: Michigan looks like a solid No. 3 seed right now, but they could move up or down depending on what happens in Indy. Making it to Sunday would also likely limit how far they’ll have to travel for their NCAA Tournament games.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes (25-6, 13-5)
Outlook: The Buckeyes are just 4-3 in their last seven games, but they have to be feeling good about earning a share of the Big Ten title with an unlikely win at Michigan State Sunday. This team has been inconsistent lately, but there is little doubt Ohio State is the most talented team in the field.
What’s At Stake: A No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament is not out of the question, but to have a chance, the Buckeyes have to be alive on Sunday.
4. Wisconsin Badgers (23-8, 12-6)
Outlook: Just another top four finish in the Big Ten for the Badgers, which have never done worse under Bo Ryan. Their road in the Big Ten Tournament isn’t easy with a likely matchup against Indiana on Friday, but the Hoosiers are a good matchup for Wisconsin.
What’s At Stake: On top of seeding, the Badgers are just trying to make some noise in Indy. After winning the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis as the No. 1 seed in 2008, the Badgers are 0-3 the last three seasons. They’ve really struggled to make shots at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but this team has been good away from home this year and might fare better this time around.
5. Indiana Hoosiers (24-7, 11-7)
Outlook: The Hoosiers come to Indy having won seven of their last eight games, but they were also just 3-6 away from Bloomington in Big Ten play so they’ll have to prove they can win away from home. As hot as they are, Tom Crean can’t be too happy about the prospect of seeing Wisconsin in the quarterfinals as the Hoosiers struggle against teams that slow them down. That said, if IU can get past the Badgers, they have a decent chance of winning the entire tournament.
What’s At Stake: Indiana hasn’t won a Big Ten Tournament game since 2006. That means fans who have made the short drive from Bloomington the last four years haven’t had much to cheer about. Crean has restored a lot of the excitement at IU this season and a deep run this weekend would mean a lot for the Hoosiers.
6. Purdue Boilermakers (20-11, 10-8)
Outlook: Despite losing the season finale at Indiana, the Boilermakers played some of their best basketball at the end of the season after Kelsey Barlow was booted from the team. Not sure they have the firepower to make it all the way to Sunday, but don’t rule out an upset over Ohio State in the quarterfinals.
What’s At Stake: Purdue is safely in the NCAA Tournament right now, but a loss to Nebraska on Thursday could drastically hurt their seeding and make things much more difficult.
7. Northwestern Wildcats (18-12, 8-10)
Outlook: Thursday’s game against Minnesota is tricky, especially when you consider the Wildcats lost by 23 in Minneapolis earlier this season. That said, Northwestern has to be excited about Michigan earning the No. 2 seed instead of Ohio State. It’s hard to beat a team three times in one season and the Wildcats know how close they were in their first two meetings against the Wolverines.
What’s At Stake: Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know how important this weekend is for the Wildcats. Lose to Minnesota Thursday and they are probably out of the NCAA Tournament. Beat Minnesota and lose to Michigan and they’ll sweat it out on Sunday. Beat both teams and the Cats are likely in.
8. Iowa Hawkeyes (16-15, 8-10)
Outlook: If there’s a true darkhorse in this tournament, it might be the Hawkeyes. If you’ve watched their games this year, you know they improved throughout the season and Michigan State might be vulnerable in the quarterfinals. Iowa also beat Wisconsin twice this season, which means a semifinal matchup against the Badgers is more than manageable.
What’s At Stake: Some like to think the Hawkeyes have a chance at the NCAA Tournament if they make it to the championship game, but they’ll likely have to win it and earn the automatic berth to get in. In fact, Iowa isn’t even a lock for the NIT right now and could use at least one more win.
9. Illinois Fighting Illini (17-14, 6-12)
Outlook: Having lost 11 of their last 13 games, the Illini come to Indianapolis with very little motivation. That said, their two wins in that stretch came against Iowa and Michigan State, which means you can’t rule out Illinois getting a couple of wins this weekend.
What’s At Stake: If the Illini make it to Saturday, you’ll hear fans start the bubble talk up again, but the NIT bubble is the only one they should be worried about.
10. Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-13, 6-12)
Outlook: At one point it looked like the Gophers might make the NCAA Tournament, but then they went on a six-game losing streak before beating Nebraska in the regular season finale. They beat Northwestern handily at home earlier this season so they could spoil the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament hopes Thursday, but a deep run in unlikely.
What’s At Stake: The Gophers look like an NIT lock right now, but it’s always hard to know how many automatic bids there will be in the NIT so it would help to get at least one more win.
11. Nebraska Cornhuskers (12-17, 4-14)
Outlook: The Cornhuskers aren’t as bad as their record indicates, but they struggled to adapt in a tough conference and would be the first to tell you they expected better this season. They have the talent to spring an upset against Purdue in their first ever Big Ten Tournament, but a win over the Buckeyes, who beat them by 30+ points twice this season, would be very surprising.
What’s At Stake: At this point, pride. Nebraska pretty much went unnoticed in its first Big Ten season, but now they get a chance to show what they can do in front of the entire conference.
12. Penn State Nittany Lions (12-19, 4-14)
Outlook: Penn State won just two games away from home all season and none against Big Ten teams. They get a tough draw against the hot Hoosiers who will have a pro-Indiana crowd so an upset appears unlikely. The Lions made a run to the championship game a year ago, but this is a much different team with a new head coach. Plus, Billy Oliver and Cammeron Woodyard are out.
What’s At Stake: Not much. It might not seem obvious, but Patrick Chambers did some decent things at Penn State this year. At the very least, a win or two might help going into next season.
Notes and trends by seed:
No. 1 – After only reaching the championship game once in the first six years of the Big Ten Tournament, the No. 1 seed has made it to Sunday in seven of the last eight seasons. The No. 1 seed has won the tournament in four of the last five years and five of the last seven.
No. 2 – A No. 2 seed hasn’t made it to the championship game since Wisconsin did it in 2007. A No. 2 seed hasn’t won the tournament since Iowa did it in 2006.
No. 3 – A No. 3 seed has only made it to the championship game twice and the 2009 Boilermakers were the only No. 3 seed to win the tournament.
No. 4 – A No. 4 seed hasn’t made it to the championship game since Indiana in 2001 and hasn’t won it since Michigan won the first Big Ten Tournament in 1998. That win was later vacated.
No. 5 – A No. 5 seed has never won the Big Ten Tournament and the 2009 Buckeyes were the only No. 5 seed to make the championship game.
No. 6 – Three No. 6 seeds have made the championship game, including one in each of the last two tournaments. Iowa is the only No. 6 seed to win the tournament (2001). That is the lowest seed to ever win the Big Ten Tournament.
No. 7 – A No. 7 seed has never made the Big Ten Championship Game.
No. 8 – The 2003 Buckeyes are the only No. 8 seed to ever make the championship game.
No. 9 – The 2002 Hawkeyes are the only No. 9 seed to ever make the championship game.
No. 10 – The 2008 Illini are the only No. 10 seed to ever make the championship game.
No. 11 – The 1999 Illini are the only No. 11 seed to ever make the championship game.
Other notes and trends:
A No. 5 seed or lower has made it to the championship game in each of the last four Big Ten Tournaments. That follows a four-year stretch from 2004-07 in which the No. 1 seed played the No. 2 seed in the championship.
A No. 1 or No. 2 seed has won the Big Ten Tournament in 11 of the 14 years.
Ohio State leads the conference with three Big Ten Tournament titles (had a fourth title vacated in 2002). The Buckeyes have made the championship game six times (2002 would have counted as the seventh), tied with Illinois for the most title game appearances. Illinois has two Big Ten Tournament titles, as does Wisconsin, Michigan State and Iowa. Purdue is the only other school to win the Big Ten Tournament.
Michigan State has not won the Big Ten Tournament since 2000.
Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.