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2011 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament Preview

 
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2011 Big Ten Tournament Preview

 

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Welcome to the tournament with three upper-tier teams and a very muddled middle. At the 2011 Big Ten bash in Indianapolis, the first round and the quarterfinals are likely to produce the most significant and intense basketball of a four-day hoops festival.

The top three teams at this event do not have a whole lot to play for, to be brutally honest. Ohio State is going to be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament as long as it avoids falling asleep in the quarterfinals against Minnesota or Northwestern. The Buckeyes’ body of work is too substantial in comparison with Kansas or any other team in America. Coach Thad Matta’s club lost just two games this season, and those setbacks came against a pair of teams – Purdue and Wisconsin, the second and third seeds in this tournament – who did not lose a single home game all year long. If Ohio State did lose in the semifinals, the Buckeyes would actually be able to rest up for the only tournament that really counts.

For Purdue and Wisconsin, sitting in the bottom half of the bracket, a possible semifinal showdown would certainly be a compelling watch for basketball fans, but after the Boilermakers gacked against Iowa last Saturday in the regular-season finale, their chances of getting a No. 1 regional seed are slim to none. Perhaps Purdue and Wisconsin can elevate their places on the S-curve – that’s certainly something to play for – but it’s not as though there’s a particularly huge prize waiting to be claimed by the Boilers or Badgers this weekend.

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The real drama inside the home of the Indiana Pacers will unfold on Thursday and Friday, as the Big Ten’s mess of bubble teams will try to avoid fatal losses (Thursday) and then punch tickets with meaningful wins (Friday) against evenly-matched competition. In the first round, Michigan State and Penn State face must-win situations against Iowa and Indiana. Losses will clearly knock out each of those teams in their pursuit of an NCAA bid. Should Sparty and Nittany both escape round one, they’ll encounter season-defining quarterfinals on Friday. Michigan State will likely need to come good and topple Purdue in order to make the Big Dance and avoid the humiliation of falling to the NIT just one year after making a second consecutive Final Four appearance. Penn State, which will actually need to make the final of this tournament just to have an outside shot at an at-large bid, would face WTwo teams that weren’t relegated to the first round under the Big Ten’s seeding and bracketing system are Michigan and Illinois. The Wolverines, as the No. 5 seed via tiebreakers, were able to bypass the first round and gain a quarterfinal berth against fourth-seeded Illinois. Michigan has played its way onto the bubble after overcoming a train-wreck month of January. The Maize and Blue are sitting right on the cut line, and it’s fair to say that if they beat Illinois, they’re likely going to make the Big Dance. A loss, however, would just as probably push the Wolverines into the NIT. That one matchup on Friday afternoon is the closest thing to a win-and-in-or-lose-and-you’re-out game on the entire Championship Week slate. No other game in the nation has that kind of finality, with the possible exception of a potential SEC quarterfinal between Georgia and Alabama.

The major headliner at this event really is Michigan State. The idea of seeing the Spartans, under Tom Izzo, failing to make Bracketville after being ranked second in the preseason polls would shock the nation. Everyone will want to see how Sparty responds on Thursday and Friday, making the Saturday-Sunday portion of this tournament unusually minor in importance.

It’s a different kind of Big Ten Tournament. Different, however, is not bad. Watch the early sessions of this soiree in Indianapolis. If you attend only for the Saturday and Sunday shows, you might miss the best productions on hand in Hoosierland.

isconsin in Friday’s late quarterfinal clash.

 

Tournament Schedule

All Games At Conseco Fieldhouse – Indianapolis, IN

 

Thursday, March 10 – First Round

(9) Minnesota vs. (8) Northwestern – 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

(10) Iowa vs. (7) Michigan State, 30 minutes after Game 1, ESPN2

(11) Indiana vs. (6) Penn State, 30 minutes after Game 2, Big Ten Network

 

Friday, March 11 – Quarterfinals

8/9 winner vs. (1) Ohio State, 12:05 p.m. ET, ESPN

(5) Michigan vs. (4) Illinois, 30 minutes after Game 1, ESPN

10/7 winner vs. (2) Purdue, 6:40 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network

11/6 winner vs. (3) Wisconsin, 30 minutes after Game 3, BTN

 

Saturday, March 12 – Semifinals

First semifinal: top half of bracket (Ohio State’s half), 1:40 p.m. ET, CBS

Second semifinal: bottom half of bracket (Purdue’s and Wisconsin’s half),

30 minutes after Game 1, CBS

 

Sunday, March 13 – Championship

Semifinal Winners, 3:35 p.m. ET, CBS

 

By Matt Zemek
BigTen-fans.com Correspondent

 

 

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