2012 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament
With a wide open field, the 2012 Big Ten Tournament should be as entertaining as ever
This year marks the 15th edition of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament. With so much talent, parity, and fantastic storylines spread out across the entire field, it promises to be one of the best Big Ten Tourneys yet.
Are any of the regular season winners (Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State) capable of pulling off the elusive Big Ten double? Will Tom Crean's Indiana squad take yet another step in their march back to national relevance by winning the tournament in their home state? Can Northwestern finally allow themselves some breathing room on Selection Sunday by winning four in a row and thus gaining the Big Ten's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament?
Honestly, I don't know what to expect from these 12 teams this weekend. Valid arguments can be made that eight or nine teams have what it takes to cut down the nets Sunday afternoon. This speaks to both the depth and balance that The Big Ten has shown all year, and is why it has been considered the premier league in the country this season. No game was an easy game, and all signs point to that trend continuing when the league converges on Indianapolis starting on Thursday afternoon.
What the teams are playing for:
Michigan State: After a phenomenal regular season, Sparty will look to put itself in the discussion for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a win this weekend. Most experts have them slotted as a 2 seed as of now.
Michigan: Michigan is trying to accomplish something it has never done by winning both Big Ten titles in the same season. The Maize and Blue appear to be locked in as a No. 3 seed in the tournament as of now. Lose early, and they could drop down to a 4 or 5. Win the whole thing and suddenly the case for a No. 2 seed gains a lot more merit.
Ohio State: Thad Matta's squad has floundered (by their standards) slightly down the stretch, but the game winner by William Buford over Michigan State on Sunday might be the jolt of energy this club needed heading into the post-season. If they win this weekend, they could sneak in as the final No. 1 seed. I think they get a No. 2 regardless of what they do in Indy.
Wisconsin: After missing out on a piece of the Big Ten regular season title by only one game, the Badgers will look to collect some hardware as justification for another great season. Depending on how they do in Indianapolis, Wisconsin could find themselves anywhere from a No 3. to a No. 6 seed when they hear their name called out on Sunday.
Indiana: Similar to the Badgers, Indiana was able to have a fantastic year despite having no championship to show for it. Experts still don't know what to make of the Hoosiers, but with a run to the finals (which I'm predicting they'll do - at least) a No. 4 (maybe even a No. 3?) seed becomes very attainable.
Purdue: The Boilers are generally considered to be the last of the NCAA Tournament "locks" coming out of the Big Ten. They're probably safe even if they get picked off by Nebraska in the first round, but they would be wise to simply take care of business and win that game. Look for Purdue to get something between a No. 9 and No. 11 seed in the Big Dance.
Northwestern: Here's the most intriguing storyline of the entire weekend: Will the plucky group of braniancs from Evanston finally break their school's streak of futility and earn their first invite to the Big Dance? Beating Minnesota is an absolute must, and I think they'll need to beat Michigan in the quarters to feel somewhat safe about hearing their name called. Barring a finals win in Indianapolis, either a First Four game in Dayton or a top seed in the NIT bracket will await Northwestern.
Illinois: The Illini officially have no shot at earning at-large bid to the field of 68, meaning it is Big Ten Tourney title or bust. An NIT berth should be locked up, but if for some reason they are relegated to the CIT or CBI, look for Illinois to skip post-season altogether.
Iowa: Iowa, like the teams below it, will need four wins in a row this weekend to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. With that said, this team has shown great strides and will be playing post-season basketball in some form regardless of what they do. Considering the talent (or lack thereof) on their roster, I think that can be chalked up as a success.
Minnesota: The Gophers have a roster that can make a run deep in this tournament (whether or not they will is another story), and I think they're a really tough matchup for Northwestern in the first round. Howver, the loss of Trevor Mbakwe proved too difficult a hurdle for this team to climb, though, likely dooming them to the NIT. A tournament championship is the only thing that can save them.
Nebraska: Thursday will be the first ever Big Ten Tournament game for Nebraska. Unfortunately for them, it will likely be their only post season game of the year. The Huskers do not have a resume that would qualify them for any of the National post season tournaments.
Penn State: Like their basement-dwelling brethren that from Lincoln, Penn State's main goal at the Big Ten Tournament will be to try to play spoiler. Despite having a superstar in First Team Big Ten member in guard Tim Frazier, the Lions season will likely come to a close Thursday against Indiana.
8 Illinois over 9 Iowa
5 Indiana over 12 Penn State
10 Minnesota over 7 Northwestern
6 Purdue over Nebraska
1 Michigan State over 8 Illinois
5 Indiana over 4 Wisconsin
2 Michigan over 10 Minnesota
3 Ohio State over 6 Purdue
5 Indiana over 1 Michigan State
2 Michigan over 3 Ohio State
5 Indiana over 2 Michigan
There have been many of crazy finishes and epic performances throughout the 14 years this event has taken place. My favourite? Has to be the sequence that is linked below between Indiana and Minnesota from 2008. Missed free throws at the end of the game? Check. An absolutely unnecessary and boneheaded foul? You know it's there. A buzzer beater? Well, see for yourself.... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u51znupszPw
Hard to imagine anything can top that, but that's precisely why the games are played. Here's hoping we are lucky enough to witness an even more iconic Big Ten Tournament moment than the one Blake Hoffarber provided us with four years ago. With this group of 12 teams over a span of four days and 11 games, I think it's entirely possible.
Enjoy the Big Ten Tournament, everybody.
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