2013 Big Ten Tournament Primer
By Tony Gerdeman
The Big Ten men's basketball tournament tips off on Thursday with four games between the conference's bottom eight teams. Of those bottom eight teams, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa will all be fighting to improve their bubble positions.
Joe Lunardi, who runs ESPN's Bracketology feature, already has Minnesota and Illinois in, and Iowa out, so the Hawkeyes might need to win a couple of games in Chicago in order to make the Big Dance.
Minnesota and Illinois play each other to kick the Tournament off, so right away there will be some intrigue. There aren't many better ways to begin a tournament than by pitting two teams that are fighting for their NCAA lives.
It should be a very interesting and intense tournament as teams fight for NCAA seeding, be it a #1 or a #9. But without a home crowd to help spark an underdog, you have to wonder how many legitimate upsets there will be.
Given that it's March, however, there will probably still be a couple.
Here is your 2013 Big Ten Tournament Primer.
Game 1: #8 Illinois (21-11, 8-10) vs #9 Minnesota (20-11, 8-10) -- 12:00 pm Eastern (BTN)
These two teams split this season, with each winning on the other's home court. Minnesota won at Illinois 84-67 four days after the Illini destroyed a disinterested Ohio State team. The Gophers are just 5-10 in their last 15 games. Illinois, meanwhile, is 1-3 in their last four. The winner has the honor of playing #1 Indiana (26-5, 14-4). Illinois defeated Indiana 74-72 in Champaign, which was the only time the two teams met this season. Minnesota also defeated Indiana this season with a 77-73 win at home. Even their 88-81 loss at Bloomington was impressive. Regardless of who wins this game, the Hoosiers will be facing a team that knows it can beat them.
Game 2: #5 Michigan (25-6, 12-6) vs #12 Penn State (10-20, 2-16) -- 25 minutes after Game 1 conclusion (BTN)
Penn State broke a string of 14-consecutive Big Ten losses this season (and 19 stretching two seasons) with an 84-78 win over Michigan on February 27th. It was the biggest upset in the conference this season. Perhaps as amazingly, Penn State only lost 79-71 against the Wolverines 10 days prior. They obviously have confidence against Michigan, and the Wolverines come into this game 5-5 over their last 10 contests. The winner gets the #4 Badgers (21-10, 12-6). Wisconsin needed a buzzer-beating three-pointer to defeat Penn State 63-60 this past Sunday. Wisconsin also beat Michigan 65-62 with the aid of a buzzer-beating three-pointer which forced overtime. It was their only meeting of the season.
Game 3: #7 Purdue (15-16, 8-10) vs #10 Nebraska (14-17, 5-13) -- 6:30 pm Eastern (ESPN2)
This is the game that you don't mind missing because of dinner. Purdue won their only matchup with Huskers 65-56 in Lincoln. The Boilermakers enter this game coming off of an 89-73 win over Minnesota, a five-point loss against Michigan, and a 13-point win at Wisconsin. They seem to be peaking at the right time. Nebraska also beat Minnesota a week ago, so we probably shouldn't put much stock in those games. The winner gets #2 Ohio State (23-7, 13-5), who is 3-0 against these two teams this season.
Game 4: #6 Iowa (20-11, 9-9) vs #11 Northwestern (13-18, 4-14) -- 25 minutes after Game 3 conclusion (ESPN2)
Iowa has beaten Northwestern twice this season -- by 20 points in Evanston, and by 14 points at Iowa City. The Wildcats limp into the Big Ten Tournament with eight-consecutive losses, and are just 2-11 in their last 13 games. Iowa is 6-2 in their last eight. The winner (Iowa) will play #3 Michigan State (24-7, 13-5). The Spartans are 2-0 against Iowa and Northwestern this season, but their win at Iowa was only by three points, and their home win against Northwestern was only by 10 points.
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