Day one of the Big Ten tournament is in the books with one surprise but a few good finishes. Now the top teams in the conference take the floor for what should be a thrilling afternoon and night.
#1 Indiana Hoosiers vs. #8 Illinois Fighting Illini
During the regular season: Illinois won the only match-up of the season, when Indiana famously forgot to play defense on a side-line in-bounds pass.
What’s on the line: Illinois is now comfortably in the tournament, but still near the dreaded 8-9 first round match-up. That is their floor, and each additional win should be a bump of one seed. Indiana would lock up a number one seed with a win.
Who to watch: Brandon Paul is the best player in the Big Ten when he cares, which is about a quarter of time. Cody Zeller should have a big day thanks to Illinois’ sometimes absent interior defense.
What to watch: The Hoosiers committed turnovers on 22.1 of possessions in their loss to Illinois. They’ll need take care of the ball to avoid an upset.
What to expect: Indiana is out for revenge, and they’ll get it.
#4 Wisconsin Badgers vs #5 Michigan Wolverines
During the regular season: Wisconsin won the only match-up at the Kohl Center in overtime, in a game that featured several atrocious decisions by both coaches.
What’s on the line: Michigan is clinging to hopes of a number one seed, but could slip to three or four seed with a loss. Wisconsin could climb to a four seed with a win. More importantly, they want to prove they have some skill, and not just a lot of luck.
Who to watch: All eyes will be on Ben Brust of the Badgers, who forced overtime with a half court shot the first time these two teams met. Trey Burke is still the Wolverine to watch. He’ll be the best player on the floor again.
What to watch: Don’t watch Michigan’s uniforms. You will go blind. Instead, pay attention to Michigan’s offense, the second best in the country, that was completely shut down by the Badgers in Madison.
What to expect: Michigan makes open shots, and the Badgers don’t. Wolverines win.
#2 Ohio State Buckeyes vs #10 Nebraska Cornhuskers
During the regular season: Ohio State won the first game by 26 points, and the second by a measly seven points.
What’s on the line: The Huskers pulled off the only upset of the first day of the Big Ten tournament, and their reward is playing the Buckeyes to keep their season alive. Ohio State could sneak into a #1 seed if they keep winning.
Who to watch: Deshaun Thomas will be the best player on the court, but he struggled in the last game against Nebraska allowing them to hang around. Shavon Shields of the Cornhuskers finally managed to avoid foul trouble, and scored 19 points in the first round win. He is good when he is on the floor, which isn’t often enough.
What to watch: Nebraska had the second fewest turnovers in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes forced the third most turnovers during the conference season. Something has to give.
What to expect: Ohio State always seems to win the Big Ten Tournament games. They won’t be losing this one.
#3 Michigan State Spartans vs. #6 Iowa Hawkeyes
During the regular season: Michigan State won a squeaker in Iowa City, their only match-up of the season.
What’s on the line: Iowa is still dreaming the semi-impossible dream. Thanks to bubble implosions across the country, beating Michigan State might be enough to make the tournament. The Spartans are yet another Big Ten team trying to play their way to an NCAA tournament #1 seed.
Who to watch: Adreian Payne of the Spartans is finally trusting his outside shot, and is a match-up problem for anyone. Melsahn Basabe put up big numbers in the first round win over Northwestern, and should benefit from a long break in the second half.
What to watch: Michigan State’s three-point shooting likely will decide the game. They were dreadful early in the season when they played the Hawkeyes, but have been getting better ever since.
What to expect: The Hawkeyes win the N.I.T
Saturday could feature two top ten match-ups. We’ll be back to preview those, and whatever else happens tomorrow.