The end of the college basketball regular season is finally here, and we know what that means! March Madness is upon us. Before the revealing of the field of 68, we have a week of conference tournaments that are played out. These can determine the fate of bubble teams, whether their bubbles burst or solidify. The question is, will the Big Ten have a lot of impact on the bubble? Here’s a look at the bracket.
What to Expect From the Big Ten Tournament
A Wednesday team to play Friday
March Madness fans around the nation remember UCONN’s historic run in 2011 at the Big East tournament. Led by Kemba Walker, the Huskies won five games in five days, followed by six straight in the NCAA tournament to win the national title. Nobody expects this to happen every year, but there are always surprises in tournament play.
While no Big Ten team playing on Wednesday has advanced to Saturday’s semifinals, Rutgers has advanced to Friday’s round while playing on Wednesday. Steve Pikiell has brought the Scarlet Knights from the bottom of the league and had them one Big Ten win short of a bye. They make up for that loss by beating Nebraska on Wednesday and upsetting a Maryland team that could be more focused on the NCAA side of things on Thursday. Geo Baker has shined in the Big Ten tournament before, expect him to shine again in the games they play.
A Thursday team to play Saturday
In the last two years, a team that’s played Thursday has won the tournament. Four games in four days is more realistic in tournament play and happens in at least one power conference every year. Michigan, of course, was the team both years to win the tournament with four in four. This time, they got the double-bye, even after a disappointing second half against Michigan State twice.
Focusing more on Thursday’s teams, the team that needs to play Saturday in the worst way in Indiana. While they have 14 losses, eight of their 17 wins have come against Quad-One opponents. If Webster’s dictionary needed a definition of a “bubble team”, the Hoosiers accurately represent that. Juwan Morgan will want to end his career at IU with an NCAA tournament run, and if Romeo Langford decides to go pro, he and the fans will want to see him play in the big dance.
However, the team from Thursday most likely to play on Saturday is Minnesota. In Indiana’s case, it’s hard to beat a team three times, and they will have to do that against Michigan State if they want to be the team playing on Saturday. Minnesota has a slightly easier road. Penn State won’t be easy, but if Amir Coffey and Minnesota get past Penn State, Matt Haarms and Purdue await. Minnesota just beat Purdue last week. This won’t be any easier than Indiana defeating Michigan State. However, beating a team twice is an easier task than beating a team three times, it can be done. They, like Indiana, are on the NCAA tournament bubble, and a run from them could burst Indiana’s bubble.
A Friday team to win the tournament
With this all being said, the top of the conference is so, so hard to take down. If Cassius Winston and the Spartans shine like in their second halves against Michigan, they could take the NCAA by storm, not just the Big Ten. Perhaps if Ethan Happ and Wisconsin stops Winston, they could win the Big Ten. If Carsen Edwards and Haarms impress like they have all season, they could win. And, if Ignas Bradzeikis, Jon Teske and Michigan defend the middle and hit threes, Michigan could win the Big Ten.
Anything can happen in conference tournament play, and any team can go down at any moment. However, a final of Michigan and Michigan State would be unbelievable to see, and something fans in the state of Michigan (and possibly the entire conference) can expect on Sunday afternoon.
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