It’s been a weird, down year in the Big Ten. The conference’s strength is usually its depth, and it still does have a handful of decent teams. It should place seven or eight in the NCAA Tournament, a respectable total. But nobody in the Big Ten is all that scary, and the league doesn’t have a single great team. At least not so far.
All of that should mean this year’s conference tournament will be a good time. Unpredictability and drama often go hand-in-hand, and it’s hard to predict what’ll happen.
Purdue is (probably?) the Big Ten’s best team, and the Boilermakers will enter the tournament as a narrow favorite. Wisconsin’s next, and then there’s a tier of teams who are hard to tell apart: Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan, and Michigan State could all make a run if things break right, but a first-game exit would surprise nobody. Ohio State and Indiana aren’t good this year, but they’ve got the scorers to make a run if a lot of things break their way.
This is the Big Ten’s big debut in Washington, D.C., where it’s holding its tournament for the first time. Establishing a presence in the D.C. area was a key reason the conference moved to add Maryland four years ago, and having the tournament there is a means toward the same end. It might give Maryland a little home-court edge, too.
All 14 teams in the Big Ten qualify. The top four seeds get double-byes into the quarterfinals, and the next six get a single bye into the round before that. The bottom four seeds have to play on the first day and, to win the tournament, need to win a brutal five games in a row. (That’s not happening.) It’s a straight-up, single-elimination race to the finish, with the top two seeds on opposite sides of the bracket.
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
- Penn State
Schedule and Results (all times Eastern)
Wednesday, March 8 (First Round)
Game 1: No. 13 Penn State 76, No. 12 Nebraska 67 (OT)
Game 2: No. 11 Ohio State vs. No. 14 Rutgers, 7 p.m., BTN
Thursday, March 9 (Second Round)
Game 3: No. 8 Michigan vs. No. 9 Illinois, 12 p.m., BTN
Game 4: No. 5 Michigan State vs. No. 13 Penn State, 2:25 p.m., BTN*
Game 5: No. 7 Iowa vs. No. 10 Indiana, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2
Game 6: No. 6 Northwestern vs. Game 2 winner, 8:55 p.m., ESPN2*
Friday, March 10 (Quarterfinals)
Game 7: No. 1 Purdue vs. Game 3 winner, 12 p.m., ESPN
Game 8: No. 4 Minnesota vs. Game 4 winner, 2:25 p.m., ESPN*
Game 9: No. 2 Wisconsin vs. Game 5 winner, 6:30 p.m., BTN
Game 10: No. 3 Maryland vs. Game 6 winner, 8:55 p.m., BTN*
* Game time is an estimate. Begins 25 minutes after previous game.
Saturday, March 11 (Semifinals)
Game 11: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 1 p.m., CBS
Game 12: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 3:30 p.m., CBS
Sunday, March 12 (Semifinals)
Game 13: Game 11 winner vs. Game 12 winner, 3 p.m., CBS