Dienhart: Four quick thoughts for Day 1

The Big Ten tourney kicks off in a few hours and I’m in Indianapolis ready to watch all the games up close and personal. Like so many of you, I’ve been following this Big Ten season from the very start. Before the first game tips on BTN/BTN2Go, here are four quick thoughts on today’s matchups. I’ll be posting to BTN.com all day from press row – follow me on Twitter @BTNTomDienhart.

[MORE: Thursday's live scoreboard | Friday's scoreboard | Tourney bracket (PDF) ]

1. The winner of the No. 8 Indiana-No. 9 Illinois game has a shot to advance all the way to the final four on Saturday. I love the Hoosiers’ star power in Noah Vonleh and Yogi Ferrell. And they have a sense of urgency playing in their home state just up US-46. I like the way Illinois is playing defense. And the Illini are hot. Michigan will have its hands full on Friday with whoever wins this one.

2. Minnesota will dispatch Penn State for a third time this season. No team has more urgency in Nap Town than the Golden Gophers, who I think must win two games to punch their Big Dance ticket.

3. Ohio State will win running away from what I think will be a disinterested Purdue team. Thad Matta has made the Big Ten tourney his own personal event. The guy is just a great coach. The Buckeyes’ defense will frustrate the Boilermakers into poor shots and turnovers. In fact, I think OSU could make it to Saturday. Yes, that means beating Nebraska on Friday.

4. Northwestern has a shot to pull a stunner today. The Wildcats have nothing to lose, play strong defense and have a stud in Drew Crawford. Iowa is a listing ship, floundering down the stretch amid poor defense and rebounding. Can Fran McCaffery get this team back on the rails?

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About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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