It's 2017 Big Ten men's basketball tournament from A to Z

It's 2017 Big Ten men's basketball tournament from A to Z

From A to Z, here is what you need to know about the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament, which kicks off on Wednesday in the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

Looking for the bracket? It’s right here.

A is for almost, as in almost anything is possible in March. It’s Madness! While Purdue is the No. 1 seed, any number of clubs could win the Big Ten tourney—Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan or Michigan State. Heck, maybe even Iowa.

B is for Buckeyes, whose four Big Ten tourney titles are the second most all-time behind Michigan State’s five. Ohio State’s .684 winning percentage (26-12) is the best in tourney annals.

C is for Caleb, as in Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan. The burly sophomore is a top national player of the year candidate who is trying to lift Purdue to just its second league tourney crown. The Boilermakers won it all in 2009 and lost in the title game in 1998 and last season.

D is for double-digit, as in double-digit seed. Two have reached the Big Ten tourney title game: No. 11 Illinois in 1999 and No. 10 Illinois in 2008. Alas, neither won.

E is for Ethan Happ, as in the Wisconsin sophomore big man, who’s averaging 14.0 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He impacts in so many ways.

F is for five, as in five Big Ten tourney champs have advanced on to the Final Four: Michigan State in 1999 and 2000; Illinois in 2005; Ohio State in 2007; Wisconsin in 2015. The Spartans won the national championship in 2000, the last time the Big Ten has won it all.

G is for Gophers, who will arrive in Washington as one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten, if not the nation. Since suffering a five-game losing skid—after which a players-only meeting was called–the Golden Gophers have won eight games in a row before closing with a loss at Wisconsin.

H is for Hoosiers, who will have to win the Big Ten tourney title if they want to reach the Big Dance. This a year after IU won the Big Ten and reached the Sweet 16. The Hoosiers are 17-14 overall and 7-11 in the Big Ten.

I is for Iowa, which as a No. 6 seed in 2001 became the lowest seeded team ever to win the Big Ten tourney. The Hawkeyes are a 7 seed this year—and very dangerous after closing the season with four wins in succession.

J is for John, as in Illinois coach John Groce. The Illini ended the regular season winning four in a row before closing with a loss at Rutgers. All is not lost for this bubble team that will need to make a run in the Big Ten Tournament to go dancing. Hey, it’s possible with the way the Illini are playing defense.

K is for knockout, which is what Penn State could do to several teams. The Nittany Lions are just 14-17 overall, but this is a young and talented team that could be deadly. No. 13 Penn State opens vs. No. 12 Nebraska. Win that, and PSU will take on No. 5 Michigan State. Freshmen Tony Carr, Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens lead the way for this rising program.

L is for Luke, as in Luke Recker of Iowa whose 91 points in the 2002 tourney are the most in any single tourney.

M is for Maryland, one of the Big Ten’s more surprising teams that is fueled by stud junior Melo Trimble along with freshmen Justin Jackson, Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan.

N is for Northwestern, the only league school that has competed in all 19 Big Ten tourneys but hasn’t reached the championship game. Maybe that changes this year for arguably the best Wildcat team in school annals that looks destined for its first NCAA tourney appearance.

O is for one, as in No. 1 seed. The top seed in the Big Ten tourney has won the event eight times, more than any other seed. Purdue is No. 1 this year.

P is for Peter, as in Iowa star Peter Jok. He and the Hawkeyes are rolling down the stretch as they make a push for an NCAA bid. Iowa looked doomed after a three-game skid, but the Hawkeyes followed that with a four-game winning streak to end the season that included road wins over ranked teams Maryland and Wisconsin.

Q is for quality, as in quality freshmen. The Big Ten is loaded with them this season, led by Michigan State’s Miles Bridges. Other top freshmen: Maryland’s Justin Jackson, Minnesota’s Amir Coffey, Penn State’s Tony Carr and Iowa’s Tyler Cook, among others. The future is bright for the Big Ten.

R is for repeat as only Michigan State (1999 and 2000) and Ohio State (2007 and 2008) have won back-to-back titles. MSU won last year. Can it make it two in a row … again?

S is for Spartans, as Michigan State’s five Big Ten tourney title are the most of any school. In fact, the Spartans are the reigning champions.

T is for Traylor, as in Michigan’s Robert “Tractor” Traylor, the MVP of the first Big Ten tourney back in 1998. RIP, big fella.

U is for unbelievable, which is what Michigan State freshman Miles Bridges has been all season. He averages 16.6 points and 8.3 rebounds. In a Big Ten season filled with standout freshmen, Bridges is the best.

V is for victories, which Tom Izzo has more of than any other coach in Big Ten tourney annals. The Spartan boss is 27-14 in the event.

W is for Washington, D.C., where the Big Ten tourney will be played for the first time after the event bounced between Chicago and Indianpolis since its inception in 1998. The tourney will be played in New York’s Madison Square Garden next season for the first time. Chicago has hosted the event nine times; Indianapolis 10 times.

X is for X-factor, which is what Purdue’s Vince Edwards is. When the senior is attacking the hoop, drawing fouls and hitting from long range, the Boilermakers are tough to beat. If he is rolling this week, Purdue will be tough to defeat.

Y is for you, as in you never know. Michigan is a tough matchup for most schools, able to spread the floor and unleash an array of shooters like Moritz Wagner, D.J. Wilson and Duncan Robinson, among others. Then there is Derrick Walton, Jr., the only Wolverine ever to have 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists. Teams with senior point guards like Walton typically do well in tournaments.

Z is for zero, the number of wins for the No. 14 seed, which is 0-2. It’s the only seed that doesn’t have a win in the Big Ten tourney. Will that change this season? Rutgers may have a shot, as the Scarlet Knights are playing well under first-year coach Steve Pikiell.


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Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.