Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, March 10, 2015

The 18th Big Ten tourney begins Wednesday in Chicago, and it will be the last chance for some teams to make a case for inclusion in the Big Dance. (I?m looking at you, Indiana and Illinois.) Other schools are looking to enhance their NCAA seeds. (That?s you, Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan State, Purdue, Iowa and Ohio State).

Everyone else? Well, it?s a chance to make a miraculous run to the tourney title and earn the Big Ten?s automatic bid. Let's lay out the week ahead.


GAME OF THE WEEK: Well, it figures to be the championship game on Sunday. And, if the seeds hold, No. 1 Wisconsin will meet No. 2 Maryland. Hard to argue against seeing that matchup. The Terps won the lone meeting between these clubs this season, winning in College Park.

DON?T OVERLOOK THIS GAME: No. 11 Minnesota has been one of the Big Ten?s more disappointing teams, boast plenty of veteran talent from a team that won the 2014 NIT title. The Big Ten tourney is one last chance for the Golden Gophers to make a mark this season. They open vs. No. 14 Rutgers (watch this game live on BTN and BTN2Go). Beat the Scarlet Knights, and Minnesota will take on No. 6 Ohio State on Thursday in what could be an intriguing matchup. If Minnesota beats the Buckeyes, it will take on a No. 3 Michigan State club it beat in East Lansing not long ago. Do you see where I am going with all of this? Sure you do.

MUST WIN: Indiana and Illinois appear to be sitting on the oh-so-slippery bubble. So, each likely faces a ?must win? situation in Chicago in their first games. But there may be more urgency for the Fighting Illini, a No. 8 seed that plays No. 9 Michigan on Thursday. Jerry Palm of projects Illinois as a No. 12 (he has Indiana as a No. 11). The Illini?s overall resume is a notch or so below the No. 7 Hoosiers?, who may be able to withstand an opening loss to No. 10 Northwestern.

BEST INDIVIDUAL MATCHUP: Their teams haven?t been great, but Penn State?s D.J. Newbill and Nebraska?s Terran Petteway have excelled. And they square off in the first game of the tourney on Wednesday. Newbill paces the Big Ten in scoring with a 20.7 average; Petteway is No. 4 with a 17.8 average. That alone makes this a game worth watching.

UPSET ALERT: No. 7 Indiana needs to be very careful when it takes on No. 10 Northwestern on Thursday. The Wildcats have topped the Hoosiers twice their last three meetings. And Tom Crean is just 4-8 vs. Northwestern, falling to the Wildcats 72-65 in Evanston this season in the only meeting. Having typed all of that, would it really be an upset if Northwestern beats Indiana? Maybe not. But, let?s say it would be since IU is the higher of the two seeds.


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, read all of his work at, 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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