Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, March 9, 2016
The Big Ten tourney kicks off today with two games, as No. 12 Illinois take on No. 13 Minnesota along with a No. 14 Rutgers vs. No. 11 Nebraska tilt. An automatic bid to the NCAA tourney is on the line in Indianapolis, though it looks like Indiana, Michigan State, Maryland, Wisconsin, Purdue and Iowa already have bids locked up and are just jockeying foe NCAA seeds. Here are some things to look for as the 19th Big Ten tourney kicks off.
Seeded too high: No. 3 Maryland. The Terps seem to be wheezing as they arrive in Nap Town, going 2-4 in their last six games. And the victories came vs. Michigan (a bubble team) and Illinois (a team with a losing record). Maryland began the season as the Big Ten favorite with some feeling it was the No. 1 team in the nation. But this squad needs to regain its mojo. And it begins with Melo Trimble.
Seeded too low: No. 6 Wisconsin. Yes, the No. 6 Badgers lost their finale at Purdue. No shame in losing in raucous Mackey Arena, where the Boilers fell just once this season. Wisconsin was rolling prior to that, winning 11 of 12 games. The only losses for the Badgers since January 12 have been at Michigan State and at Purdue. Take a bow, Greg Gard, who could have been the Big Ten Coach of the Year.
You don?t want to play this team: No. 4 Purdue. The Boilermakers finished the season with a flourish, winning their last three games and four of five. The only loss was at Indiana. Purdue showed how deadly it can be in the finale vs. Wisconsin, when the Boilers ripped off a 91-80 triumph. If Matt Painter?s crew is hitting shots, it is very difficult to beat because of its towering front line.
Lots on the line: No. 8 Michigan. The Wolverines have a solid resume, not having any ?bad? losses. But Michigan needs to make some hay it if wants to make the Big Dance. The Wolverines are 20-11 overall and 10-8 in the Big Ten, but they are on the outside looking in on the latest brackets for CBSSports.com?s Jerry Palm and ESPN?s Joe Lunardi. Michigan may have to win two games in Indianapolis. Too bad Caris LeVert?s season has been ruined by injury. With a healthy LeVert, the Wolverines would have been a NCAA tourney lock.
Best chance for an upset: No. 5 Iowa. Keep an eye on the Hawkeyes, who skidded across the finish line, losing four in a row and five of six to end the season after starting 10-1 in the Big Ten. Iowa got a much-needed victory at Michigan to end the regular season. This is a veteran team with key seniors in Mike Gesell, Anthony Clemmons, Jarrod Uthoff and Adam Woodbury. And Iowa has a go-to guy (Uthoff) and top lead guard (Gesell), two key components to do well in March. The Hawkeyes should easily dispatch the winner of No. 12 Illinois-No. 13 Minnesota before taking on No. 4 Purdue, a team Iowa has beaten twice this year. Win that, and the Hawkeyes figure to face No. 1 Indiana, a team in matches up well with. But know this: The Hoosiers dispatched Iowa two times this season.
Best chance to be upset: No. 3 Maryland. The Terrapins look like they could be sitting on the brink. We mentioned its struggles to end the season, so confidence may be waning. A likely game vs. No. 6 Wisconsin (UW must beat the winner of No. 11 Nebraska-No. 14 Rutgers to advance) on Friday has ?upset? written all over it. The teams split their two meeting this year, with Maryland needing an heroic last-second shot by Melo Trimble to win in Madison while the Badgers eviscerated the Terps by 13 points in College Park in the final encounter.
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