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Sunday, February 25, 2024
Madness starts up with Big Ten Tournament

Turner: 2009-'10 Big Ten Player of the Year Evan Turner and the Buckeyes wnter the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 1 seed

Madness starts up with Big Ten Tournament

Ohio State

The Buckeyes enter the tournament with the most momentum of any team. Ohio State is riding a current four-game win streak, and has won 10 of its last 11.

They are led by their prolific scorer, junior forward Evan Turner. Turner, who was named the Sporting News college basketball Player of the Year, led the Big Ten with 19.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Turner may be the greatest difference-maker in the conference, if not the country. Ohio State went 21-4 this season when Turner was in the lineup, and 3-3 when he missed time with a back injury.

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The Buckeyes are a lock for the field of 65. They will be no worse than a 2-seed, and have an outside shot at a No. 1 if they win the Big Ten Tournament.

—Scott Kellogg

Purdue

The Boilermakers won a share of the Big Ten regular season title thanks to a trio of juniors. Guard E'Twaun Moore, forward Robbie Hummel and center JaJuan Johnson each averaged over 10 points a game and were a handful for opposing teams. Purdue was in line to receive a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament before Hummel tragically tore his ACL. The injury should cause them to drop to a No. 2 or No. 3 depending on their result in the conference tournament. The Boilermakers still pose a serious threat, especially if Johnson, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds against Penn State, can continue his strong play.

—Nick Schmitt

Michigan State

Co-champions of the regular season, the Spartans usually turn it on come tournament time. Unfortunately in this case, it's often not Big Ten Tournament time as Tom Izzo's squad is usually more successful in the Big Dance than this week's festivities. Either way, junior guards Durrell Summers and Kalin Lucas along with forwards like Raymar Morgan and Draymond Green down low make the Spartans a formidable challenger this weekend. Expect them to crash the offensive boards as usual (top-10 nationally in that category) and play their standard forceful brand of defense. They should be slotted for a top-3 NCAA seed but their fate may rest with Lucas, whose clutch shooting has been key late in games.

 

—Ben Breiner

Wisconsin

Wisconsin finished 13-5 in the Big Ten, just one game behind the three-way tie for first place. After Ohio State, the Badgers may be the most dangerous team in the conference. With Michigan State's recent inconsistency and Purdue missing junior forward Robbie Hummel, Wisconsin has to like its chances in this tournament.

Junior forward Jon Leuer appears to be back in full swing after solid performances in his last two games against Iowa and Michigan. Now UW is firing on all cylinders, entering Friday's game against Illinois with a four-game winning streak.

The Badgers should be a 4- or 5-seed in this year's NCAA field, with perhaps a chance to elevate themselves to a 3-seed should they win the Big Ten Tournament.

—Scott Kellogg

Illinois

Following an upset of the Badgers at the Kohl Center, it looked like the Fighting Illini were playing some of the best basketball in the Big Ten, but they finished losing five of their last six games and now find themselves on the NCAA bubble. Led by junior guard Demetri McCamey and junior center Mike Tisdale, Illinois goes into the Big Ten tournament as the No. 5 seed. They take on Wisconsin, who crushed them 72-57 in the season finale, and Illinois will need a huge game out of McCamey if it hopes to upset the Badgers for a second time. The Fighting Illini are currently one of the last four teams in according to ESPN's Joe Lunardi.

—Nick Schmitt

Minnesota

Consistency.

Minnesota had big wins against Wisconsin and Illinois and bad losses to Northwestern and Michigan twice, the second coming by 28 in Ann Arbor when it appeared that the Gophers may have been positioned for a strong finish. Now this weekend is their last chance to impress the selection committee and save what has been, to this point, a disappointing season. They boast depth and talent but for it all to come together senior guard Lawrence Westbrook will have to tap into his appreciable talent, something he has rarely done on a game-to-game basis. Junior point guard Al Nolen could have been a calming influence, but he is currently suspended for academic issues. This Big Ten Tournament means everything for Minnesota. A strong showing and the year is a success. Get knocked out and the year ends as a troubling one in the Twin Cities.

—Ben Breiner

Northwestern

The Wildcats remain the one squad in any of the six major conferences to never appear in the NCAA Tournament, and barring a miracle run in this year's Big Ten Tournament, it will stay that way.

Northwestern was dealt a devastating blow early in the 2009-'10 campaign when senior forward Kevin Coble went down for the season with a foot injury. Sophomore forward John Shurna has filled in nicely, scoring 18.5 points per game, which is good for third in the conference. But it has not been enough, as the Wildcats went a disappointing 7-11 in the conference this season.

Northwestern will not be in the field of 65 unless it runs the table this weekend, thus they are likely headed to the NIT.

—Scott Kellogg

Michigan

Expectations were high for the Wolverines at the beginning of the season. They were No. 15 in both preseason polls but stumbled to a bad start and hope for an NCAA Tournament bid faded fast. Michigan's only hope is for a Cinderella run in the tournament this weekend. They are the No. 8 seed and take on Iowa, a team they beat twice, including an 80-78 overtime win last month. Junior guard Manny Harris, who has the ability to take over any game, leads the Wolverines, along with senior DeShawn Sims, who averages 16.9 points and 7.7 rebounds a contest.

—Nick Schmitt

Iowa

The Hawkeyes' road to Indy has been a rocky one. Their 4-14 record speaks for itself, as does a margin of defeat just under 19 points over their last five losses. Throw in a season-ending injury suffered by sophomore guard Anthony Tucker, and this year has been far from ideal in Hawkeye nation. Sophomore guard Matt Gatens is their top and only double-digit scorer, but for the year he is shooting 37 percent from the field. Iowa has won the most tournament titles ever (two, though it's tied with four other teams), but it would probably be pleased with just a win over Michigan in the first round.

 

—Ben Breiner

Indiana

Head coach Tom Crean took over a gutted program last season and went 1-17 in the Big Ten, guiding Indiana to a last-place finish for the first time in its history. The Hoosiers avoided the basement in Crean's second season, but did not do much better, going 4-14 in the conference. Until beating Northwestern in their season finale, the Hoosiers were mired in an 11-game losing streak in the Big Ten.

To make matters worse for IU, freshman guard Maurice Creek, who got off to a great start this season, went down with a season-ending injury just before the Big Ten schedule opened.

Indiana is a far cry from the NCAA field, and with a 10-20 overall record, it won't be going to the NIT either.

—Scott Kellogg

Penn State

You could not start the Big Ten regular season worse than the Nittany Lions did this year. They fell on their faces and lost 12 straight before finally beating Northwestern 81-70 on Feb. 17. Head coach Ed DeChellis and Penn State finished 3-15, but were competitive in their last two games, losing to Michigan State by only two and to Purdue by four. They are led by senior guard Talor Battle, who averaged 18.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists a game during the regular season. The Nittany Lions are the No. 11 seed and will take on Iowa.

—Nick Schmitt

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