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Big Ten Tournament: It's 'The Big Three' and a bunch of bubbles

Ryan Greene
The Dagger

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The Dagger will be previewing eight of this week's conference tournaments. Here's our look at the Big Ten tournament.

Big Ten Tournament

Dates: March 10-13

Site: Conseco Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, Ind.)

Draw: Click here

Favorite: Top-seeded Ohio State has the easiest path of anyone to the title game, as the Buckeyes are undefeated this season against the four teams they could potentially face in the quarterfinals and semifinals — Northwestern, Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois. On top of that, they're playing flat-out dominant basketball right now. They won four straight to close out the regular season following a Feb. 20 loss at Purdue by an average margin of 22.3 points. Yes, you read that right.

Three others who can win it: Though its season-ending loss at Iowa is beyond puzzling, Purdue has been just as dangerous over the last month or so as Ohio State, and with a strong corps of veterans in place, it's tough to see the Boilers getting upset again on the heels of the embarrassment in Iowa City. Wisconsin is tough to ignore on a neutral floor and should be able to find its way to at least the semis. The sleeper in the pack is, of course, Michigan State. How can the Spartans not be one?

Three players to watch:

Jared Sullinger, freshman forward, Ohio State: You think he won't be a little motivated after missing out on Big Ten Player of the Year honors?

JaJuan Johnson, senior forward, Purdue: The Big Ten POY — deservedly so, too — is the reason that Purdue fans have been able to often forget about Robbie Hummel's unfortunate absence this season.

Talor Battle, senior guard, Penn State: Easily the league's most entertaining player, expect Battle to let it all out in his final league tournament.

Bubble implications: Boy, where to start here, huh? The game that will draw the most attention is the Friday quarterfinal between Michigan and Illinois. Michigan can likely lock itself into the NCAA tourney with a win, while Illinois might need that game, too, to feel safe on Sunday. On the other side of the bracket, a second loss to Iowa this season in the opening round could be the blow that puts Michigan State on the wrong side of the bubble. Meanwhile, Penn State can potentially get itself back into the mix by beating Indiana on Thursday, then getting the season's second victory over Wisconsin 24 hours later.

Projected champ: Given Ohio State's path of least resistance into Sunday's championship game, it gets the nod. Should it get upset, Purdue is in a close second in terms of a favorite.

Ryan Greene also covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun. Read his Rebels coverage and follow him on Twitter.

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