The 2018 Big Ten tournament tips off Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York. Here is an in-depth look at the tournament including a complete bracket, TV information, analysis and predictions.
WHO IS THE FAVORITE?
Michigan State endured a slew of off-court distractions this season, but the preseason Big Ten favorite Spartans finished right where we all thought they would. They reeled off 12 straight wins to conclude the regular season, pushing them one game clear of fellow league title contenders Ohio State and Purdue.
Thanks in part to deep talented frontcourt headlined by future lottery picks Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson, Michigan State is top 10 in the nation in both offensive and defensive efficiency. If the Spartans could ever even out their turnover discrepancy, they would have an even stronger claim to the title of college basketball’s best team.
WHO ELSE CAN WIN?
This has been a top-heavy league all season, and there’s no reason to think that will change in New York. Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan are the only other three teams besides Michigan State capable of cutting down the nets at Madison Square Garden.
Of those three, Purdue has the most favorable draw. The Boilermakers are on the opposite side of the bracket as Michigan State and they avoid desperate bubble teams Nebraska and Penn State in the quarterfinals. The Huskers walloped potential quarterfinal opponent Michigan earlier this season and Penn State was Ohio State’s kryptonite this season.
Nebraska (22-9, 13-5, KenPom 54, RPI 59): Only once since the league slate expanded to 18 games has a Big Ten team missed the NCAA tournament with 11 or more league wins. Nebraska is in jeopardy of being the second barring a deep Big Ten tournament run as the Huskers are 3-8 in quadrant 1 and 2 games and have beaten only one likely NCAA tournament team.
Penn State (19-12, 9-9, KenPom 33, RPI 84): While Penn State vaulted onto the bubble with its regular season sweep of Ohio State, the Nittany Lions fell right back off with three straight losses to end the regular season. They might need to win the Big Ten tournament to land a bid, but making the title game with victories over Ohio State and Purdue would certainly elevate them back into the conversation.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
1. Keita Bates-Diop, F, Ohio State: The Big Ten player of the year is a tough-shot maker and the centerpiece of the Buckeyes’ surprising reemergence as a league title contender.
2. Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State: While the consensus national preseason player of the year hasn’t met those outsized expectations, Bridges has still averaged 16.8 points and 6.8 rebounds. That’s pretty good.
3. Ethan Happ, F, Wisconsin: Do the Badgers have a run in them this week in New York with their 19-year NCAA tournament streak on the line? If so, it will start with Happ, the Big Ten’s most productive interior player.
ONE BIG STORYLINE
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has already acknowledged it was a mistake condensing the conference schedule in order to hold the league’s tournament a week early at Madison Square Garden. That decision will look even dumber if the Big Ten fails to draw large crowds or make a dent outside its traditional Midwestern footprint in the country’s largest media market.
It will also be interesting to see how Big Ten teams deal with the extra long layoff before the NCAA tournament begins. If Big Ten teams crash out of March Madness early, expect this to be a talking point.
All times Eastern
Wednesday, Feb. 28 | First round
No. 13 Illinois vs. No. 12 Iowa — 5:30 p.m., BTN
No. 14 Rutgers vs. No. 11 Minnesota — 8 p.m., BTN
Thursday, March 1 | Second round
No. 9 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Maryland — Noon, BTN
No. 13 Illinois/No. 12 Iowa vs. No. 5 Michigan — 2:30 p.m., BTN
No. 10 Northwestern vs. No. 7 Penn State — 6:30 p.m., BTN
No. 14 Rutgers/No. 11 Minnesota vs. No. 6 Indiana — 9 p.m., BTN
Friday, March 2 | Quarterfinals
No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 9 Wisconsin/No. 8 Maryland — Noon, BTN
No. 4 Nebraska vs. No. 5 Michigan/No. 12 Iowa/No. 13 Illinois — 2:30 p.m., BTN
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 7 Penn State/No. 10 Northwestern — 6:30 p.m., BTN
No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 6 Indiana/No. 11 Minnesota/No. 14 Rutgers — 9 p.m., BTN
Saturday March 3 | Semifinals
Winners of quarterfinals 1 and 2 — 2 p.m., CBS
Winners of quarterfinals 3 and 4 — 4:30 p.m., CBS
Sunday, March 4 | Final
Semifinal winners — 4:30 p.m., CBS
No. 12 Iowa over No. 13 Indiana
No. 14 Rutgers over No. 11 Minnesota
No. 9 Wisconsin over No. 8 Maryland
No. 5 Michigan over No. 12 Iowa
No. 7 Penn State over No. 10 Northwestern
No. 6 Indiana over No. 14 Rutgers
No. 1 Michigan State over No. 9 Wisconsin
No. 5 Michigan over No. 4 Nebraska
No. 7 Penn State over No. 2 Ohio State
No. 3 Purdue over No. 6 Indiana
No. 5 Michigan over No. 1 Michigan State
No. 3 Purdue over No. 7 Penn State
No. 3 Purdue over No. 5 Michigan
Other conference tournaments: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
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