Big Ten tournament preview: A lot at stake for Wisconsin, bubble teams

Big Ten tournament preview: A lot at stake for Wisconsin, bubble teams

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

Big Ten Conference Tournament
Dates: March 11-15
Site: Chicago (United Center)
Top four seeds: 1. Wisconsin 2. Maryland 3. Michigan State 4. Purdue
Draw: Click here

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Best draw: Maryland. Though the second-seeded Terps defeated Wisconsin in College Park by spreading the floor and attacking off the dribble, staying on the other side of the bracket and prolonging a potential rematch against the Big Ten's best team seems like a positive. So does a potential quarterfinal with Indiana, which has dropped eight of its last 12 games and hasn't beaten anyone good since January. The Hoosiers did beat Maryland by 19 in Bloomington and lose by only two in College Park though.

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Worst draw: Illinois. The eighth-seeded Illini really need a couple wins in Chicago to solidify their NCAA tournament hopes, but those victories are going to be difficult to attain because of where they landed in the bracket. Up first is a Michigan team that is shorthanded but took Illinois to overtime twice this season and won the meeting in Ann Arbor. Should the Illini survive that, their reward is Big Ten champion Wisconsin.

Three players to watch:

• Frank Kaminsky, F, Wisconsin — All the national player of the year favorite has done is average 18.4 points and 8.1 rebounds to propel the Badgers into title contention.

• D'Angelo Russell, G, Ohio State — The high-scoring freshman's best highlights are his bounce passes. Russell has the vision of a point guard and the size and scoring instincts of a wing.


• D.J. Newbill, G, Penn State — On a Penn State team with no other double-digit scorers, he's often the entire offense. The highly underrated Newbill averaged 20.7 points this season.

Bubble implications: Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa are merely playing to improve their NCAA tournament seeding this week. Purdue, Indiana and Illinois are trying to secure their place in the field. The Boilermakers are in the strongest position because of a 12-6 league record, but they struggled enough in non-league play that they could use a quarterfinal win to leave no doubt. Indiana's four RPI top 40 wins might get them in despite their season-ending slide, but the Hoosiers cannot afford to lose to Northwestern in their opening game. And Illinois needs to beat Michigan at minimum and to topple Wisconsin in the quarterfinals to feel remotely safe.

Projected champ: Though I could see picking against Wisconsin if the Badgers had nothing to play for this week, that's not the case. They have plenty of motivation to win the Big Ten tournament because it's likely their only path to a potential No. 1 seed that would prolong a meeting with Kentucky until at least the Final Four. Wisconsin would almost certainly land in Kentucky's region even if it's the strongest No. 2 seed. The committee prioritizes geography over competitive balance and Madison is closest to Cleveland.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!