Big Ten Tournament Preview
By Benjy Lipsman in News on Mar 8, 2012 3:30PM
With the Big Dance just around the corner, college basketball's conference tourneys are in full swing. The Big Ten tournament tips off this morning in Indianapolis, with a slate of four opening round games. The champion will be crowned on Sunday, just about the time that the NCAA Tournament brackets are unveiled.
With the Big Ten's top four teams—Michigan St., Michigan, Ohio St. and Wisconsin—receiving byes in the first round, the fifth through 12th seeds face off in today's action to see who gets to face off against the league's powerhouses. Action begins with 9th seed Iowa playing 8th seed Illinois, followed by 5th seed Indiana against 12th seed Penn St. The evening session includes 7th seed Northwestern and 10th seed Minnesota, as well as 6th seed Purdue against conference newbie Nebraska, who is the 11th seed.
The top four seeds don't take the court until tomorrow's action, where they'll face the winners of today's games. Michigan St., Michigan and Ohio St tied for the regular season title, so the top seeds are as closely matched as ever. All will make the Big Dance no matter the outcome of this weekend's tournament, but seeding and bragging rights are at stake for the big dogs.
For the lower seeds, teams are hoping to play their way into the NCAA tournament. Some teams will need to upset their higher ranked peers and steal the title in order to earn a invite, while some teams can play their way in with a strong showing. Northwestern, which has never appeared in the NCAA Tournament, is one of those bubble teams who might be able to earn an at-large bid based on their showing in Indy. Eighth seeded Illinois could be playing for Bruce Weber's job. With a poor 6-12 showing in Big Ten play and a couple of disappointing seasons after so much early success in Champaign, an early exit from the Big Ten field may end Weber's days coaching the Illini. A couple wins and perhaps an at-large invite could save his job.