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Big Ten Looks To Make A Statement To NCAA Tourney Committee With Conference Tournament

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Mar 13, 2013 4:30PM

The Big Ten men's basketball tounrament tips off Thursday at the United Center on Thursday and, if it seems like there's more hype surrounding this year's tournament, you're not mistaken. With a number of conference teams having held the top spot in the rankings and a few more cracking the top ten, the Big Ten is arguably the nation's best basketball conference. So we expect an exiting four days of games as the conference's elite vie for a high seed in the NCAA tournament, while other teams are on the bubble and out to prove they deserve an invite to the Big Dance.

The top four seeds getting first round byes. For the first time since 1993, Indiana has won the top seed. Ohio St. is the second seed, Michigan St. the third and Wisconsin is number four. These teams don't take the court until Friday.

Thursday action begins at 11 a.m. when Illinois (8th) faces Minnesota (9th), with the winner drawing the top-seeded Hoosiers. Michigan (5th) and Penn St. (12th) also play in Thursday's early session. Thursday evening, Purdue (7th) and Nebraska (10th) play, followed by Iowa (6th) and Northwestern (11th). See the complete tournament bracket here.

The four teams with first round byes are all virtually guaranteed bids to the Big Dance no matter who wins the trophy on Sunday. The middle seeds are the ones trying to earn an invite. Michigan has pretty much locked up an invite, while Minnesota and Illinois stand a good shot. Iowa needs to make their case this weekend to make the field of 68 and needs to make a deep run to avoid the NIT.

While the Illini are the eighth seed in their conference tourney and fighting for a chance to make the NCAA tourney, former coach Bruce Weber's Kansas St. Wildcats earned themselves the top seed in the Big 12 tournament and Weber took home coach of the year honors. He's assured of taking his team to the big dance, and might even had the talent to make a deep run. If that sounds familiar, he did the same with the Illini, taking them to the Sweet Sixteen in 2004 and the NCAA title game in 2005.