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Big Ten Men's Tournament Starts Today At United Center

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Mar 11, 2015 6:00PM

March Madness is ramping up and conference tournaments are in full swing this week. The Big Ten men's basketball tournament tips off later today at the United Center, with the league's 14 teams vying for a conference title. Some already know they've secured their spot in the Big Dance, but others hope a good showing in Chicago will sway the selection committee in their favor.

Wednesday's game match up the four lowest seeded teams in the conference, with Nebraska (12) and Penn State (13) facing off at 3:30 p.m., followed by newcomer and bottom seed Rutgers (14) playing Minnesota (11) at 6:00 p.m.

The two winners move on to Thursday's second round, where they'll face Iowa (5) and Ohio State (6), while Illinois (8) and Michigan (9) play, and Northwestern (10) battles Indiana (7).

The top four seeds— Wisconsin (1), Maryland (2), Michigan St. (3) and Purdue (4)— don't take the court until Friday, given the new double bye format established after the additions of Rutgers and Maryland this season. Tournament play continues with the semi-finals on Saturday and the championship game on Sunday afternoon.

Of all the teams in the Big Ten, perhaps Indiana and Illinois have the most to win or lose in the tourney as the only bubble teams for the NCAA tournament. With 19-12 overall record and 9-9 conference mark, Illinois appears to be on the outside looking in. But a couple wins might propel them into the field. Indiana had the same overall and conference records but might have already secured their ticket on account of a tougher schedule. A win over Northwestern would certainly help, should some team in another conference make a surprise run. Only a win over the Wildcats isn't a given, with NU winning three of the past four meetings between these two teams. Purdue appears to be a lock for an NCAA bid on account of their 12-6 conference mark, but a bad loss in their opener could see them fall out of the bracket.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Wisconsin Badgers know they have an invite coming on Sunday. They're just hoping a strong showing can secure them a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. As it currently stands, they're most likely looking at a number two seed. And while an early tournament loss from the likes of Duke, Kentucky or Virginia could help, winning the Big Ten tournament title to go along with their regular season title would go a long way to swaying the selection committee.