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Thursday, March 8, 2007

3/8/07 - Tournament Preview - Part II

#1-Ohio State
Surprisingly #1 seeds have not faired very well in Big 10 Tournament play. 1-seeds have a record of 5-4 in the Quarterfinals against the 8/9 winner and the #1 has won the Tournament only twice (Michigan State-'99, Illinois-'05) in its nine year history. The Buckeyes will face the Michigan/Minnesota winner on Friday and if they win either Iowa or Purdue on Saturday. Despite previous lackluster performances by #1 seeds, I think many who have followed the Big 10 this year would be stunned if OSU was not in the Championship game on Sunday. They are the heavy favorites in this tournament for a reason, and a Big 10 Tournament title would no doubt lock up a #1-seed in the NCAA Tournament for the Buckeyes.

This stat may also surprise some readers. Iowa coach Steve Alford has the most Big Ten Tournament wins (13) and the best winning % in Big Ten Tournament games (13-5, .722) out of all active Big Ten coaches. If not for a 2-point loss last week at Penn State, many would be trumpeting the Hawkeyes as another Big Ten bubble team. The defending Big Ten Tournament Champions match up nicely with Quarterfinal opponent Purdue (Iowa beat Purdue 78-59 in their only meeting this season), but really have their work cut out for them if they want to make it back-to-back Championships. And anything less than another Tournament Championship will only improve Iowa's seeding in the NIT.

Purdue comes into this weekend desperately needing at least one win. Depending on whose bracket you look at, the Boilers are either one of the very last teams in the NCAAs or one of the last four out. Friday's game is setting up to be a "must win" for Purdue's NCAA Tournament hopes. A win against Iowa would most likely send the Boilermakers to the Big Dance and most likely give them another crack at top-ranked Ohio State. However, historically #5-seeds have not seen much success in the Big Ten Tournament. They are only 3-6 in Quarterfinal games, and no #5-seed (0-3) has ever made it past the Semifinal round.

The biggest story for the Badgers this weekend will certainly be how they play without starter Brian Butch. In Wisconsin's first game without the big man they were a last second Kammron Taylor 3-pointer away from their only home loss of the season against Michigan State. Big Ten Player of the Year Alando Tucker may have to take on even more of the offense (he already takes 29% of the Badger's shots) to lead Wisconsin deep into the Tournament. A #1-seed in the NCAAs is also up for grabs for the Badgers, and with Michigan State likely being their Quarterfinal opponent, don't be surprised to see Wisconsin heading home before the weekend.

Indiana should feel comfortable with their bid to the NCAAs no matter the outcome of this weekend's action. The Hoosiers finished 10-6 in conference, good enough for 3rd place outright, and since the expansion to 64 teams, no 3rd place team in the Big Ten has ever been left out of the Big Dance. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, they are definitely in the much tougher lower-half of the bracket. Indiana will face the winner of Illinois-Penn State on Friday and then most likely Wisconsin or Michigan State on Saturday if they win. If the Hoosiers can make it to Sunday's Championship Game, they will have certainly earned a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Big Ten Tournament Championships - by Team
Illinois - 2 ('03, '05)
Iowa - 2 ('01,'06)
Michigan State - 2 ('99, '00)
Michigan - 1 ('98)*
Ohio State - 1 ('02)
Wisconsin - 1 ('04)

*-Due to NCAA violations, Michigan was on probation and did not receive the Big Ten's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament

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