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Friday, March 9, 2007

3/9/07 - Friday's Preview

Thursday's Opening Round action in the Big Ten Tournament produced no surprises as all three top seeds advanced to the Quarterfinals. The slate is now set for what should be a very exciting three days of basketball at Chicago's United Center this weekend. All four games on Friday have huge implications for the NCAA Tournament. The Big Ten has more "bubble" teams than any of the other major conferences, and after today's action we will hopefully have a clearer picture of which teams are in and which are going to be left out.

1.Ohio State vs. 8.Michigan
Michigan did what they needed to yesterday by knocking off Minnesota and holding the Gophers to a Big Ten Tournament record low 40 points. The Wolverines are playing for their NCAA Tournament lives right now, and a victory over top-ranked Ohio State could very well be enough to lift Michigan into the Big Dance. A Buckeye victory should seal up a #1 seed in the NCAAs no matter what else happens this weekend. If Ohio State can win the Big Ten Tournament, they would have a very good shot at being the overall #1 seed in the bracket.

4.Iowa vs. 5.Purdue
The second game today is basically a play-in game for Purdue. If the Boilermakers can beat Iowa and advance to the Semifinals, they can feel safe on Selection Sunday. A loss and Purdue can begin preparations for a home NIT game. The Hawkeyes, on the other hand, will need at least two wins this weekend to get back into NCAA discussion. Should Iowa beat Purdue and then knock off Ohio State tomorrow, they will find themselves right on the bubble.

2.Wisconsin vs. 7.Michigan State
This matchup is probably the most anticipated of the four games on Friday. After last Saturday's classic between these two teams in Madison, the Spartans are certainly looking for some revenge. After knocking off a pesky Northwestern team yesterday, MSU seems to have moved to "lock" status as far as the NCAAs are concerned, but a victory over the Badgers will make Sunday much more comfortable for Izzo and company. Wisconsin needs to prove that they can play at a high level without Brian Butch. A couple of wins this weekend would help the Badgers secure at least a 2-seed in the Big Dance and possibly give the Big Ten a second #1 seed on Selection Sunday.

3.Indiana vs. 6.Illinois
Win or lose, it will be very difficult for the committee to leave Indiana out of this year's tournament, but I have seen some "Bracketologists" with the Hoosiers still on the bubble. A win over Illinois would certainly cement Indiana's spot in the Big Dance. Many have also penciled the Illini into the NCAAs after Thursday's win over Penn State. I think for Illinois to feel secure they need a win over the Hoosiers tonight. A loss to Indiana and it will be a very long couple of days in Champaign waiting for Sunday's Selection Show.

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