The top-seeded teams finally get a chance to lace up and take the court as the stage is set for the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. Penn State's surprise run has headlined the tournament thus far, with the Nittany Lions pulling off consecutive upsets, knocking off a struggling Nebraska team Wednesday and fifth-seeded Iowa Thursday 67-58. Michigan upset the Fighting Illini in their home state and sent them back to Champagne with a 73-55 blowout loss and a neglected dream of making the big dance.
Northwestern ended their brief hot streak, losing to the Indiana Hoosiers 71-56 and effectively ending their season, despite playing just an hour outside of the United Center. Minnesota and Ohio State played a competitive game but the Buckeyes outlasted the Golden Gophers and clinched a chance to play rivals Michigan State in the quarterfinals.
It takes three wins to hoist the Big Ten Tournament trophy, but first let's take a look at the bracket:
Note: All times listed in the bracket are central time.
Winners of the games Friday will play Saturday for a chance to claim a spot in the Big Ten title game. Let's take a look game-by-game at the matchup Friday:
Game One: 1-seed Wisconsin (28-3, 16-2) vs. 9-seed Michigan (16-15, 9-10)
Gametime: 12 p.m. EDT
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Wisconsin enters the Big Ten Tournament as a projected two-seed in the NCAA Tournament by bracket aficionado Joe Lunardi but could very well improve their stock with a tournament win. Wisconsin's been dominant in the Big Ten this season, save for a Frank Kaminsky-less loss to Rutgers and an upset from Maryland, winning 16 of 18 games and claiming the Big Ten regular season title. Led by Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, Wisconsin is big, efficient and well-coached by legend Bo Ryan.
Michigan not only pulled off an upset, but did so in convincing fashion, steamrolling Illinois in the second round Thursday. The Wolverines had four players score double-figures to lead a well-balanced attack in the win against the Fighting Illini. Michigan is holding onto a gleam of hope for postseason play as the Wolverines will need to win the Big Ten tournament for a chance to take part in the big dance. Wisconsin needed overtime to beat Michigan the first time around, as the Badgers won 69-64 in Ann Arbor.
Game Two: 4-seed Purdue (20-11, 12-6) vs. 13-seed Penn State (19-15, 6-14)
Game time: 25 minutes after Game One ends, ~2:30 p.m. EDT
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Behind Maryland, Purdue is arguably the biggest surprise in the conference this season. After a sub-par non-conference performance with losses to Gardner-Webb and North Florida, Purdue turned their season around and played exceptionally well in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers won't jump out at you on the stat sheet but relies on their depth to take control of games. Purdue has lost two of their last three games but should be more than rested to take on a Penn State team that's played in consecutive days.
Penn State is just beginning their cinderella run and will need to win five consecutive games to clinch a spot in the tourney, when it's all said and done. Led by senior D.J. Newbill, Penn State has been on fire. Newbill dropped 18 points in the win against Iowa but was under his season average of 20.7 per game. The Boilermakers narrowly escaped the Nittany Lions earlier in the season as Purdue held on to win in overtime in State College.
Game Three: 2-seed Maryland (26-5, 14-4) vs. 7-seed Indiana (20-12, 9-9)
Game time: 6:30 p.m. EDT
Online streaming: BTN2Go
Maryland has been red-hot to finish the season, winning seven straight games to climb the AP rankings to the highest they've been since their championship season in 2002. Behind the old Dez Wells and the young Melo Trimble, Maryland has loads of star power and can score in a number of ways. Wells has resurged the offense and gives Maryland a killing winners mentality. In the first ever Big Ten Tournament for the Terps, they are six seeds higher than what was projected in the beginning of the season by writers.
Indiana enters the game fresh off a crushing victory over 10-seed Northwestern. The Hoosiers can continue to boost their resume with a win over the Terps behind the likes of Yogi Ferrell and Justin Blackman. Indiana can shoot lights out from three but has been inconsistent finishing games, particularly in the latter half of conference play. Maryland and Indiana split the season series, each winning their home games. Maryland's win over Indiana started the aforementioned seven game win streak to end the season.
Game Four: 3-seed Michigan State (21-10, 12-6) vs. 6-seed Ohio State (23-9, 11-7)
Game time: 25 minutes after Game Three ends, ~9:00 p.m. EDT
Online streaming: BTN2Go
Michigan State was one of the more consistent teams in the Big Ten all season, finishing 12-6 in conference play. Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice lead the Spartans with each of them averaging more than 14 points per game. The Spartans are eyeing a 20th straight NCAA Tournament appearance under future Hall of Famer Tom Izzo. Michigan State has won two straight games to cap the season off and are looking to extend that streak against their rivals.
Ohio State survived Minnesota Thursday 79-73 in the second round of the tournament. DeAngelo Russell unsurprisingly paved the way for the Buckeyes and scored 23 points and contributed 4 assists in the win. Michigan State will have all eyes on arguably the most talented freshman in the country in Russell. The future lottery-pick is averaging 19-5-5 in his rookie campaign and is the undoubted leader of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Michigan State won in East Lansing 59-56 in the teams' only matchup this season.