Big Ten Tournament Preview: Spartans The Team To Beat

    The Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament is flooded with teams who have plenty to prove. Here's a preview of the festivities that will take place in Indianapolis.

    March 7, 2016


    The Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament is flooded with teams who have plenty to prove. Here’s a preview of the festivities that will take place in Indianapolis this week.


    As the Big Ten’s 14 schools head to Indianapolis for the conference’s 2016 men’s basketball tournament, a lot is on the line. Michigan State hopes to lock up a top seed for March Madness. Seven other teams – Indiana, Maryland, Wisconsin, Iowa, Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan – have aspirations of either bolstering their seed or earning an at-large bid. So who will be crowned conference tournament champions, who might surprise, and who will return to campus early? Here are a few pressing questions as the madness begins.

    The winner

    Michigan State: Though Indiana finished a conference best 15-3, it’s the Spartans who are considered to be the Big Ten’s best team. Winners of six in a row, Michigan State is on a roll. Senior guard Denzel Valentine turned in a gaudy line of 27 points and 13 assists in the regular season finale over Ohio State, and afterward he guaranteed a national championship. Given Tom Izzo’s track record in the postseason and the talent on a team that can shoot the lights out, Valentine may be right.

    The dark horse

    Wisconsin: Though the Badgers underwhelmed in the first half of the season, they finished strong by winning 11 out of their last 13 contests. Bo Ryan abruptly retired in December, but Greg Gard, a longtime disciple of Ryan’s, has stepped in to continue Wisconsin’s gritty style of play. Junior forward Nigel Hayes was a key player on last year’s national runner-up squad, while freshman forward Ethan Happ has fit in perfectly and made an immediate impact. The Badgers are again equipped to string together a handful of victories when it matters the most.

    Needs a good showing

    Michigan: At 20-11 overall and 10-8 in conference play, the eighth-seeded Wolverines are the definition of a team on the bubble. Two or more victories in Indianapolis would almost certainly change that. Michigan does have a few quality wins on its resume – beating Texas in the Bahamas, and Maryland and Purdue in Ann Arbor – but the Wolverines were 0-11 against all other opponents in the top 100 of the RPI. Injuries to a pair of seniors, Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert, proved difficult to overcome, but junior guard Derrick Walton Jr. has been steady in their absence. He’ll be counted on if Michigan is to punch its ticket to the tournament.

    Heads home in disappointment

    Ohio State: The Buckeyes, 19-12 overall and 11-7 in the Big Ten, enter as the seventh seed and will play tenth-seeded Penn State on Thursday evening. Ohio State has proven severely challenged on the offensive end this season, ranking 243rd in the country at 70.7 points per game. For a shot at securing an at-large bit, the Buckeyes will have to dispose of the Nittany Lions and pull off an upset against Michigan State, which awaits in the second round. Expect an NIT appearance for Ohio State for the first time since 2008, when they won the tournament.

    MORE: Magic, Draymond, Valentine … Denzel Valentine Etchhing Name Alongside Spartans Greats

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