For an avid college basketball fan, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is the best few weeks of the entire year. Known as March Madness to most, this tournament is exciting, unpredictable, heart-breaking and much more for all spectators who partake in the “Madness”. However, the week before the biggest college basketball tournament begins, there are many games that not only shape the NCAA Men’s Tournament bracket, but also bring just as much craziness as the 68-team event.
These games are the all important conference tournament contests. From the mid-majors, to the power conferences, these tournaments are usually a preview of what’s in store for the weeks following Selection Sunday.
College basketball has been extremely odd and unbelievable this season. The number one team has lost time after time, and it seems as if there are two or three court stormings each night.
The trend of the unpredictable has been most evident in men’s college basketball’s top conference: the Big 10. Night after night, week after week, the Big 10 has given hoops fans wild finishes. For this reason, the Big 10 Tournament guarantees to be a weekend full of must watch basketball.
Beginning this Thursday at the United Center in Chicago, IL the Big 10 Men’s College Basketball Tournament will take center stage. The first game of the tournament will start at 12pm ET on Thursday. The eight seed Illinois Fighting Illini will take on the nine seed Minnesota Golden Gophers. The winner will advance to the second round, where they will face the top-seeded Indiana Hoosiers.
Game Two of the Big 10 tournament is between the fifth-seeded Michigan Wolverines and the 12th-seeded Penn State Nittany Lions. The Wisconsin Badgers, seeded fourth, await the winner of the Wolverines-Nittany Lions game.
The final game of the first round of the Big 10 Tournament is a matchup between the six seed Iowa Hawkeyes and the 11 seed Northwestern Wildcats. The three seed Michigan State Spartans will face the winner of Hawkeyes-Wildcats.
Although it’s been a season filled with upsets, I believe the number one seed Hoosiers will be crowned Big 10 Tournament Champions. Due to their deep bench and NBA bound stars, the Hoosiers will follow up their Big 10 Regular Season Championship with a conference tournament 1st place trophy. Their opponent in the title game will be Tom Izzo’s Spartans. Under Izzo, Michigan State seems to preform best during tournament play, which is why they will find themselves in the title game. While there are plenty of other squads capable of hoisting the Big Ten Tournament Champions Trophy this Sunday, both Indiana and Michigan State have shined when the spotlight is brightest, making them my favorites to advance to the championship game.
My low seeds that have a chance to make a run all the way to Championship Sunday are the Illini and the Boilermakers.
The Illini have been the most up and down team in the Big 10 this season. One moment they look unbeatable, and then in the blink of the eye they can’t seem to make a basket. That being said, they have some impressive wins this year and have played top 25 opponents very tough. The fact they have already won a tournament —the Maui Invitational— this year, along with their ability to shoot the lights out of the gym, gives Illinois the chance to make some noise this weekend.
Unless they win the Big 10 Tournament, Purdue will miss out on the Madness this year. The Boilermakers have been the rare consistent team in the Big Ten this season. They have beaten the teams they should, and lost to the teams more talented than them. However, since the month of March began, Purdue has been playing their best basketball of the year. The motivation of knowing this weekend is their only chance to make the field of 68, plus their improved play, leads me to believe Purdue has the outside chance of shocking the basketball world, and winning the Big 10 Tournament.
The Big 10 has blessed us basketball junkies with jaw-dropping moment after moment this season. With a weekend jam-packed of more Big 10 games, I can’t imagine anything other than more incredible memories.
Matt Malecha is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattMalecha.