Like many tournaments this year, it's truly anyone's guess who comes away with the victory. Bracket courtesy of Big Ten Conference
A quick glimpse at the bracket encapsulates every sense of the word "mayhem." And we'll sure get it.
The Big Ten Tournament, scheduled to tip on Wednesday night, is one of the few conference postseason classics that can truly be said is anyone's crown. Of course, America's choice is the consistent Top-Five selection in Purdue, who unquestionably have the conference's best body of work so far this year. But it certainly wasn't an unblemished season for the Boilers; two losses to the resurgent Indiana and stains against Rutgers, Northwestern & Maryland all stand out. Purdue's 15-5 Big Ten mark leads the conference, and Northwestern & Indiana are trailing well-behind at 12-8. The long story short? This thing is WIDE open.
We'll get into some stories to watch as the week goes on, but let's kick it off for Wednesday night's matchups.
Game 1: #13 Ohio State vs. #12 Wisconsin
Notable Non-Con Wins: Marquette, USC, Dayton, Stanford
I can't think of a team that was more hot-and-cold than Wisconsin this season. Can you name me another team that was ranked in January and proceeded to finish under .500 in conference play? Now fighting for the right to play in any postseason at all, the Badgers got a good draw on play-in day, slated to take on Ohio State in game one; the Badgers knocked off the Buckeyes 65-60 back in early February. Now, all eyes are on sophomore standout Chucky Hepburn and Wisconsin vet Tyler Wahl as they look to lead the team to some kind of run. The winner draws Iowa next, which Wisconsin knocked off twice already. There's a path forward for Wisconsin.
Notable Non-Con Wins: Cincinnati, Texas Tech
Ohio State, in nearly complete contrast, crashed-and-burned in the middle of the year beyond repair. Freshman phenom Brice Sensabaugh was criticized for not performing up to his expectations, to which head coach Chris Holtmann took heavy objection to the media for. Statistically the Buckeyes have been quite good in some offensive categories, such as retaining possession and offensive rebounding. Wisconsin did, of course, knock them off earlier in the year. But, if there's a silver lining for the Buckeyes, they've got some wind in their sail; two of their last three resulted in big time wins over Illinois and Maryland. With just a glimmer of success, how will the Buckeyes perform?
Game 2: Minnesota vs. Nebraska
Notable Non-Con Wins: Cal Baptist, Chicago State
It's been another tough year for the Golden Gophers, who went a dismal 2-17 in Big Ten play. They have no non-conference wins against teams that were ranked 290 and better in KenPom, and only grabbed wins over Rutgers and Ohio State. Marquette transfer - by way of North Carolina - Dawson Garcia sought greener pastures and has lived up to his once-high expectations, but there haven't been many else that have contributed as consistently as he has. Maybe it's role player Braeden Carrington, who was one of only three to crack double-figures in their last game out. Maybe it's Garcia's front court partner Jamison Battle, who stood out at George Washington and has been a solid member of the paint. One thing is for sure; the Gophers have their backs against the wall.
Notable Non-Con Wins: Creighton, Boston College, Florida State
Nebraska is coming in with some of the best momentum in the entire league; they're 5-1 in their last six games heading into postseason play, and 6-2 in their last eight. Fred Hoiberg's group has been clutch, they play hard, and they have many different contributors. Big man Derrick Walker has been rock-solid, with the offense running through him. The emergence of Sam Griesel has been a pleasant surprise for the Huskers as well; an intelligent wing-forward who draws plenty of fouls and commits them at a low clip. They'll need good contributions from Keisei Tominaga and Sam Hoiberg (Fred's son) to make a run in this, but it starts with the Minnesota team they just beat by 11.