FACTS & STATS:
Site: United Center (20,917) -- Chicago, Illinois.
Dates: Thursday, March 14 through Sunday, March 17. Television: Big Ten
Network, ESPN, ESPN2, CBS (Semifinals and Final). Annual: 16th. Defending
Champion: Michigan State
The 2013 Big Ten Conference Tournament returns to the Windy City for
the first time since 2007, as all 12 teams converge on the United Center to
take part in the 16th annual event.
The tournament begins on Thursday, March 14 and runs through Sunday, March 17.
The winner receives and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, but as many as
eight teams could find their way into the Big Dance as that's how many have
won at least 20 games this season.
The top four finishers in the regular-season standings were awarded byes into
the quarterfinals, and the first two days of the event will each consist of
four games. Michigan State (the No. 1 seed at the time) is the defending Big
Ten Tournament champion, having defeated Ohio State (No. 2 seed) in a 68-64
final last year.
Since its inception, the Big Ten Tournament has crowned six different
champions, with Ohio State (2002, 2007, 2010, 2011) leading the way with four
titles, and Michigan State (1999, 2000, 2012) next in line with three. Iowa
(2001, 2006), Illinois (2003, 2005) and Wisconsin (2004, 2008) have each
hoisted the trophy twice, and Purdue has one crown to its credit (2009).
This year's top-four seeds are (1) Indiana, (2) Ohio State, (3) Michigan State
and (4) Wisconsin, and they will await the winners of Thursday's opening-round
matchups which pit (9) Minnesota against (8) Illinois, (12) Penn State vs. (5)
Michigan, (10) Nebraska against (7) Purdue, and (11) Northwestern vs. (6)
Opening-round action kicks off with the Golden Gophers battling the Fighting
Illini, the teams splitting a pair of meetings during the regular season, with
each winning on the other's home court.
Minnesota started the year off a sensational 15-1, but the Big Ten slate was
ripe with pitfalls, the team going a disappointing 8-10 in conference. The
Gophers limp into the postseason after dropping their final two bouts of the
campaign, but Tubby Smith's team is as dangerous as any in the tournament when
playing up to its full potential. UM boasts four double-digit scorers, which
includes All-Big Ten Third-Team selection Trevor Mbakwe (10.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg).
Illinois got off to a tremendous start as well, winning its first 12 games to
claim a spot among the nationally-ranked, but like its counterpart in this
opening-round matchup, conference play wasn't kind to the Illini as they too
wound up going 8-10 against their Big Ten brethren. UI, which owns 23 Big Ten
Tournament victories to tie Ohio State for the most ever, lost its final two
games of the regular season as well, and coach John Groce has a pair of All-
Big Ten Third-Teamers on which to rely, as Brandon Paul (16.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg,
2.9 apg) and D.J. Richardson (12.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 47 steals) have both been
Awaiting the winner of the Minnesota/Illinois matchup is top-seeded Indiana.
The Hoosiers began the campaign as the No. 1 team in the land, and early wins
over Georgia, Georgetown and North Carolina had the team undefeated going into
a Dec. 15th clash with Butler. Coach Tom Crean's club with suffer its first
loss of the season in that contest (88-86 in OT0), but it responded by winning
its next six before loss No. 2 occurred in a Big Ten home tilt versus
Wisconsin (64-59). IU would go on to win nine of its next 10, but it hit a
rough patch in the final two weeks, splitting four games, although its finale
resulted in a 72-71 win at Michigan.
The Hoosiers lead the conference and rank third nationally in scoring with an
average of 80.8 ppg, and the team put two players on the All-Big Ten First
Team in Cody Zeller (16.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and Victor Oladipo (13.7 ppg, 6.2
rpg), and one on the Third Team in Christian Watford (12.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg). In
addition, Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell (7.7 ppg, 4.3 apg) earned All-Freshman Team
The second game of the opening round will feature a clash between Penn State
and Michigan, and to say that the two meetings the teams had during the
regular season were dramatic would be an understatement.
Penn State finished in last place in the Big Ten this season, winning just
twice in 18 opportunities, but its first league victory came over visiting
Michigan on Feb. 27 (84-78). The first encounter between the two took place in
Ann Arbor just 10 days earlier, and while the Wolverines came out on top, they
did so by just eight points (79-71). The Nittany Lions wound up with half as
may wins as they had losses overall (10-20), and while they endured a
miserable 14-game losing streak at one point, all in conference, they come
into this event having split their last four games. Penn State's top two
performers, D.J. Newbill (16.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.1 apg) and Jermaine Marshall
(15.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 45 steals), both picked up All-Big Ten Honorable Mention
The hiccup against PSU aside, Michigan has had a tremendous season, logging a
25-6 overall record, which included a 12-6 league ledger -- good for fourth
place. The Maize and Blue are fortunate to have the Big Ten Player of the Year
wearing its uniform, as Trey Burke was simply sensational in averaging 19.2
points and 6.8 assists per outing. Tim Hardaway, Jr. (14.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg) also
had a stellar campaign, and Glenn Robinson III (10.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg) was highly
productive in earning All-Freshman Team honors. Not to be left out, Nik
Stauskas (11.6 ppg, .460 3-point FG percentage) helped form what is arguably
the best backcourt trio in the nation.
Awaiting the winner of the Penn State/Michigan fray is No. 4 seed Wisconsin,
winners of 21 games overall, 12 of which came in conference play. The Badgers
own the Big Ten's top defense (56.0 ppg), and they rank ninth nationally in
that department. UW, which is led by Big Ten Coach of the Year Bo Ryan,
doesn't light it up at the offensive end (66.1 ppg), and it relies almost
exclusively on four rather modest scorers in All-Big Ten Second-Teamer Jared
Berggren (11.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 63 blocks), Honorable Mention selection Ben Brust
(11.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 76 assists), Ryan Evans (10.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and All-
Freshman Team member Sam Dekker (9.7 ppg). UW is as solid as they come in
terms of rebounding (+4.3 margin), while also taking very good care of the
basketball (only 9.6 turnovers per tilt).
The third opening-round encounter pits Nebraska against Purdue, with the
former having won the only meeting between the two during the regular season,
65-56 in Lincoln on Jan. 16.
Nebraska is the newest member of the Big Ten, and so far the team has yet to
really make its mark. This season, the Cornhuskers wound up going 14-17
overall and winning only five of its 18 conference bouts. Nebraska dropped a
74-60 decision at Iowa to close the regular season, but it had topped visiting
Minnesota three days prior in a 53-51 final. The Huskers average a league-low
58.6 ppg, and that figure actually ranks them 331st of 345 Division I
programs. There is talent on the roster however, as All-Big Ten Honorable
Mention selection Dylan Talley (14.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 76 assists), Ray Gallegos
(12.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 43 steals) and Brandon Ubel (11.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg) all net
double digits on a consistent basis.
Purdue has had an up-and-down year, going 15-16 overall and 8-10 in
conference. The team's biggest wins came against Clemson, Illinois, Iowa,
Wisconsin and Minnesota, the latter two coming during a three-game span to
close out the regular season. As you might surmise from their record, the
Boilermakers are a middle-of-the-pack club in the Big Ten in most statistical
categories, putting up 65.6 ppg while yielding 64.5 ppg. Terone Johnson (13.5
ppg, 4.7 rpg), A.J. Hammons (10.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 62 blocks) and D.J. Byrd ()
all average in double figures, with Johnson picking up All-Big Ten Third-Team
honors as a result of his exploits.
Waiting in the wings for the Nebraska/Purdue winner is second-seeded Ohio
State, which staked its claim to a 23-7 overall mark this season, winning 13
of its 18 Big Ten bouts along the way. The Buckeyes, who are the all-time
winningest team in this tournament (four crowns, 23-11 record) and who have
appeared in six of the last seven championship games, are led by the Big Ten's
leading scorer in Deshaun Thomas (19.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg). The backcourt duo of
Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (10.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Aaron Craft (9.7 ppg, 4.5 apg)
help round out what is a solid all-around club assembled by coach Thad Matta.
OSU comes into this event as winners of five straight, which includes triumphs
over Minnesota, Michigan State, Indiana and Illinois.
The nightcap in Thursday's opening round has Northwestern taking on Iowa, the
latter of which claimed double-digit victories in both meetings during the
Northwestern is once again one of the poorest offensive teams around, netting
a mere 60.8 ppg to rank 11th in the conference and 306th nationally. The club
has only two active double-digit scorers in Reggie Hearn (13.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
and Dave Sobolewski (10.0 ppg, 3.9 apg), as season-ending injuries to both
Drew Crawford (13.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Jared Swopshire (9.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg)
certainly hurt. The Wildcats limp into the postseason hoping to put the brakes
on an eight-game slide, but if their record in this tournament (6-15) is any
indication, that's going to be difficult to do.
Iowa has quietly put together a solid campaign, going 20-11 overall and an
even 9-9 in conference. The Hawkeyes come in as winners of two straight and
three in their last four, and going back to Feb. 9, they are 6-2. Iowa has a
pair of All-Big Ten honorees in Third-Teamer Roy Devyn Marble (14.1 ppg, 3.9
rpg, 2.8 apg) and Honorable Mention selection Aaron White (13.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg),
and the club ranks among the league leaders in scoring offense (70.7 ppg)
while sitting at the top in FG percentage defense (.387) and 3-point FG
percentage defense (.291).
No. 3 seed Michigan State is next up for the winner of the Northwestern/Iowa
clash, and the Spartans are hoping for a lengthy spring run after going 24-7
overall and 13-5 in Big Ten play this season. MSU has signature wins over
Kansas, Boise State and Texas in non-league play, as well as Ohio State (1-1),
Michigan (1-1), Wisconsin (2-0), Illinois (1-0), Minnesota (1-1) and Iowa
(1-0) in conference. Coach Tom Izzo's club did however lose to Indiana twice,
and it recently snapped a three-game skid by winning its final two regular-
season bouts. The Spartans are led by standout performers Keith Appling (13.5
ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.7 apg) and Gary Harris (13.2 ppg, .419 3-point FG percentage),
the latter of whom was tabbed as the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year. Adreian
Payne (10.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg) rounds out the unit's double-digit scorers, while
also spearheading its rebounding effort.
Indiana has reached the Big Ten Tournament title tilt only once in history (a
63-61 loss to Iowa in 2001), so winning its first-ever tourney crown would be
huge for a program that has achieved so much in its storied history. The
Hoosiers will be pushed by every team it faces, but expect them to finish as
the top dog in the conference after winning the regular-season crown, as they
continue their quest for the national championship, which so many had them
penciled in as the favorite to win when the season began.