Big Ten Tournament Storylines: First and Second Rounds

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 9th, 2016

This year’s Big Ten Tournament could very well have something for everyone. There are two teams that seem to be peaking at just the right time (Indiana and Michigan State), two others that have won 20 of their last 26 games (Purdue and Wisconsin), and two more that hope to find their way after recent struggles (Iowa and Maryland). Old rivals Michigan and Ohio State are both stuck squarely on the bubble, while Northwestern and Penn State can secure bids in some of the lower-level tournaments with a win or two. Here are three quick storylines to focus on during the first two days of games in Indianapolis.

Michigan needs quality play from Zak Irvin to get the wins they need in the Big Ten Tournament. (Getty).

Michigan needs quality play from Zak Irvin to get the wins it needs this postseason. (Getty)

  1. Bubble Boys: Michigan has a decent chance to make the field of 68 but it would be strongly advisable that the Wolverines avoid losing to Northwestern on Thursday afternoon. When the two teams played a couple weeks ago, the Wildcats were competitive throughout until Michigan pulled away at the very end. A Michigan loss here probably means John Beilein will punch his ticket to the NIT. Ohio State has a much more arduous task ahead with its first test against a Penn State team that has won five out of its final eight games, including victories over Indiana and Iowa. The Buckeyes are full of mercurial talents who don’t always play consistently, but if Thad Matta can get JaQuan Lyle, Marc Loving and Keita Bates-Diop clicking at the same time, Ohio State could make a run.
  2. Can Iowa Get Right? Iowa got things back on track with last weekend’s win at Michigan to close out the regular season. After losing five of their last seven games, most bracket projections have dropped the Hawkeyes to the #4-#5 seed range. Thursday’s second round game against Illinois or Minnesota shouldn’t be a problem, but stranger things have happened. The most important thing is that Iowa needs to get its confidence back, and an upset loss to a bad team would probably leave Fran McCaffery’s squad too shaken up to make the March run that looked so secure as recently as a month ago.
  3. Day One Points Explosions: This is admittedly a bit of a reach because the four teams playing in Wednesday’s first round matchups aren’t great, but there is some potential for offensive explosions from some of the better scorers the Big Ten has to offer this year.  The quintet of Kendrick Nunn, Malcolm Hill, Shavon Shields, Andrew White III and Corey Sanders have scored 28 or more points in a game this season 15 different times. Any one of these players has the ability to carry his team into the next round if they get hot.
Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

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