Big Ten Tournament Storylines to Watch

Posted by Alex Moscoso on March 9th, 2016

The postseason has started and that means we get to enjoy five days of nonstop tournament basketball in Indianapolis. There is always a lot of drama to dig into during the Big Ten Tournament — rubber matches; teams angling for at-large bids and seeding; games between old rivals. We’re likely to see all of that and more after the tournament tips off this afternoon at 4:30 PM ET. In the interest of breaking down the event into four key storylines, here is your crib sheet for the week to come.

Without Caris Lever, Derrick Walton Jr. will need to lead the Wolverines to a respectable showing in the Big Ten Tournament to escape the bubble. (credit:

Without Caris Levert, Derrick Walton Jr. will need to lead the Wolverines to a respectable showing in the Big Ten Tournament to escape the bubble. (AP)

  1. All eyes on Michigan State. Indiana may have won the Big Ten title outright, but it is Tom Izzo‘s Spartans that are the heavy favorites to win this tournament. Why is Michigan State such a big favorite? Try this: Sparty has the best player in the country; Izzo already owns four tournament titles; it’s the hottest team in the league, having won 10 of their last 11 games. To put it simply, the Spartans have been in March form for a while now.
  2. Michigan is on the wrong side of the bubble. Oh, how the Wolverines have fallen. At the turn of league play, Michigan owned a 7-2 Big Ten record and was in serious contention for the conference title. The Wolverines then went 3-6 in the second half of conference play and are generally viewed as a team with quite a bit of work to do this week. A 3-9 record against the RPI top 50 means that John Beilein‘s team will likely need to make an appearance in Sunday’s championship game to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. That would require a win over Indiana as well as Purdue or Iowa, a tall order for a team that typically hasn’t fared well against top competition.
  3. Purdue and Maryland want protected seeds. At one time or another this season, both the Boilermakers and Terrapins were considered serious contenders to make a run to the Final Four. History tells us that they will likely need to secure a #4 seed or better to set themselves up for a deep run. According to bracketmatrix.comboth teams are currently in contention for those coveted #4 seeds  To stay on this seed line, they will need to avoid an early upset and have a solid showing in Indianapolis. Purdue will likely have to beat Iowa — a team it’s already lost to twice this season; and Maryland will have to beat Wisconsin — a team with which it split the season series. Maryland would like to be slotted into Raleigh, while Purdue wouldn’t mind getting sent to St. Louis.
  4. Is there a legitimate dark horse here? If you consider a dark horse any team without a double-bye to the quarterfinals, then Wisconsin would have to be the school most capable of stealing a Big Ten Tournament championship. Unlike the other favorable single-bye seed, Iowa, the Badgers ended their season with positive momentum, winning 11 of their last 13 games. They also have at least one win this season against every team on their side of the bracket and would avoid Indiana until Sunday. Maybe Greg Gard‘s Badgers have not yet reached the apex of their vastly improving season just yet.
Alex Moscoso (170 Posts)

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