Big Ten Tournament Storylines: Quarterfinal Friday

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 11th, 2016

We’re now down to eight teams remaining in the Big Ten Tournament after a wild Thursday resulted in significant upsets to Iowa and Wisconsin. Today the top four seeds will take the floor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse hoping to avoid the same fate that befell the #5 and #6 seeds. As we head into the quarterfinals, here are four storylines to watch during the tournament’s third day in Indianapolis.

Malcolm Hill and the Illini will have to hope that the slipper still fits against Purdue Purdue on Friday. (USA Today Images)

Malcolm Hill and his Illini will have to hope that the slipper still fits against Purdue Purdue on Friday. (USA Today Images)

  1. Can Illinois Keep It Going?: Even with Iowa finishing the season with a whimper, #12 Illinois’ win over the Hawkeyes on Thursday might be the biggest Big Ten upset since Rutgers beat Wisconsin last season. An impressive game from Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn along with continued strong play from freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands could get the Illini into the tournament semifinals. Remember that John Groce’s unit — thanks to 52 points from Hill and Dunn — has already beaten Purdue once this year. 
  2. Guard Battle in Game Four: Not to be outdone, #11 Nebraska also won its first two Big Ten Tournament games by knocking off Rutgers and Wisconsin. Shavon Shields has been his typical offensive threat, but the guard trio of Glynn Watson Jr, Benny Parker, and Tai Webster have also been phenomenal. They held Badger guards Corey Sanders and Bronson Koenig to 6-of-24 shooting from the floor, while also picking up seven steals. Melo Trimble and Rasheed Suliamon have lately been inconsistent for Maryland — can Tim Miles‘ guards force the Terps’ backcourt into another rough outing en route to an upset?
  3. One Down, One to Go: Both Michigan and Ohio State will be mentioned about 45 times by ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi on Friday because they both advanced to the quarterfinals, keeping their NCAA Tournament at-large bid hopes alive. Now they will face, respectively, the regular season Big Ten champion (Indiana) and the second-ranked team in the country (Michigan State). Can either of these teams pull off another shocker?
  4. Denzel vs. Denzel Jr: Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine gets to take the stage for the first time this postseason and will likely stuff the stat sheet as he typically does. If Ohio State wants to beat Sparty, the Buckeyes will need a similarly well-rounded effort from its version of Valentine — freshman guard JaQuan Lyle. When fully engaged, Lyle, like his older counterpart in East Lansing, can contribute in a number of different ways. He already has a triple-double to his credit this season, and his 22 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals in the Buckeyes’ second round win against Penn State showed how he can take over a game. If Ohio State is to move on, he may need an encore performance on Friday.
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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