Where: Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
When: March 8-12.
Championship Game: March 12 — 3:00 p.m. ET, CBS.
2016 Champion: Michigan State.
The 14 (yes, 14) schools that make up the Big Ten will all meet up in to play it out until a champion is crowned. The tournament kicks off Wednesday afternoon with a double-header before the tops seeds get started on Friday. Traditionally, the Big Ten is the final conference to hand out an automatic bid, with their title matchup being the last game before the selection show.
But overall, this has been a down year for the Big Ten. Only three teams currently rank in the top 25. Two of them are No. 24 and No. 25—Wisconsin and Maryland—while Purdue is the conference’s best team this year… coming in ranked at No. 13.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the favorite, contenders, and pretenders.
The Favorite — Purdue
Not only are they the best team, they also boost the conference’s best player. That man is Caleb Swanigan, the man they call “Biggie.” Swanigan, a likely first-team All-American, will be a major key to Purdue’s success if they can take home their first conference tournament championship since 2009.
A title would put them in the three-seed area, while an upset by the winner of Illinois/Michigan in their first game (Friday) would probably make them a five-seed.
Anything in between, and the Boilermakers will head into the dance as a four-seed.
Contenders — Maryland, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern, Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa
There’s a lot to process here.
Aside from Iowa, all these teams are currently in the field of 68. And yet, most need at least one victory to ensure their position. Maryland and Wisconsin have nothing to worry about; they could even meet up for a fun semi-final on Saturday.
Minnesota and Michigan State are on track to meet in the quarters, with that game being more important to the Spartans than the Gophers. Minnesota still can sneak in with a loss, while Sparty would be sweating it out Sunday with a defeat.
Northwestern is head and shoulders better than either Rutgers or Ohio State, and as long as they take care of the winner in that first-round game, they should be heading to their first NCAA tournament ever.
Michigan finds themselves in the same boat as Northwestern, only needing to win their first-round game to lock in a spot. Iowa would need a berth into the semi-final for a shot at making the field. Which, by the way, isn’t impossible. Why? Because they have the leading scorer in the conference: Peter Jok.
Pretenders — Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Nebraska, Rutgers
Illinois is in the same position as Iowa. Yet, it may be a bit tougher for them to complete the task of reaching the semi-final due to the opponents they would match up with.
Way back in November, it seemed like Indiana would be a top-three seed come Selection Sunday. Now they’ll need to win the entire tournament just to get into the field.
The remaining teams—Ohio State, Penn State, Nebraska and Rutgers—are all in the same boat as Indiana. If they want to be invited to the big dance, they have to come in first place in their own.
Who do you believe will emerge from a cluttered Big Ten?