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Big Ten Tournament Preview: Ohio State, IU need deep runs

CINCINNATI (Richard Skinner) - Here is a look at the Big Ten Conference Tournament, which begins on Wednesday:

WHEN/WHERE: March 8-12 at Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.

SCHEDULE:

Wednesday, March 8 (Opening round)

  • Game 1: No. 12 Nebraska (12-18) vs. No. 13 Penn State (14-17) , 4:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • Game 2: No. 11 Ohio State (17-14) vs. No. 14 Rutgers (14-17), 7 p.m. (BTN)


Thursday, March 9 (Second round)

  • Game 3: No. 8 Michigan (20-11) vs. No. 9 Illinois (18-13), 12 p.m. (BTN)
  • Game 4: No. 5 Michigan State (18-13) vs. Game 1 winner, 25 minutes after game 3 (BTN)
  • Game 5: No. 7 Iowa (18-13) vs. No. 10 Indiana (17-14), 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • Game 6: No. 6 Northwestern (21-10) vs. Game 2 winner, 25 minutes after game 3 (ESPN2)


Friday, March 10 (Quarterfinals)

  • Game 7: No. 1 Purdue (25-6) vs. Game 3 winner, 12 p.m. | ESPN)
  • Game 8: No. 4 Minnesota (23-8) vs. Game 4 winner | 25 minutes after game 7 (ESPN)
  • Game 9: No. 2 Wisconsin (23-8) vs. Game 5 winner | 6:30 p.m. (BTN)
  • Game 10: No. 3 Maryland (24-7) vs. Game 6 winner, 25 minutes after game 9 (BTN)


Saturday, March 11 (Semifinals)

  • Game 11: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 1 p.m. (CBS, Local12)
  • Game 12: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 3:30 p.m. (CBS, Local12)


Sunday, March 12 (Championship game)

  • Game 13: Game 11 winner vs. Game 12 winner, 3 p.m. (CBS, Local12)


NCAA TOURNAMENT LOCKS: Purdue, Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Northwestern. According to BracketMatrix.com, which is compilation of numerous bracketologists around the country, as of March 7, Purdue is a No. 4 seed, Maryland and Minnesota are No. 6 seeds, Wisconsin is a No. 7 seed and both Michigan and Northwestern are No. 9 seeds.

ON NCAA BUBBLE: Michigan State, Iowa, Illinois. As of March 7 Michigan State isn't on the bubble, but the Spartans are a No. 10 seed and can't afford a bad loss in their first game against the Nebraska-Penn State winner. If they win that they should punch their ticket. Iowa will likely need at least two wins for a chance to make the tournament, while Illinois will also likely need to get to at least two wins and perhaps even make a run to conference title game for a chance.

TEAM TO BEAT: Purdue. The Boilermakers won 11 of their last 13 league games and three of their four league losses came on the road. They also played competitive in non-league games against Villanova (losing 79-76) and at Louisville (losing 71-64) and beat Notre Dame. They did lose at possible quarterfinal foe Michigan, but beat Maryland, Wisconsin, Northwestern twice and Michigan State twice.

DARK HORSE: Michigan State. Call me a sucker for Tom Izzo, but the Spartans also have a decent draw at least until the semifinal round as they should handle the Nebraska-Penn State winner in the second round and beat quarterfinal foe Minnesota twice.

INDIANA'S ROAD TO TITLE: It's a tough one as they have to beat Iowa, then Wisconsin, then possibly Maryland and possibly Purdue to win it all. The Hoosiers didn't have a four-game winning streak this season in the Big Ten and lost of their last seven games.

OHIO STATE'S ROAD TO TITLE: The Buckeyes didn't even string together a three-game conference win streak this season and they would have to likely beat four NCAA Tournament teams to win it, starting with Northwestern and Maryland. They should get past Rutgers in the first round, but after that winning four more against quality teams seems impossible.

PREDICTED OUTCOME: About six teams have a realistically legitimate chance to win it (Purdue, Maryland, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Michigan State - sorry Northwestern). I'll go with Purdue vs. Michigan State in the upper bracket semifinal and Maryland vs. Wisconsin in the lower bracket semifinal with Maryland beating Purdue for the title.

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