The Big Ten is by far the deepest conference in America this season in college basketball. While the conference may not break the all-time record for NCAA tournament berths, it’s sure going to be close.
Outside of a couple of teams at the bottom of the conference, the Big Ten was stacked this season. Four teams spent a few weeks in the top five of the AP poll and six teams are currently ranked following the end of the regular season.
Up next is the Big Ten Tournament, which begins on Wednesday in Indianapolis. With so many good teams battling for seeding in the NCAA Tournament, things are going to get a little crazy this week.
How the final weekend of the regular season shaped the Big Ten Tournament
With three teams tied at the top of the Big Ten standings and uncertainty surrounding the rest of the tournament seeding as well, not one team could let up on the final weekend of the regular season.
Maryland won their finale against Michigan, putting them at 14-6. A win for the Wolverines would’ve given them an 11-9 record in conference play, tying them with four other teams. Instead, they finished at 10-10 and are now seeded ninth. Michigan State also finished at 14-6 after dismantling the Ohio State Buckeyes, who are one of those 11-9 teams.
In the end, however, it was Wisconsin that claimed the Big Ten regular-season championship. They also finished conference play at 14-6, but by virtue of tiebreakers over Michigan State and Maryland, the Badgers will enter the Big Ten Tournament as the number one seed.
The Big Ten Tournament schedule
The Big Ten Tournament begins Wednesday with the bottom four teams. The top four seeds in the tournament (Wisconsin, Michigan State, Maryland, Illinois) don’t actually play until Friday, one of the many benefits of finishing at the top of the conference. Any team that plays Wednesday would have to win five games to win the entire tournament. A top-four seed only has to win three. Here’s how the 2020 Big Ten Tournament will play out.
Wednesday, March 11
- Game 1: No. 12 Minnesota vs. No. 13 Northwestern
- Game 2: No. 11 Indiana vs. No. 14 Nebraska
Thursday, March 12
- Game 3: No. 8 Rutgers vs. No. 9 Michigan
- Game 4: No. 5 Iowa vs. Game 1 winner
- Game 5: No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 10 Purdue
- Game 6: No. 6 Penn State vs. Game 2 winner
Friday, March 13
- Game 7: No. 1 Wisconsin vs. Game 3 winner
- Game 8: No. 4 Illinois vs. Game 4 winner
- Game 9: No. 2 Michigan State vs. Game 5 winner
- Game 10: No. 3 Maryland vs. Game 6 winner
Saturday, March 14
- Game 11: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner
- Game 12: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner
Sunday, March 15
- Game 13: Semifinal winners
The first 10 games of the Big Ten Tournament can be seen on the Big Ten Network. The semifinals and championship game will be aired on CBS.
Who are the favorites in the tournament?
Even as the top seed, Wisconsin isn’t the clear favorite to win the Big Ten Tournament. Of the three teams that tied for first, the Badgers have the worst overall record at 21-10 and are the lowest-ranked of the three as well, currently sitting at No. 18. However, everyone knows that records can fly out the window during March Madness and rankings often don’t hold much weight. Wisconsin is a very good basketball team.
However, Michigan State and Maryland have to be looked at as the favorites here. That’s not to discount Illinois, who is also a very good team and could surprise a lot of people. But the Spartans and Terrapins are the two best teams in the Big Ten right now. Tom Izzo certainly has the experience and knows what it takes to win this tournament. Michigan State did just that last year. It’s crazy to think that the Spartans fell out of the rankings not long ago. But they’re hot and that’s what you want in March.
In all actuality, it seems that any of the top nine or 10 seeds could make a real run at the Big Ten Tournament title. Iowa has the Big Ten Player of the Year in Luka Garza. Penn State didn’t finish strongly but has a ton of talent. Ohio State can easily hang with any team in this tournament. Rutgers won 20 games this year. Michigan has won two of the last three Big Ten titles and has some big wins against good teams this year.
March Madness has truly arrived in the Big Ten.