INDIANAPOLIS -- And then there were four.
The top four seeds in the Big Ten tournament will fight for a shot at the championship and the league’s automatic bid during Saturday’s semifinals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Here’s a quick preview of the games:
Michigan State vs. Wisconsin (1:40 p.m. ET, CBS) -- The Spartans were impressive in their lopsided victory over Iowa in the quarterfinals Friday. It was a big game for a Michigan State team that was playing its first complete contest without Branden Dawson, who tore his ACL in the final regular-season game of the year. If the Spartans had to prove to the selection committee that they are not a dramatically different team without Dawson, they accomplished that feat. In the first half of their 92-75 win over the Hawkeyes, they shot 70 percent from the field and scored 55 points. Wisconsin is one of the best defensive teams in the country. So Saturday’s matchup will be a great test for Michigan State’s offense.
The Spartans are facing a Wisconsin squad that managed to impress Friday, too. The Badgers played one of the toughest remaining teams in the field. Indiana was fueled by a group of supporters who made the short drive from Bloomington. And the Hoosiers were out to win one for Verdell Jones, the senior point guard who suffered a torn ACL in Thursday’s opening-round victory over Penn State. But Rob Wilson (career-high 30 points, 7 for 10 from 3-point line) couldn’t miss and helped the Badgers pull off the 79-71 win. That’s not a typo. The Badgers scored 79 points. Friday’s game was more proof that this Wisconsin team can play with the nation’s elite if it can just find that offensive push. On Friday, Wilson gave them that boost despite averaging 3.1 ppg. The team went 13-for-26 from beyond the arc.
Ohio State vs. Michigan (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS) -- All season, we’ve been talking about what Ohio State might do. The potential is obviously there. But can this Buckeyes squad put together a run in March that showcases its potential? That’s the question. If the Buckeyes compete the way they did down the stretch of their 88-71 victory over Purdue on Friday night, then they might end up in New Orleans. They hit that switch and outscored the Boilermakers 26-11 over the last 7:01 of the game. Jared Sullinger scored 30 points, one of five Buckeyes who recorded double figures. This Ohio State squad looked like the best in the field in the final minutes of Friday’s game. But Michigan will spread the floor and challenge the Buckeyes with its speed and versatility.
The Wolverines didn’t look great against Minnesota on Friday. They were down by nine points in the final five minutes of the game. But they ultimately stormed back and sent the game into overtime, where they won. Without Trey Burke (30 points), there would have been an upset. The Wolverines were crushed on the boards even though they were playing a Gophers team that didn’t have the services of an injured Ralph Sampson III. They will not find success with a similar effort against the Buckeyes. Give the Wolverines credit for making a late push and securing the win. But they’ll have to do more to beat the Buckeyes on Saturday.