INDIANAPOLIS -- The 2010 Big Ten men's basketball tournament tips off today at Conseco Fieldhouse with three first-round games on tap.
Here's a quick look at the matchups:
No. 8 seed Michigan vs. No. 9 seed Iowa (ESPN2, 2:30 p.m. ET)
Records: Michigan (14-16), Iowa (10-21)
Season series: Michigan won both meetings, pounding Iowa 60-46 at Crisler Arena and rallying for a 80-78 overtime victory in Iowa City.
Advancement: Winner faces No. 1 seed Ohio State in the quarterfinals Friday (ESPN, noon ET)
Three things to watch:
These are the two worst offensive teams in the Big Ten, as Michigan averages just 64.4 points and Iowa puts up 60.8 points. The Hawkeyes shot just 30.9 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from 3-point range (4-for-24) in the game in Ann Arbor, while Michigan had a 14-point first half Sunday against Michigan State. Despite the offensive struggles, the teams found their scoring rhythm in their last meeting, as both shot better than 45 percent from beyond the arc. Don't be surprised if the game comes down to 3-point shooting.
Michigan center DeShawn Sims is a load for most opposing teams, and a smallish Iowa squad will have its hands full with the senior. Sims recorded double-doubles in both meetings with the Hawkeyes this year, including a 27-point, 10-rebound effort in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes will need strong defensive performances from Jarryd Cole and Aaron Fuller today.
Iowa can't afford any sort of hangover effect if it expects to advance in Indy. The Hawkeyes lost their last two regular-season games, to Wisconsin and Minnesota, by a combined 62 points. Iowa endured its worst-ever loss to Wisconsin (67-40). As freshman guard Eric May told The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette, "You’ve got to Etch A Sketch it and get it out of your system."
No. 7 Northwestern vs. No. 10 Indiana (ESPN2, 25 minutes after Game 1)
Record: Northwestern (19-12), Indiana (10-20)
Season series: Northwestern crushed Indiana 78-61 in Evanston on Feb. 7, but the Hoosiers responded with an 88-80 overtime win Saturday at Assembly Hall.
Advancement: Winner faces No. 2 Purdue in the quarterfinals Friday (Big Ten Network, 6:30 p.m. ET)
Three things to watch:
The matchup features two of the Big Ten's top offensive threats. Northwestern sophomore forward John Shurna was the Big Ten's leading scorer in league games (20.1 ppg). Shurna matched his career high with 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in Saturday's loss to IU. Indiana guard Verdell Jones III finished sixth in the Big Ten in scoring for conference games (16.7 ppg). Jones racked up 28 points in the teams' first meeting.
Northwestern needs to put a body on Indiana's Jordan Hulls, Derek Elston and Bobby Capobianco, especially after Saturday's game. All three Hoosiers freshmen recorded career highs in scoring, including 24 points from Hulls on 8 of 12 shooting from long range. Northwestern has struggled defensively away from its home court, and it'll be interesting to see if Wildcats head coach Bill Carmody sticks with the 1-3-1 zone against IU.
Two of the Big Ten's top freshmen will be on display today. Northwestern wing Drew Crawford earned Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Year honors, and Indiana forward Christian Watford also gained consideration for the award. Watford will look to beat up Northwestern in the post, while the Wildcats need a lift from Crawford, who has been fighting injuries during the second half of league play.
No. 6 Minnesota vs. No. 11 Penn State (Big Ten Network, 7:30 p.m. ET)
Records: Minnesota (18-12), Penn State (11-19)
Season series: Minnesota won both meetings, but both were close. The Gophers prevailed 75-70 in Williams Arena and beat Penn State 66-64 in State College on Lawrence Westbrook's jumper as time expired.
Advancement: Winner faces No. 3 Michigan State in the quarterfinals Friday (Big Ten Network, approximately 9 p.m. ET)
What to watch:
Minnesota certainly should be on upset alert, as Penn State is playing its best ball right now. The Nittany Lions won three of their final six Big Ten contests and lost the other three by a combined 14 points. Penn State lost 11 Big Ten games by 10 points or fewer, including seven by six points or fewer. Penn State guard Talor Battle averaged 21.5 points in two meetings with the Gophers this year.
Gophers senior forward Damian Johnson will be playing with a chip on his shoulder today. Johnson's exclusion from the All-Big Ten Defensive team drew the ire of both he and head coach Tubby Smith, who called it "a travesty" and said Johnson should have been the league's Defensive Player of the Year. Johnson can showcase his defensive prowess today against Penn State's David Jackson, who has played well lately.
Westbrook can make clutch shots, as he showed last month at Penn State, and everyone at the Big Ten tournament knows what Blake Hoffarber can do when the pressure is on. Minnesota needs both guards to be on target as the Gophers probably need at least two wins this week to make the NCAA field.