Friday, March 9, 2012
Big Ten tournament: Friday preview
By Myron Medcalf
INDIANAPOLIS -- The top dogs arrive Friday, which creates a variety of interesting matchups for the second day of the Big Ten tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Here’s the rundown of Friday’s games:
No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 8 Iowa (noon ET, ESPN) -- The Spartans arrive without the services of Branden Dawson, who suffered a torn ACL at the end of Sunday’s loss to Ohio State. That injury could affect the Spartans’ seed. They have to prove that they’re not a dramatically different team without the talented freshman. They’re facing an Iowa team that’s been picked as a sleeper by many. The Hawkeyes finished off a spent Illinois team Thursday, but they’ll have a much tougher test Friday. In their only matchup of the year, Michigan State beat the Hawkeyes 95-61 on Jan. 10. But the Hawkeyes have been a better team in recent weeks, proven by February wins over Indiana and Wisconsin.
No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Indiana (25 minutes after Michigan State-Iowa, ESPN) -- The Hoosiers won their first Big Ten tournament game since 2006 when they beat Penn State in the opening round. But it was bittersweet. Senior point guard Verdell Jones suffered a serious knee injury that could end his year. But the Hoosiers were resilient after Jones went down. That’s a quality they’ll need against Wisconsin on Friday and during the NCAA tournament. The Badgers hope to improve their seed in the Big Dance via the conference tournament. Jordan Taylor struggled early, but he found a rhythm during Big Ten play. The Badgers could win this tournament, especially if they play with the same vigor that led to an upset at Ohio State a few weeks ago. They defeated Indiana 57-50 on Jan. 26 in their only meeting this season.
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 10 Minnesota (6:30 p.m. ET, BTN) -- Most figured that Northwestern would be involved in this game, fighting for an at-large bid. But the Gophers beat the Wildcats in overtime Thursday behind freshman Andre Hollins’ explosive performance (25 points), despite competing without an injured Ralph Sampson III. Minnesota coach Tubby Smith has had success in Indy throughout his tenure. In his first year with the program, the Gophers upset a nationally ranked Hoosiers team in the first round of the 2008 Big Ten tourney. In 2010, they beat Purdue and Michigan State on their way to the Big Ten tourney title game. Michigan secured a piece of the Big Ten regular-season title with a strong effort down the stretch. The Wolverines have one of the top young players in America, freshman Trey Burke, who earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors from media members. They’re talented enough to win the Big Ten tournament and to make noise in the NCAA tourney. The Wolverines beat the Gophers 61-56 in Ann Arbor on New Year’s Day in their only previous meeting.
No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 6 Purdue (25 minutes after Minnesota-Michigan, BTN) -- The last time these two teams met, the Buckeyes earned an 87-84 victory Feb. 7 in Columbus, which was the only meeting between the teams this season. Ohio State's William Buford was a beast in that game, but the Boilermakers held their own. They advanced to Friday’s matchup with an easy win over Nebraska in the opening round, when they hit 51 percent of their 3s. They’ll need similar success from the field against the Buckeyes, who played like the team most thought they’d be this season during their upset win against Michigan State on Sunday. Ohio State is the most talented team in the Big Ten. If the Buckeyes can just find some poise, they can win the Big Ten tournament and fulfill their postseason potential.