Day Two of the Big Ten Tournament gets underway in just a couple of hours, and we've got your early game previews right here.
The first matchup is the proverbial David vs. Goliath matchup, as Northwestern takes on the juggernaut that is Ohio State (11:00 CST). Northwestern, led by Michael Thompson, is coming off a solid win over our Minnesota Golden Gophers squad that seemed to epitomize the phrase 'going through the motions'.
Barring an improbable run to the Big Ten tournament title, Northwestern has virtually no chance to make the Dance, but they are a solid NIT team, and one that Ohio State shouldn't take lightly. A Northwestern win is considered improbable, but that's why they call it March Madness, boys and girls.
For the Buckeyes, they enter the Big Ten tournament as the #1 seed for winning the regular season conference champions, a probable #1 seed in one of the tournament brackets, and oh yeah, they're the #1 team in the country. From super freshman JD Sullinger to the backcourt of Jon Diebler and William Buford, the Buckeyes just seem to have way too many weapons for the Wildcats to handle.
The last early game is an evenly matched game against featuring Michigan against Illinois. MIchigan seems to have done enough to make the NCAA tournament regardless of the outcome of this game, but a win against Illinois would all but assure the Wolverines of a ticket to the Dance. We'll let Maize and Brew Dave from the Michigan blog Maize and Brew explain where Michigan stands:
If we're being honest it's a good, but not great resume. But then again we're talking about getting into the Tournament, not talking seeding. As for intangibles, Michigan is arguably one of the hottest teams in the country. They're balanced and they're obviously well coached. They've beaten several other bubble teams during their push toward the Tournament.
Certainly were biased here, but this resume should be enough to get Michigan into the tournament as it stands. But nothing is guaranteed. Michigan faces Illinois tomorrow in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament, and their performance will be closely watched by the selection committee. With an RPI of 38, the Illini are sitting pretty for the tournament regardless of the outcome (though I'm sure they'd happily improve their seeding). For Michigan to erase all doubt from Selection Sunday a win on Friday is a must. Beating Illinois would be their second best win on the season, and maybe even bump them to a 10 or 9 seed in the Tourney.
For Illinois, they're in and not worried about getting their bubble burst. The Illini are playing for tournament seeding, and you would have to consider them the favorite for this game, but not prohibitively so. They've had an up and down season, but have played strong down the stretch. Jon Kutsunis from Hail to the Orange explains:
That said, even thought the Illini only beat UM by two points in Champaign last month, I think they will come away with a victory tomorrow. Giving the Illini a shot at the No.1 Ohio State Buckeyes, and a real shot to get a great seed in the NCAA Tournament.
If Illinois plays the way they have been lately, in two wins against Iowa and Indiana, and a road loss to Purdue, they should dispatch the Wolverines handily. Illinois matches up very well against UM, as they have a great deal of defensive strength and speed on the perimeter, as well as three post players that may be able to score with easy against the undersized Wolverine front line.
The Illinois-Michigan game will tip off approximately 25 minutes after the Ohio State-Northwestern game has ended, and you can catch both games on ESPN.
For everything Big Ten basketball tournament, check out the SB Nation Big Ten blog Big Ten Powerhouse, or SB Nation's college basketball homepage.