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Big Ten Tournament 2011: Projecting Thursday's Games

The 2011 Big Ten Tournament gets underway tomorrow in Indianapolis, so let's take a look at the three match-ups that will take place at Conseco Fieldhouse on the first day of tournament play.

Game 1 - #8 Northwestern vs #9 Minnesota, 1:30 PM Central on ESPN2

The Gophers haven't done anything of note since Al Nolen's injury. . .well, unless you count losing as noteworthy. The odds are against him being available for the Gophers tomorrow afternoon, from all accounts, so there's no reason to think that anything positive is going to happen for them tomorrow, either. Then again, one of their two wins since Nolen's injury did come against Northwestern, so maybe. . .nah.

Projected winner - Northwestern

Game 2 - #7 Michigan State vs. #10 Iowa, 25 minutes after Game 1 on ESPN2

Iowa handed Michigan State an awful loss in early February, stomping Sparty by 20 points. The Hawkeyes are also coming off a big upset of Purdue in the regular season finale. However, Michigan State knows that they have an NCAA tournament berth on the line, and need to win one game. . .and possibly two. . .to get themselves into the field. The Spartans have too much to play for, and they'll simply be too much for Iowa, barring something crazy happening.

Projected winner - Michigan State

Game 3 - #6 Penn State vs. #11 Indiana, 6:30 PM Central time, Big Ten Network

Another game between a team with everything to play for and a team with nothing to play for. Penn State, depending on who you talk to, is on the bubble, but probably needs to win at least two games in this tournament to have a shot at getting in. It may be a tall order, but the Nittany Lions are capable of it. If they win this game, they'll face a Wisconsin team that they know they've beaten once this season, so anything is possible. Indiana doesn't have any shot of any sort of post-season berth, and their season should come to an end tomorrow night.

Projected winner - Penn State

Not looking for any real surprises tomorrow, quite frankly. . .the only chance for an upset (as much of an upset as you can have in these games, anyway) is if the Golden Gophers finally figure out how to play without Nolen and bump off the Wildcats, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that taking place.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.