With the regular season complete, the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team (16-11 overall, 10-10 Big Ten) will join the rest of their conference peers in Indianapolis for the annual Big Ten Tournament.
The competition was canceled last year due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, and this year the field looks extremely strong with the top five seeds all currently ranked in the top-20 of the most recent AP Poll on Monday.
With so many talented teams at the top vying for a title, the tournament should provide plenty of entertainment this week, before the NCAA Tournament field is announced on Sunday.
In an attempt to preview the the event in totality, lets dig into Wisconsin’s draw first, and then dive into some of the key talking points that could impact the tournament as a whole.
As a Wisconsin-centric blog, we would be negligent to not kick things off with the Badgers.
Coming into the season as the reigning B1G regular season champions, Wisconsin has not quite lived up to expectations this season. However, the conference tournament is always a unique chance to make a run, and the Badgers played better over the weekend against a shorthanded Iowa team that hopes to take home the tournament trophy.
In terms of their draw, the Badgers will take on the winner of Penn State and Nebraska (who play on Wednesday night) on Thursday night (tip-off around 8 p.m. CST). Wisconsin split the season series with the Nittany Lions, and swept the 14-seeded Cornhuskers.
If they win, a rematch with Iowa would loom on Friday. Given how close the Badgers were to beating the Hawkeyes just days ago on the road, and how talented the other three double-bye teams (Michigan, Illinois, Purdue) are, Wisconsin gets a fairly favorable path. This could especially be true if Joe Wieskamp is not fully healthy after injuring his ankle against the Badgers.
The winner of Wisconsin/Iowa will likely have to play Illinois for a chance to make it to the title game, and the Illini are back to full strength with Ayo Dosunmu in the lineup.
Bottom line, a win or two in the conference tournament could do wonders for Wisconsin’s confidence and seeding ahead of the NCAA Tournament.
- Wisconsin has lost five of their last six games.
- Purdue has won five straight games.
- Illinois has won four in a row, while Iowa has won their last three contests.
- Ohio State has strung together four straight losses.
- Neither Indiana or Minnesota have won a game in almost exactly a month.
Three potentially juicy (non semifinal) matchups
- A possible rematch between Wisconsin and Iowa would be a lot of fun considering how hard fought the game over the weekend was. With a different officiating crew, that game may have gone very differently. The availability of Wieskamp is definitely one of the bigger wildcards of the tournament,
- Assuming Michigan State takes down Maryland (big if a this point), a third game between the Spartans and Michigan in the month of March could be interesting. Michigan State is playing much better basketball and just beat the Wolverines on Sunday.
- A four/five matchup of Purdue and Ohio State could bring some fireworks. Purdue is trending up, while Ohio State is sputtering, but they are two of the better teams in the conference and haven’t played against one another since mid-January. The Boilermakers won both games when they met, but tournament season can be completely different.
We went ahead and discussed as a group our picks for which teams would make it to the final and ultimately win the conference crown. Here is what our writers are thinking...
Drew: Ohio State over Illinois
JJ: Illinois over Michigan
Owen: Illinois over Ohio State
Ryan: Illinois over Michigan
Kevin: Illinois over Ohio State
Tyler: Michigan State over Illinois
Rock: Illinois over Purdue
Neal: Michigan over Illinois
Bremen: Illinois over Michigan
Belz: Michigan over Illinois