A team-by-team Big Ten men’s basketball tournament preview

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Editors Note: Before the start of the Big Ten basketball tournament Wednesday, The Daily Illini basketball staff evaluated each team and its chances in the tournament.

1. WISCONSIN (28-3, 16-2 Big Ten)

The No. 6 Badgers will look to continue their dominance heading into the Big Ten tournament. Wisconsin is the front-runner to end up with the Big Ten’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament — the team has won 13 of its past 14 games and has only dropped two conference games on the season.

2. MARYLAND (26-5, 14-4)

Led by freshman star Melo Trimble’s 16.1 points per game, No. 8 Maryland may be the team with the best odds of taking down Wisconsin. The Terrapins are on a seven-game winning streak of their own and are one of two teams to knock off the Badgers in conference play.

3. MICHIGAN STATE (21-10, 12-6)

Michigan State’s physicality has catapulted the team to third place in the conference and into a double-bye in the conference tournament. The Spartans lead the Big Ten in offensive rebounding and rebounding margin and need to use their edge on the glass if they hope to make it into the tournament semifinals. Tom Izzo’s team has made the NCAA tournament for 17 straight seasons.

4. PURDUE (20-11, 12-6)

Purdue ended the season winning nine of its last 12 games, but an inconsistent start to the season has the Boilers still on the NCAAA tournament bubble. Purdue is one of the biggest teams in the country — the Boilermakers are one of four teams in the NCAA with two players over 7-feet — and will need to use that size to its advantage.

5. IOWA (21-10, 12-6)

Senior Aaron White is the key to Iowa making a run. White is seventh in the Big Ten in scoring, at 15.9 points per game, and third in rebounding, at 7.4 rebounds per game, and has led Iowa to six straight wins to end the regular season. If Iowa wants to make an impact in White’s final conference tournament, it has to first get past the winner of Nebraska and Penn State.

6. OHIO STATE (22-9, 11-7)

Ohio State comes into the Big Ten tournament after a major letdown in its regular season finale against Wisconsin. The Badgers blew out the Buckeyes by 24 points, even though Ohio State entered on a three-game winning streak. Ohio State is second in the conference in both scoring and scoring defense and needs to get back to that level to advance past its tournament opener against either Minnesota or Rutgers.

7. INDIANA (19-12, 9-9)

The Hoosiers also come into the tournament following a loss — theirs coming against Michigan State. Indiana leads the conference in scoring at 78 points per game, but is last in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 71.8 points per game. The Hoosiers need to improve defensively in order to beat Northwestern and face Maryland in the next round.

8. ILLINOIS (19-12, 9-9)

Illinois dropped its final game of the season to Purdue and, in the process, fell off the NCAA tournament bubble. The Illini will need to make a deep run in the Big Ten tournament to put them back in contention for a spot in the Big Dance. Seniors Rayvonte Rice, Nnanna Egwu and Ahmad Starks have been playing their best basketball lately and are key to the team’s NCAA tournament hopes.

9. MICHIGAN (15-15, 8-10)

Michigan will start the tournament against Illinois, a team the Wolverines have played twice. Michigan was inconsistent down the stretch, winning its last game of the regular season, but dropping three of its previous four. If the Wolverines want to move past Illinois, their offensive play will have to be defined by freshman Aubrey Dawkins, who scored 31 points against Rutgers to end the season, and whose 43.9 3-point percentage is third in the Big Ten.

10. NORTHWESTERN (15-16, 6-12)

Northwestern will need to shutdown a high-powered Indiana offense and rely on junior Tre Demps and freshman Bryant McIntosh offensively to advance to the next round of play against Maryland. The Wildcats beat the Hoosiers 72-65 on Feb. 25 during a four-game winning streak late in the season.

11. MINNESOTA (17-14, 6-12)

A season that started with significant promise for head coach Richard Pitino’s team ended with the Golden Gophers falling into the 11-seed in the Big Ten tournament. The Gophers have shot the ball well from three and finished third in the Big Ten in 3-point percentage and scoring. They need to find consistency in the tournament in order to get past Rutgers and give Ohio State a run for its money.

12. NEBRASKA (13-17, 5-13)

Much like Minnesota, Nebraska also failed to live up to expectations. The Cornhuskers were a preseason top-25 team but lost eight straight to end the year. Despite holding the 12-seed, Nebraska is a dangerous team offensively — juniors Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields rank in the top 10 in scoring in the conference and have the ability to take over games.

13. PENN STATE (16-15, 4-14)

Penn State is dangerous at times offensively — senior D.J. Newbill leads the Big Ten at 20.7 points per game. The Nittany Lions seem to play every team tough but will have a difficult time getting past Nebraska in the first round. The Nittany Lions don’t have a secondary scorer to give Newbill a break and Nebraska’s man-to-man defense could shut down Penn State.

14. RUTGERS (10-21, 2-16)

The Scarlet Knights limp into the tournament on a 14-game losing streak. Rutgers went 2-16 in its first season in the Big Ten and will more than likely drop one more game against a Big Ten foe this season — it will start the Big Ten tournament against 11-seed Minnesota. The Gophers beat the Scarlet Knights 89-80 on Jan. 17 in the teams’ only previous meeting this season.

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