Inside the Hall’s 2016 Big Ten tournament preview

  • 03/09/2016 9:29 am in

We’ll have our traditional what to expect series previewing Northwestern or Michigan later on the day on Thursday, but first up, Inside the Hall previews the Big Ten Tournament as a whole. The event tips off on Wednesday afternoon:

2016 Big Ten Tournament bracket
Location: Indianapolis (Bankers Life Fieldhouse)
Dates: March 9-13
Teams with a bye to Thursday: Northwestern, Michigan, Iowa, Penn State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Teams with a double bye to Friday: Indiana, Purdue, Maryland, Michigan State
Television: BTN, ESPN, ESPN2, CBS

Most friendly path to Sunday: Michigan State. This isn’t to say that Wisconsin or Maryland will be unable to beat the Spartans in the second semifinal on Saturday afternoon, but Tom Izzo once again has his team peaking at the right time with a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed potentially on the line. In other words, pick against Michigan State at your own risk. After failing to capitalize on a friendly conference schedule in the regular season, Michigan State will be hungry to make a statement in Indianapolis.

Most intriguing Thursday matchup: Northwestern-Michigan. These teams met just once in the regular season with Michigan prevailing 72-63 in Ann Arbor. There’s a lot on the line, potentially, for both teams. If Michigan wants to cling to any remaining hope of an at-large NCAA tournament berth, it must beat Northwestern because that opens a path to a shot at Indiana on Friday. And for Northwestern, which is looking to solidify an NIT appearance, beating the Wolverines on Thursday would probably lock up that bid. Michigan is clearly the more desperate team, but you can be sure that Northwestern seniors Tre Demps and Alex Olah want to go out on a high note in their final conference tournament.

Team with the most to prove: Iowa. The Hawkeyes came to Bloomington on Feb. 11 with a 10-1 conference record and a clear path to the regular season title. But after limping to the finish line with a 2-5 record over its last seven games, this is a difficult group to project moving forward. Iowa had some terrific regular season wins, but hasn’t beaten a team in the RPI top 50 since January 24. Perhaps four days off since beating Michigan will help rejuvenate Iowa, which is likely looking at a six seed or lower if it can’t advance to Saturday.

Players to keep an eye on:

· Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: If there are still national player of the year ballots outstanding heading into the weekend, this is Valentine’s last chance to capture votes. If the Spartans can win the Big Ten tournament, that’ll mean wins in 13 of their last 14 games for Michigan State with Valentine leading the effort.

· Peter Jok, Iowa: Iowa desperately needs to capture some momentum in Indy and Jok, who is 5-of-19 on 3s over the team’s last three games, needs to come out of his recent funk for that to happen. If Jok can’t return to the form he displayed early in the season that had him in the conversation for All-Big Ten first team, Iowa’s ceiling will be significantly lowered.

· A.J. Hammons, Purdue: There’s no player in the league who can impact the game more defensively than Hammons. He can be a one man wrecking crew in the paint as a shot blocker and rebounder. Quietly, Purdue has won four of its last five and Hammons has scored in double figures in each of those games.

· Troy Williams, Indiana: The Hoosiers are playing their best basketball of the season coming into Indianapolis and the ascent of Williams is a major reason why. He’s cut down the turnovers and is attacking the rim relentlessly. Indiana was a good team even when he was inconsistent, but if he can continue to play at this level, the Hoosiers are really, really good.

· Melo Trimble, Maryland: The Big Ten’s preseason player of the year was underwhelming in the regular season and didn’t even make the All-Big Ten first team. But Trimble can make everyone forget about the regular season with a strong Big Ten tournament. Injuries have slowed him down considerably this year, but the Terps need Trimble distributing and drawing fouls to earn a shot at Michigan State on Saturday.

Bids on the line: Michigan State, Indiana, Maryland, Purdue, Iowa and Wisconsin are NCAA tournament locks, but all of those teams would love to improve their standing this weekend. Beyond that, Michigan is really the only team on the bubble with Ohio State perhaps on the fringe if it can win two games. The Wolverines probably need to win two games to get back on the right side of the bubble and that means beating Northwestern and then top seeded Indiana on consecutive days. The Buckeyes are likely headed to the NIT along with Northwestern, which can lock up its bid by beating Michigan.

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  • calbert40

    The Wisky game was actually in January, but I agree on the officiating. That game was really rough. We should’ve won that game. The two we lost in Febtober were at PSU and at MSU.

  • BL

    Better stick with your day job 🙂

  • BL

    Preview pressers are really good. Players and Coach just have a confidence about them. Actually, CH looks and sounds like a kid getting over a bug. Coach wasn’t specific on likelihood RJ and JM would play. Based on a comment he made regarding Nick, I’m thinking RJ will not play in the first game. No opinion on JM. Love Coach’s explanation about the kids getting better every day and how that breeds confidence that manifests itself in games. That is so true. I work with some young professional golfers and have experienced that first hand. Hope OG is working on his FT shooting 🙂

  • BL

    Great article on OG in the star.

  • chris

    not sure ANYONE guarded him in the 2nd half

  • TomJameson

    Personally, I think that is exactly what CTC is going to do. He takes care of “his” kids, and I’m pretty sure he knows how they are doing health-wise. I would bet even Harrison gets more minutes than he’s used to, as well as the rest of the bench. BUT, the whole team will really want to win … that’s the attitude I want to see continuing. Truthfully, I don’t think they’re going to show up with the “I don’t care” logo on their foreheads either! LOL

  • TomJameson

    Not a very good example since the Colts didn’t just rest selective starters … they didn’t play them AT ALL. (Big sore spot for me). So yeah, they were pretty rusty by the time they got to the championships.

    I think what I hear most people saying, is to just play the bench a little more, and don’t force the issue with the injured ones. Let the starters heal their bumps-n-bruises, but by no means give up the game. I think the team is very competitive, to the point that they will not lose their winning desire, but certainly taking time to heal is a pretty good idea.

  • BL

    Mostly YF and RJ.

  • David C. Aikin

    The Spartans are coming to play in the BIG tournament. Why do you Hoosiers focus on staying healthy for the NCAA tournament? Do you forget how big momentum and confidence are leading into the ncaa tourney? You need to focus on doing well in the BIG tourney, not just skate through, so you can stay healthy for the BIG dance. You Hoosiers don’t seem confident…


  • Old_Time_Hoosier

    Like your thoughts about playing the “big boys”. Once your into the sweet sixteen, everybody is good.