By: Chinmay Vaidya, KCOU Sports
The Big 10 conference tournament starts March 11 and is back in Chicago, Ill. This is the first conference tournament to feature 14 teams as Maryland and Rutgers finalized their move into the Big 10 earlier this year.
The Terps enter the conference tournament as the No. 2 seed behind freshman phenom Melo Trimble and senior Dez Wells. Maryland looked like it was in trouble after a double-digit setback at Iowa, but the Terps weren’t fazed. Maryland won its last seven games and even knocked off top-seeded Wisconsin during the streak.
Rutgers enters the tournament as the No. 14 seed and trended in the opposite direction this season. The Scarlet Knights are 10-21 and their only quality win is against Wisconsin. However, the tournament offers even the lowest seed a chance for redemption.
WHEN: March 11-15
WHERE: United Center, Chicago, Ill.
HOW TO WATCH: Big Ten Network, ESPN, ESPN 2, CBS
Wisconsin is the favorite to win the tournament. The Badgers continued to operate efficiently this season Frank Kaminsky is in the running for Player of the Year and he has the numbers to back it up. The big man is scoring 18.4 points and grabbing 8.1 rebounds per game. He is also second in assists per game with 2.6. Kaminsky isn’t alone. Sam Dekker is back and contributing 13.1 points per game. The Badgers only lost to Maryland, Rutgers and Duke all season. Unless they see the Terps in the final, Wisconsin should cruise through the tournament.
I talked about Maryland above so I’ll highlight Michigan State here. The Spartans started off slowly this season, losing three of their first eight games. Michigan State even dropped a game to Texas Southern before conference play. The Spartans turned it on in conference play to finish third in the Big 10. Denzel Valentine has been an all-around player this season with 14.5 points, 4.2 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game. Travis Trice has been struggling with his shot despite averaging 14.8 points per game, but can still get hot from behind the arc at any time. The Spartans have the defense and coaching to get to the final
Ohio State has the chance to shock the field and D’Angelo Russell is the perfect candidate to have a great tournament. Russell is averaging 19.2 points per game and could carry his team to the tournament championship. The Buckeyes are locks for the dance, but a few more wins and the chance at a better seed are enticing for any tournament-bound team.
Semifinals: Wisconsin over Iowa, Michigan State over Maryland
Final: Wisconsin over Michigan State