The Big Ten Tournament tips off with first round action at 11:30 this morning and we already have you covered with an exhaustive preview of our own. However, there’s no shortage of outside opinions on this year’s tournament so we brought together a collection of previews touching on different teams, storylines and players.
Ohio State appears to be the consensus favorite in the event with five of ESPN’s Experts picking the Buckeyes. However, Michigan State picked up two votes in ESPN’s straw poll and John Gasaway voted for Indiana. After the jump find a round up of quotes regarding this weekend’s event in Indianapolis.
Related: 2012 Big Ten Tournament Bracket
Alex Bozich, Inside the Hall on Michigan & Indiana:
Don’t forget about us: Michigan and Indiana. The Wolverines are actually the No. 2 seed in the bracket, but their reliance on the perimeter play could make them ripe for an upset. They’re also capable of beating the league’s best teams if Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. play well as a tandem. The Hoosiers enter as the hottest team having won seven of their last eight games. But they have no player on the roster with a conference tournament win.
Mike Rothstein, Wolverine Nation, on Purdue:
Final (Sunday) No. 5 Indiana vs. No. 6 Purdue (3:30 p.m., CBS): Over the past month, Indiana and Purdue have played twice. The Hoosiers beat the Boilermakers by double digits both times. Don’t expect that this time. Purdue point guard Lewis Jackson will slice through the defense of Indiana’s guards, forcing Tom Crean to put Watford on the diminutive Jackson. That won’t work either and it’ll free up Hummel for another big game — 22 points, 7 rebounds — and a Big Ten tournament Most Outstanding Player trophy. Moreover, it’ll give the Boilermakers their first Big Ten tournament crown since 2009. Pick: Purdue 72, Indiana 65.
Andy Glockner, Sports Illustrated, on bracketing:
Bubble/bracket games of note: Northwestern has to beat Minnesota in the opening round and may need to (finally) get past Michigan in order to make the NCAAs for the first time. Michigan State and Ohio State are jousting for a possible 1-seed. Five Big Ten teams may end up in the first quadrant of the NCAA bracket.
Joe Rexrode points out that five top-4 seeds would be a Big Ten record.
Myron Medcalf, ESPN on Illinois:
Bruce’s last stand. Under Weber, the Illini have enjoyed some highs. During the 2004-05 season, he led the team to an appearance in the national title game. But they haven’t achieved that level of success since. After a 6-12 finish in the Big Ten and NCAA tournament hopes that will demand a conference tournament title, all signs point to Weber’s exit, so this could be the last time we see Weber on the sideline with the Illini. Two years ago, Iowa’s Todd Lickliter was fired following an opening-round loss in the Big Ten tournament. The postgame press conference was quite awkward as Iowa players were forced to respond to rumors about their then-head coach’s future. Illini players might have to endure a similar postgame scenario this season.
Mike Decourcy on Deshaun Thomas:
Potential hero: Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas is the hardest player to guard in the Big Ten because of his ability to score inside and out and his constant effort to make himself available for shots. Although he remains OSU’s third option, he averaged 15.8 points against the teams in the Buckeyes’ half of the bracket, including a 19-pointer in their most recent game against Northwestern and 25 in a couple weeks back against Michigan. Returning home to Indiana – he is from Fort Wayne – Thomas could shoot the Buckeyes to a third consecutive Big Ten Tournament title.
Favorite: Taking the “What have you done for me lately?” approach, you’ve got to give the lean to No. 3 seed Ohio State heading in. Following a dramatic come-from-behind victory at Michigan State to close out the regular season on Sunday afternoon, the Spartans learned that they lost freshman guard Brandon Dawson to a torn ACL. That combined with losing two straight to end the regular season make Sparty a bit of a shaky No. 1 seed. Plus, on a neutral floor, they probably have an edge over second-seeded Michigan. Aside from a more favorable draw on their side of the bracket, the Buckeyes come in with senior guard William Buford having performed brilliantly in East Lansing. If he can keep the hot hand, they’re more balanced and dangerous than anyone in this field.
AP Injury news for Minnesota, who could be without Ralph Sampson III:
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota center Ralph Sampson III could miss the Big Ten tournament because of a knee injury. Coach Tubby Smith said that Sampson “tweaked” one of his knees in practice Monday and has not participated the last two days. Smith said he wasn’t sure if the senior would be able to play Thursday in the first-round game against Northwestern. If he can’t, freshman Elliott Eliason will start in his place. If the Gophers win, they’ll face No. 2 seed Michigan on Friday in the quarterfinals.
The good news for Minnesota is that point guard Julian Welch will play after recovering from a hip injury that kept him out of the last 2½ games. Welch will come off the bench, but the junior is the team’s second-leading scorer. Over the three games before he got hurt, Welch totaled 42 points, 22 assists and 14 rebounds.
Today’s schedule tips off at 11:30 and features Iowa vs. Illinois, Indiana vs. Penn State, Northwestern vs. Minnesota and Purdue vs. Nebraska. Michigan will face the winner of this evening’s Northwestern-Minnesota game.