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2015 Big Ten Tournament Thursday Preview and Open Thread

Get ready for the second day of action of the 2015 Big Ten Tournament.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 Big Ten Tournament will resume on Thursday afternoon in the United Center in glorious form and feature four great matchups featuring teams in the NCAA Tournament, teams fighting to get on the right side of the bubble, and teams trying to get something out of this season.  Let's take a look at all four games.

Game of the Day

- #7 Indiana Hoosiers vs. #10 Northwestern Wildcats
Game Time: 5:30PM CT (ESPN2)

Thursday has a few games that look really good on paper, but none look more appealing than the afternoon game featuring Indiana and Northwestern.  Though the two teams only faced off once during the regular season, it was a thrilling game that led to an upset of Indiana and was a key part of Northwestern's late regular season run.

Outside of the potential for revenge and another thrilling matchup, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this game is its potential impact on Indiana's resume.  Most experts consider Indiana to be on the bubble coming into this game and either barely on the "right" side of things or barely on the "wrong" side of things.  If Indiana gets a win, it might be enough to push them in, but a loss would be devastating to their at-large NCAA hopes.  They need a win.  Badly.

For Northwestern, things sit much differently.  They have been out of NCAA at-large consideration for quite some time and their only hopes lie on winning the Big Ten Tournament.  However, they do still have an outside shot at the NIT and arguably have one of the more forgiving paths to the Big Ten Tournament championship game, especially considering that they are a double-digit seed.  They get an Indiana team that has lost its last 3 games and if they beat Indiana, they get a Maryland that has an impressive record, but has largely relied on close wins to boost its perception, including a one point win over Northwestern that most feel the Wildcats should have won.  Things will certainly not be easy, but that's a far more winnable two game stretch than most 10 seeds get in a conference tournament.

The matchup to watch in this game will be in the backcourt where All-Big Ten guard Yogi Ferrell and freshman James Blackmon hope to push Indiana past Northwestern and explosive Tre Demps and freshman Bryant McIntosh hope to lead another upset over the Hoosiers.  The winner of this game will move on to face Maryland.

The Rest

- #8 Illinois Fighting Illini vs. #9 Michigan Wolverines

Game Time: 11:00AM CT (BTN)

The first game of the day looks extremely appealing as it will be the third matchup between the two teams this season with the first two games each going into overtime.  The first two games were back and forth affairs where the road team got up pretty big and collapsed down the stretch, allowing the home team to grab the win in extra time.  For Illinois, this is also a game that is a must win for their NCAA Tournament hopes.  They appear to be sliding out of the picture, meaning they probably need at least two wins in Chicago to feel comfortable.  Michigan's season hasn't went as Wolverine fans hoped this year, but they do still have a shot at the NIT and winning here would be a big boost to their resume and a potential upset bid against Wisconsin who they took to overtime earlier this season.  Keep an eye on Illinois' Kendrick Nunn and Michigan's Aubrey Dawkins who were key players in the first two matchups.  The winner of this game will move on to face Wisconsin.

- #5 Iowa Hawkeyes vs. #13 Penn State Nittany Lions

Game Time: 25 Minutes After #8 vs #9 (BTN)

The second game of Thursday will feature a hot Iowa team and a Penn State team coming off two straight wins including a road win over Minnesota and a win on Wednesday afternoon over Rutgers.  This teams only met once in the regular season and it was an overtime thriller with Iowa pulling off the road win over Penn State.  They key player in that game was Aaron White and the Iowa frontcourt should be important in this game yet again as they appear to have a clear matchup advantage over Penn State on paper.  On the Penn State side, keep an eye on DJ Newbill, who is looking to extend his college career as one of the best Nittany Lions in program history.  The winner of this game will move on to face Purdue on Friday.

- #6 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. #11 Minnesota Golden Gophers

Game Time: 25 Minutes After #7 vs #10 (ESPN2)

The final game on Thursday will feature two of the more exciting teams in the conference both looking to secure a solid win in Chicago.  Ohio State and Minnesota faced off just once during the regular season and the game went to overtime with the Buckeyes pulling off the win thanks in large part to freshman guard D'Angelo Russell.  This time, Minnesota will look for a way to slow down Russell and get star guard Andre Hollins out of his slump as he went scoreless on Wednesday night against Rutgers.  However, the spot to watch in this game could be the frontcourt where neither team has a clear advantage, but with the recent play of Joey King and Maurice Walker, the Gophers may be able to do some damage on the defensive end and on the glass.  The winner of this game will move on to face Michigan State on Friday.

Bracket Implications

Thursday will be the final day of the Big Ten Tournament featuring byes as Wisconsin, Maryland, MSU, and Purdue received byes thanks to their outstanding conference seasons.  However, with matchups on the horizon, the impact of play on Thursday could make a big difference on Friday and beyond.

2015 Big Ten Tournament Bracket

3/11 bracket

Depending on how you view the top four seeds, the implications of the Thursday games vary.  However, considering the dominance of Wisconsin, most eyes will be on the bottom side of the bracket.  It will be interesting to see if teams like Indiana or Ohio State can make it to Friday and do some damage or if Minnesota and Northwestern can launch upset bids.