The 2015 Big Ten Tournament will resume on Friday afternoon in the United Center with four intriguing matchups and for the first time in the conference tournament, all 14 teams will have participated in at least one game. This means that the top teams from the conference will now be part of the action. Let's take a look at all four games.
Game of the Day
- #3 Michigan State Spartans vs. #6 Ohio State Buckeyes
Game Time: 25 Minutes After #2 vs. #7 (BTN)
On Thursday night, Ohio State was able to hold off Minnesota and move on for a date with Michigan State. These two teams have tangled quite a few times in recent years and the results have been a lot of fun. In fact, just earlier this year, the Spartans pulled off a thrilling win over Ohio State on Valentine's Day thanks to a huge shot from Denzel Valentine late in the 2nd Half.
Neither team necessarily has a ton riding on this game as both teams can feel comfortable heading into Selection Sunday, but that does not mean this isn't a big game. Both teams are looking to get some momentum going into the Big Dance and to potentially bump up a few spots in the bracket. Plus, considering that this game has developed a rivalry undertone in the last few years, both teams and coaches will want this one badly. Tom Izzo and Thad Matta are also tied at 11-11 in head-to-head record, so the winner tonight will take the edge.
As anytime Ohio State hits the floor, the matchup to watch is going to be how Michigan State attempts to guard Buckeye guard D'Angelo Russell. In Ohio State's game against Minnesota, Russell was pretty quiet in the 1st Half and still finished with 23 points on the night and a 104 offensive rating. Even when he has an underwhelming game, he can still lead his team in scoring in a postseason game. Expect the Spartans to give him a few different looks, but at some point, either Lourawls Nairn or Travis Trice will have to guard Russell. How they hold up will be key.
Another matchup that will be interesting to watch will be how the Buckeyes attempt to address Denzel Valentine. He is a do it all type of player that can make an impact in several different areas. It would make sense to put Sam Thompson on Valentine, but that leaves Jae'Sean Tate with Branden Dawson, which is also a tough matchup for Ohio State. If the Spartans are going to come out on top, you would think this is the area where they have to do damage. In the last matchup, Dawson and Valentine combined for 32 points.
This game has a lot of exciting storylines and should be another battle between two great coaches. The winner of this game will move on to face the winner of the Maryland and Indiana game.
- #1 Wisconsin Badgers vs. #9 Michigan Wolverines
Game Time: 11:00AM CT (ESPN)
The first game of the day will feature a rematch of one of the best games of the Big Ten regular season. In the first game, Wisconsin traveled to Ann Arbor and the Wolverines took the Badgers to overtime before falling short. It was a back and forth affair featuring big shots from several players including a huge late one from Michigan guard Derrick Walton, Jr. For Wisconsin, they will be looking to notch off another win on their resume, avoid an upset, and continue their pursuit of a #1 seed in this year's NCAA Tournament. For Michigan, this is a chance to prove that their young team is finally taking a big step forward and keep both their NCAA and NIT dreams alive. Keep an eye on Michigan's Zak Irvin and Wisconsin Frank Kaminsky, who actually matched up quite a bit in the first game. The winner of this game will move on to face the winner of the Purdue and Penn State game on Saturday.
- #4 Purdue Boilermakers vs. #13 Penn State Nittany Lions
Game Time: 25 Minutes After #1 vs #9 (ESPN)
The Boilermakers will make their Big Ten Tournament debut this year on Friday and will face a red hot Penn State team that has won 3 games in a row including a road win over Minnesota and an upset on Thursday over Iowa. This is also a big game for Purdue as the team appears to be on the "right" side of things for the NCAA Tournament, but is far from secure. On the other side, Penn State is looking to continue its magic with another upset win and keep its NCAA and NIT dreams alive. The players to watch in this game will be AJ Hammons and DJ Newbill. Hammons has been a defensive force inside all year and could very well be the best blocker in the conference. Newbill is the Big Ten's scoring leader and has been huge in Penn State's last three wins. The winner of this game will move on to face the winner of the Wisconsin and Michigan game.
- #2 Maryland Terrapins vs. #7 Indiana Hoosiers
Game Time: 5:30PM CT (BTN)
The first game of the afternoon session could very well end up being the game of the day and for good reason. Indiana and Maryland played twice this season splitting the series in two of the more entertaining games of the Big Ten season. Both games had offensive firepower, star players, and great home crowds. One of those aspects will be missing on Friday, but it still looks like a great game. This will be Maryland's first Big Ten Tournament game in the program's history and they will be looking to build on an already strong NCAA Tournament resume. Indiana appears to have avoided disaster by beating Northwestern yesterday, but to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday, they probably need a win over Maryland. The players to watch in this one will be in the backcourt with Indiana's James Blackmon, Jr. and Yogi Ferrell and Maryland's Melo Trimble and Dez Wells. All four are explosive players and received at least some type of All-Big Ten award this season. With that much star power, it's hard to imagine this game to be underwhelming. The winner of this game will move on to face the winner of the Michigan State and Ohio State game on Saturday.
Friday is the first day of the Big Ten Tournament that has no teams with byes as Wisconsin, Maryland, MSU, and Purdue will all be playing. The winners on Friday will move on to the semi-finals on Saturday with a great shot at advancing to the championship game and toward the NCAA Tournament. Let's take a look at the bracket.
2015 Big Ten Tournament Bracket
This should be the first day to see who the serious contenders are for the Big Ten Tournament title and it could be telling to see how the Big Ten champions perform on Friday against Michigan. On the other side, every team in the bottom half of the bracket could reasonably reach the championship game, making both of Friday's games crucial.