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2015 Big Ten Tournament Saturday Preview and Open Thread: Maryland Terrapins vs. Michigan State Spartans

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Get ready for the semifinals of the 2015 Big Ten Tournament.

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 Big Ten Tournament will resume on Saturday afternoon in the United Center with two intriguing matchups where four teams have the opportunity to reach the championship game and a shot at the trophy on Sunday.  Although all four teams have likely locked up their NCAA Tournament positions, today's games could mean much for their seeding in the Big Dance.  With that, let's take a look at all four games.

The Rest

- #1 Wisconsin Badgers vs. #4 Purdue Boilermakers

Game Time: 12:00PM CT (CBS)

Before the season, if you had told people that Purdue would be just a game away from the Big Ten Tournament championship game, there probably would have been a lot of laughter.  However, after knocking off Penn State on Friday afternoon, Purdue just needs two wins to hoist the trophy on Sunday.  Meanwhile, Wisconsin was able to hold off a hot Michigan team and continue their path as the #1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

Despite being a semi-final game, this one actually has a lot of implications regarding the NCAA Tournament.  Purdue appears to be in the Big Dance right now, but, of course, the committee has not issued any opinion, meaning we are going off bracketology posts from various sites.  Again, the Boilermakers are very likely in already, but with a win on Saturday, they are a lock and nothing weird could keep them out.  For Wisconsin, they will be looking to notch off another win for their resume and continue their pursuit of a #1 seed in this year's NCAA Tournament.

The matchup in this game is pretty easy to spot and it will occur inside between Big Ten Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky and AJ Hammons.  The Boilermakers are one of the few teams in the conference that can actually matchup with the Badgers inside.  This is not to say that Purdue has better guys upfront, but they have the size and depth with Hammons and other big man Isaac Haas to at least compete.  Unlike some teams, Wisconsin and Kaminsky will have to work for every possession inside.  Purdue ranks #19 in blocking rate and there is a good reason why.

The other interesting matchup in this one could be at the point guard position between Bronson Koenig and Jon Octeus.  Both have been playing well lately and though neither is considered the "top" guy on their respective teams, they will mean a lot to this matchup.  Koenig has scored double-digits in his last two games, had offensive ratings of over 130 in each game, and went 5-9 from 3PT range.  Meanwhile, Octeus has double-digits in five of his last six games including and 18 point performance in a must win game against Illinois last week.  These guys will not get a ton of attention coming in, but if one gets hot, it would mean a ton for this game.

Semi-Final #2

- #2 Maryland Terrapins vs. 3 Michigan State Spartans
Game Time: 25 Minutes After #1 vs #4 (CBS)

On Friday evening in the late session, Maryland was able to hold off a late charge by Indiana to move on and Michigan State solidly took care of business against Ohio State.  As a result, the Terps and Spartans are now lined up for their third meeting this season on Saturday.

Though both teams are solidly in this year's NCAA Tournament coming into this game, this is the type of game that has the ability to push a team up in seeding for March and take a good, but not great resume and push it into that next category to grab that extra spot or two.  Maryland is looking to grab a #2 seed and Michigan State is trying to grab another win or two to push it out of the #7 to #9 seed range and perhaps into a high #7 seed or even a #6 seed.  If they can do this, their odds for March certainly would take a huge step forward.

The major matchup to watch in this game could be on the wing where Michigan State will hope to use Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine to create matchup problems for the Terps.  Jake Layman and Richaud Pack have done a really nice job this year and Maryland is #41 nationally in 3PT defense, but the Terps have not been a great rebounding unit.  They sit at just #123 in defensive rebounding and #257 in offensive rebounding.  Dawson ranked 2nd in the Big Ten in defensive rebounding rate and could be a problem all day for Maryland.  If the Terps can minimize the damage the Spartans do here, it would go a long way toward a win.

Another key aspect to watch in this game will be at the free throw line.  Maryland ranked #15 nationally in percentage of points off free throws while Michigan State is #340 in free throw percentage.  Typically, free throw shooting is an afterthought in a game of this magnitude, but it is something that could make a major difference in this game as the Terps are incredibly efficient at getting to the line and the Spartans are incredibly inefficient at converting at the line.  This will not determine the game, but expect it to play a role at least.

Bracket Implications

With the Big Ten Tournament starting to round toward completion, the bracket is starting to get relatively simple, but you can still get a sense of each team's path toward this weekend.  Let's take a look at the bracket.

2015 Big Ten Tournament Bracket

3/13 bracket

There's no doubt that Saturday should have two exciting games on the slate with plenty of implications for all four teams and the NCAA Tournament in general.  Get ready to buckle up for some great play out of Chicago.