Well, the chances of Indiana getting a double bye in Chicago are basically gone now (THANKS
OBAMA NORTHWESTERN!), so rather than try and do the math that would allow us to somehow sneak into one of those slots, you get the top 3 teams in conference in action in this preview instead. Of the 5 games the conference is putting on this weekend, these are pretty clearly the 3 most important, and probably the most fun 3 to watch.
Michigan @ #14 Maryland, Noon, ESPN
Why it's important: Maryland is one of the best teams in the Big Ten this year, but they've also had a really up and down stretch since Indiana wrecked them in Assembly Hall, so there's as good a chance of Michigan upsetting them as anything else happening in this game. And if Maryland comes out strong, Michigan probably gets beaten down horribly, which could be amusing to watch.
What can we learn: Is Maryland going to be able to put it together by tourney time? Is Michigan going to be able to put anything together ever? If Maryland wasn't ranked, would this game even be on ESPN?
Michigan State @ #5 Wisconsin, 4pm, CBS
Why it's important: A battle of traditional Big Ten powerhouses, both near the top of the conference, and on national TV. Hated Enemy of Indiana Bo Ryan vs. Mentor of Indiana's Coach Tom Izzo. About the only thing that might turn people off this contest is that Wisconsin is known as a slowdown, grindy defensive team, but this year's Badgers don't seem to follow that pattern nearly as much. This is probably THE game of the weekend in the Big Ten.
What can we learn: Are there any last weaknesses Wisconsin can show in Michigan State for teams to exploit? Does another Wisconsin loss completely end their chances of being a 1 seed in the NCAAs? Which coach will look more like their school's mascot at the end of the game?
Purdue @ Ohio State, 7:30pm, BTN
Why it's important: A pair of teams that have somehow gotten to this point in the season and are basically evenly matched. One team seems to rise and fall based on their star player showing up for games, and the other team is relying on AJ Hammons. And yet, here we are, with Purdue hanging on to a spot in the top 4 in conference, and Ohio State just outside of that spot. This one is probably gonna be ruthless, and the winner will have survived a battle to get that victory.
What can we learn: Can the Boilers pull off yet another sweep (won 60-58 in the first meeting)? Will the Buckeyes continue to defend their home court (17-1 on the season)? Is there a more correct rooting interest in this game than #TeamMeteor (IU went 1-3 against these teams this season)?