For what will likely be the last Big Ten Weekend preview for this season, we have reached a point where the games to watch are known, but the teams in those games are not. It is an odd paradigm, but it is also the nature of tournament basketball. For as much as it seems obvious that Wisconsin will feature on Sunday, they still have to win twice to get there. For as unlikely as it seems that Penn State will win again, they've already done so two times, and are just three big steps from an impressive run to the NCAAs. That's the Big Ten in 2015, and that's how the Big Ten Tournament rolls along.
With the Hoosiers taking care of business and grabbing a much needed win against Northwestern (and a third matchup with Maryland coming tonight), their place in the NCAAs is more stable than it was this time last week, though still tenuous at the moment. Their path to a guaranteed bid and Indiana's first ever Big Ten Tournament trophy for men's basketball is laid out, with the following games playing a heavy role in whether they move on or fall short.
Ohio State vs. Michigan State, approx. 25 minutes after IU-Maryland, BTN
This one we know for sure will be important, as if Indiana can defeat the Terrapins, they get the winner of this game Saturday afternoon on CBS. The Hoosiers own a single win in four games against these two teams combined, but they did play both of them close in at least one of their games this season, so a win is in the realm of possibility. It's kind of hard to know what to root for in this game, as it's in bad taste to root for injuries, technical fouls, and players or coaches being tossed from the game and suspended, but that may be the only way to be sure that IU will do well against either squad at this point in the season. Neither of these teams are in a bad spot with a loss, but pride still means a lot in the Big Ten, so expect an interesting game regardless.
Wisconsin/Michigan vs. Penn State/Purdue, 1pm, CBS
By the time IU plays Friday, you'll know who will actually be playing in this game, but as this article is being written Thursday night, this matchup is completely up in the air. There are four potential scenarios here, all with their own interesting stories. If the game is Wisconsin vs. Purdue, we've got two of the top four teams in conference (by record) playing each other with an eye on adding another Big Ten Tournament title to their trophy case. For Wisconsin vs. Penn State, it takes on a very David vs. Goliath feel, and means that Penn State is that much closer to the impossible dream of playing all five days and winning on each one of them. Michigan vs. Purdue is a battle of traditional Big Ten powers who happen to be going in radically different directions this year. And finally, Michigan vs. Penn State is chaos incarnate, and a perfect representation of how the conference has gone this year.
Of course, all of this relies on Indiana continuing on in the Big Ten Tournament. First, Maryland. Then, and only then, can we shift focus away from the bubble the Hoosiers find themselves on. It's March, and the first rule of March will always be Survive and Advance.