2022 Big Ten Tournament Preview

Championship Week is in full swing as the Big Ten Tournament kicks off this evening. The first round begins tonight at 6:00 pm est at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Indiana. The tournament will span the remainder of the week, concluding with the Championship Round on Sunday, March 13th. Several familiar teams are in the hunt for the Big Ten Tournament title, but Sunday’s regular-season finale showed us that this deep conference is still up for grabs. Let’s see which team has the best shot at locking up an automatic NCAA bid this weekend.

2022 Big Ten Tournament Preview

The Usual Suspects

The top three seeds in this bracket all have a legitimate chance to win it all. Purdue, Wisconsin, and regular-season co-champion Illinois are all capable of cutting down the nets in Sunday’s Big Ten finale. Either team would likely lock up a 2-seed in the big dance if they do. 

Purdue will be led by star guard Jaden Ivey,  a projected lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. The Boilermakers won four of their last seven outings to end the regular season, narrowly winning their last game against in-state rival Indiana on Saturday. If Purdue is to make it all the way, they’ll have to overcome Wisconsin. The Badgers swept Purdue in the regular season but at least the Boilermakers kept it close, losing both games by a combined eight points. 

Wisconsin ended their season with a shocking loss to Nebraska on Sunday. Despite that slip-up, the Badgers have to like their chances this week. They split their matchups with both Michigan State and Ohio State, each potential draws depending on early-round results. Equally encouraging is the news around sophomore guard Johnny Davis, Wisconsin’s leading scorer. Davis went down with an ankle sprain in Sunday’s game but is expected to be ready in time for Wisconsin’s Quarterfinal game on Friday. 

Illinois has the easiest path to the finals in his tournament. They also have Kofi Cockburn in the frontcourt and consistent shooters around him. This team is the favorite going in. 

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Sleepers

While I would hardly call Iowa an underdog, their two-point loss to Illinois on Sunday places them as the 5-seed. Considering all of the teams that have to play in the first two rounds, the Hawkeyes are in the best position to make a deep run. If they take care of business in the second round, Iowa will take on Rutgers in the Quarterfinals. The Scarlet Knights are an enigma in the 4-seed. Some experts have Rutgers out of the field going into this week and they are clearly the weakest of the four top seeds.  

Michigan State has an outside shot but has been too inconsistent to be a real threat this year. Ohio State has the talent to make a run this week and if they had drawn the 5-seed, I might have them slated as the sleeper of choice. Sadly for the Buckeyes, they don’t have a great path to the finals here. Depending on the outcomes, OSU could have the most difficult week of all, with potential matchups against the top-three seeds. 

Iowa was a top-25 team when they lost to Illinois. If a pair of Keegan Murray free throws get made in the final minutes, this team may have had a bye. As it stands, they are the best sleeper in the field this week. 

Bubble Teams

Rutgers will need a victory over Iowa in the second round to lock up an NCAA Tournament birth. Without that, Ron Harper Jr. and the Scarlet Knights likely fall short. 

The 8-9 matchup between Indiana and Michigan is essentially a tournament play-in game. The winner should have enough on their resume to sneak into the field, while the other squad will likely be one of the first four out. 

Into the Madness

Basketball fans are blessed with a plethora of great matchups during championship week. The Big Ten Tournament looks poised to provide plenty of those as we gear up for the big dance.

Stick with The Last Word on Sports for all of your Conference Tournament and March Madness needs.  

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