Friday, March 11, 2016

Big Ten Tournament

It's the third day of the Big Ten tournament, and already craziness has ensued. Illinois beat the free falling Iowa Hawkeyes yesterday, and then got blown out by Purdue today. Michigan, after sleepwalking through the last half of the conference regular season, but also remarkably still fighting to get into the NCAA tournament, beat Northwestern and #1 seeded Indiana in dramatic fashion.

As far as my team is concerned, I'm not thrilled that Michigan State has to play Ohio State for the third time in about three weeks. I'm particularly not excited that this is a Buckeye team that is fighting for its NCAA tournament life. I've compared the Big Ten tournament (and most major conference tournaments) to an extra credit assignment in school: the students with the most incentive to do well tend to be the ones who muddled through the school year. Generally, but not always, the teams that do the best in these tournaments are the ones that still have work to do in order to reach the Big Dance.

Here and there, a team that has either won its conference's regular season title or has finished near the top will go on to win the conference tournament. It's hard to pinpoint why this happens. Maybe it's due to simply being the best team in the league and wanting to prove it definitively (as MSU did in 1999 and 2000), or despite having a good regular season, feeling that a score needs to be settled (MSU beating OSU in 2012, avenging a loss in the regular season finale; crushing Michigan in 2014, making up for an injury-plagued conference season and two demoralizing losses to the Wolverines. Last year, MSU avenged two regular season losses to Maryland by beating the Terps in the BTT, and almost beat Wisconsin in the final).

As far as what happens tonight, I have no idea. MSU players have indicated they want to win the Big Ten tournament. We'll see if that's enough to beat a desperate Ohio State.

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