INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- No. 8 Michigan ended one championship drought by winning its first outright Big Ten crown last week.
Now the Wolverines will get a chance to end another title drought in
the conference tournament, which has been filled with some of the
school's most forgettable basketball moments -- from Evan Turner's
40-foot buzzer-beater for Ohio State to the embarrassment of having the
1998 title stripped away because of NCAA sanctions.
Maybe this time, Michigan can put those images behind it for good.
"You've just got to go and get through those first games and really
play well," coach John Beilein said before leaving for Indianapolis.
"You've got to find ways to get lucky and got to find times to play hard
and if you can, you'll be sitting there in the championship game."
The Wolverines (23-7) are the favorite.
They have the conference's player of the year, Nik Stauskas, and the
media's choice for coach of the year in Beilein. They have a five-game
winning streak and 15 wins in conference play. They have multiple NBA
prospects and for the first time in school history, the defending
national runner-ups are seeded No. 1.
But Beilein also is well aware of what can go wrong in the postseason.
He led the Wolverines to semifinal appearances in 2011 and 2012, but
they haven't played for a title since or won more than one game in a
single tourney since that '98 championship run, which was later
Michigan's march toward redemption begins Friday against either
eighth-seeded Indiana (17-14) or ninth-seeded Illinois (18-13, who play
No. 24 Ohio State (23-8), the five seed, plays 12th-seeded Purdue
(15-16) in Thursday's other afternoon game. Seventh-seeded Minnesota
faces 10th-seeded Penn State, while sixth-seeded Iowa and 11th-seeded
Northwestern meet in Thursday night's games.
No. 12 Wisconsin (25-6), No. 23 Michigan State (23-8) and Nebraska
(19-11) -- the second, third and fourth seeds -- all earned byes into
Friday's quarterfinals. The Badgers will play Minnesota (19-12) or Penn
State (15-16), while the Spartans get Iowa (20-11) or Northwestern
(13-18) and Nebraska squares off against Minnesota (19-12) or Penn State
Here are five things to look for this week in Indianapolis.
PLAY-IN GAMES: Most tourney analysts believe six Big Ten teams will
get NCAA tournament bids. A seventh could get in with a strong tourney
run. The two teams with the most to gain or lose this week appear to be
Minnesota and Nebraska.
PETTEWAY'S PUSH: Terran Petteway had a breakout season for the
Cornhuskers, averaging 18 points and earning all-league honors. He also
has the Cornhuskers going into the postseason as one of the league's
hottest teams with 10 wins in 12 games. The Nebraska women won their
first-ever conference tournament title Sunday at Bankers Life
Fieldhouse, which prompted coach Connie Yori to declare that Nebraska is
no longer just a football school. Now the men's team has a chance to
HEALTHY SPARTANS: Michigan State coach Tom Izzo does his best work in
March and April and there's no place he'd rather be than Indy. Here,
Izzo has won a tourney title, his lone national championship and a
regional final that allowed the Spartans to make a Final Four appearance
in suburban Detroit. Can he do it again? Perhaps. His team, once
considered a national title contender, is finally getting healthy.
THE RED BADGERS: Wisconsin regained its mojo during the second half
of the conference season and is now moving full steam ahead into the
postseason. How good are these Badgers? They were ranked in the top five
in January and were one of the last undefeated teams in the nation.
After a midseason slump, the Badgers are playing well again.
HOME-STATE WOES: Purdue and Indiana have struggled all season with
consistency. While some think the two Indiana schools have an inherent
home-court advantage, Purdue has only won one title (2009) and the
Hoosiers haven't won any -- numbers that aren't expected to change this