Mar 3, 2015; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Maryland Terrapins guard/forward Jake Layman (10) drives to the basket during the first half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim O
The field is set for the 2015 Big Ten tournament, which is slated to begin this Wednesday. There are a number of intriguing storylines surrounding the tourney. While it has been a pretty down year for the conference, this year’s edition of the tournament will be nothing short of exciting.
Here’s a breakdown of the bracket and everything you need to know heading into Wednesday.
Best First Round Matchup: No. 12 Nebraska vs. No. 13 Penn St.
Both of these teams have been less than impressive this season, but once March hits, records go out the window and anything can happen. While it is a longshot, the two teams want to try their hand at putting on a miraculous run to the NCAA tournament. The most intriguing part of this contest will be the matchup between two of the top five scorers in the Big Ten: Penn State’s D.J. Newbill (20.7 PPG) and Nebraska’s Terran Petteway (17.8 PPG). That battle alone should be enough to keep fans entertained.
Best Potential Second Round Matchup: No. 6 Ohio St. vs. No. 11 Minnesota
This game would be a rematch of the thrilling Jan. 6th meeting, in which the Buckeyes won 74-72 in overtime. Buckeyes’ freshman sensation D’Angelo Russell exploded for 27 points against the Golden Gophers in the lone meeting. Even though, Minnesota has not lived up to the expectations many had for them, the first matchup proves that this team is capable of hanging with Ohio State.
Sleeper Team: Purdue
Matt Painter’s squad doesn’t take the floor until the quarterfinals on Friday, but they continue to be a team that flies under the radar. The Boilermakers have suffered a few tough losses, but they are riding a little bit of momentum heading into the tourney, winning five of their last seven games. The strength of this team is its big men. If A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas can step up and play well, Purdue may have a chance to shock some people.
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Most Exciting Player: D’Angelo Russell
Not only is Russell the most exciting player in the Big Ten, but he is also one of the most exciting players in the entire country. For the season, he has averaged 19.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game. Even as a freshman, Russell has an immense amount of talent, enough to take over a game if necessary. After watching him play all season long, this kid seems to be a smoother version of Russell Westbrook.
Top Seed Most Likely to be Upset: Michigan St.
This is not to say that the Spartans will go down, but a potential matchup with the Buckeyes in the quarterfinals is screaming “upset.” When the two met on Valentine’s Day, Michigan State narrowly escaped with a three-point victory. I just spent all this time raving about Russell, so expect him to have a big game against the Spartans. If he goes off and gets a little help from guys like Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, and Amir Williams, don’t be shocked if they take down the long-time B1G power.
Dream Championship Game: No. 1 Wisconsin vs. No. 2 Maryland
Is this really even a question? The Badgers and Terrapins have consistently been at the top of the conference all season long and are clearly to two best teams in the field. Maryland knocked the Badgers off in College Park last month 59-53, a big win for their NCAA tournament resume. With these two teams playing, there is just so much talent on the court at one time. I’m sure Wisconsin would love to exact revenge on the Terps and possibly secure a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance.