With the Big Ten’s regular season coming to a dramatic finish, the conference’s best have one more opportunity to compete against each other before heading into the NCAA Tournament.
Indiana and Iowa, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the Big Ten tournament, respectively, could meet in the championship game should stars align. Both teams are in a groove heading into postseason play, with the most likely outcome being that we will get a rematch of the miraculous regular-season finale between the two schools.
Both teams will have a couple of tests prior to punching their ticket to the tournament’s title game.
Iowa, who is the defending Big Ten Tournament champion, will need to get through a potential semifinal match with Maryland, who they split their regular season series with.
Maryland, who has risen to No. 5 in the AP rankings, is looking to prove that they should be in the discussion for the best team in the Big Ten as well. Behind Diamond Miller’s 20 points per game, the Terrapins have a shot to win each time they step onto the floor, no matter their opponent.
Winners of six straight and 11 of their last 12, Maryland has beaten Iowa, Michigan and Ohio State in an impressive stretch. The Terps lost their only regular season matchup against the conference’s top seed, Indiana, on Jan. 12.
Should they be able to work their way through the bracket and get through Iowa, Maryland would seek revenge on the Hoosiers and hope to add another Big Ten Tournament title to their trophy case. Since joining the conference in 2015, Maryland has won five Big Ten tournament titles, with the most recent coming in 2021.
If we do get an Iowa/Maryland semifinal, two of the conference’s best players in Miller and Iowa’s Caitlin Clark will look to bring their teams to the championship game. In the most recent matchup between the two schools, Miller’s Terrapins got the best of the Hawkeyes in a 96-68 blowout.
The top four seeds in the conference all get a double-bye into the tournament’s quarterfinal round. Ohio State rounds out the top four, securing the last of the automatic quarterfinal berths.
Should the Buckeyes win their first tournament matchup, most likely against fifth-seeded Michigan, they will need to get through Indiana in the semifinals. This would be a tall task for OSU after losing both of their regular-season games against the Hoosiers; neither was close.
Ohio State’s freshman forward Cotie McMahon has been playing well as of late, leading the Buckeyes in scoring in four of their last five games. McMahon has also been tough to get a hold of on the glass, recording eight or more rebounds in each of the team’s past three games.
Meanwhile, Indiana is the No. 2 team in the country on the back of senior forward Mackenzie Holmes, who’s averaging 22.5 points per game. That mark is good for sixth in the NCAA this season.
Prior to a last-second loss to Iowa, thanks to a Caitlin Clark buzzer-beater, IU rattled off 14 wins in a row. They have only lost two games on the season, leading to a likely No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
Indiana lost to Iowa in last year’s conference tournament final. The school’s only Big Ten Tournament win came in 2002. After winning the conference’s regular-season crown, the Hoosiers will be looking to get the monkey off of their back in tournament play as the B1G’s top seed and best team.
IU’s likely biggest threat to a tournament title, and the championship game that most would like to see, is a rematch with Iowa.
After Caitlin Clark’s heroics in both school’s final regular-season game of the season, Indiana would look to head into the NCAA Tournament on a high note with a win over one of the Big Ten’s other elite teams.
Clark’s play has dazzled all season, with the most memorable moment being her buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat Indiana in that final game.
CAITLIN CLARK WINS IT AT THE BUZZER pic.twitter.com/fdRZr7Z1Pa— Just Women’s Sports (@justwsports) February 26, 2023
On top of ‘the shot’, Clark tallied a near triple-double, with 34 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in the incredible win over Indiana.
One of, if not the best, scorers in the country, she’s averaging 27.2 points per game this season, trailing only Villanova’s Maddy Siegrest.
In ESPN’s latest Bracketology, Iowa is listed as a No. 2 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. With a Big Ten Tournament championship, Iowa can push itself into discussion for one of the tournament’s final No. 1 seeds.
The team with the most to prove in this year’s Big Ten Tournament is likely Nebraska, who is considered one of the ‘First Four Out’ teams in ESPN’s most recent Bracketology.
The Huskers will play Michigan State in their first game before a potential run-in with Indiana in the quarterfinals. A victory against MSU is needed for their resume. If Nebraska gets by the Spartans and somehow finds a way to upset Indiana, their ticket to the tournament will be punched.
Illinois is another Big Ten school currently on the bubble. The Illini will play the winner of Northwestern and Rutgers. Winning their first game against one of those two teams would bring them to a quarterfinals matchup with Maryland, which would be a big challenge. If Illinois can win their first game, their tournament ticket should be secure.
The first two games of the Big Ten Tournament will begin on Wednesday. Surviving teams will then move on to the second round, where games will be played on Thursday. Top four seeds will begin play in the quarterfinal round on Friday, then moving on to the subsequent final games through the weekend.
The tournament’s championship game is set for Sunday at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN. All games in earlier rounds can be viewed on the Big Ten Network or in person at the Target Center in Minneapolis.