Big Ten tournament preview

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Dates: March 10-13
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Championship game: March 13th, 3:30 pm, CBS

Outlook: When it comes down to it, there are really only three teams competing for the Big Ten tournament title — Ohio State, Purdue, and Wisconsin.

Shockingly enough, Michigan — who started Big Ten play 1-6 and who is far from a lock to even be dancing in ten days — is the fourth seed. The Wolverines are tied with Illinois, Penn State, and Michigan State (in that order). While it sets up some interesting matchups — like Michigan State and Purdue in the quarterfinals, who had that one? — it also goes to show just what the middle of the Big Ten looks like this season.

And unlike the Big East, where saying UConn and Georgetown playing in the 8-9 is a sign of the league’s strength, Illinois and Michigan State are not stuck in the middle of the Big Ten pack because of the strength of the league. Michigan State and Illinois have both stunk this season.

Like I said, there are probably three teams capable of competing for the Big Ten tournament title. Ohio State is probably the favorite, simply because they are the favorite to win the national title, but more on them in a second.

Purdue has come on late in the season on the strength of JaJuan Johnson, who was named the Big Ten’s player of the year, and E’Twaun Moore. As good as those two have been, its the emergence of guys like Terone Johnson, Kelsey Barlow, and Lewis Jackson that has made them a team capable of competing for this title.

Wisconsin will be a team to watch as well. The are a model of efficiency, led by the underrated Jordan Taylor. Throw in versatile big men Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer, and the Badgers are the best offensive team in the Big Ten.

Player to watch: Talor Battle, Penn State

Battle is a terrific talent. Its too bad that he has spent his career in the anonymity of Penn State basketball, where John Bon Jovi concerts take precedent to basketball practice. Battle is one of just three people in the history of college basketball to amass 2,000 points, 600 rebounds, and 500 assists, joining Greivis Vasquez and Danny Ferry. That’s impressive.

Champion: Ohio State Buckeyes

I mean, yeah. They are the best team in the country. Jared Sullinger is a force on the block. Aaron Craft is a terrific point guard. Jon Diebler, David Lighty, and William Buford can all go for 20 points on a given night. What more do you need?

Complete tournament bracket

Conference standings, stats, more

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.