Few conference tournaments will be as anticipated this March as the Big Ten's, which tips off Thursday in Chicago with a handful of teams battling to try and secure NCAA Tourney bids. Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin all have first round byes, while the bottom eight teams will match-up to try and advance to Friday's quarterfinals.
In the tournament opener, the No. 8 seeded Illinois Fighting Illini and No. 9 seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers will meet, with each club sitting firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble and needing a victory here to help solidify their at-large cause. These two teams split their season series, with each winning on each others home-court.
Next up, the fifth seeded Michigan Wolverines will look to bounce back after Sunday's devastating loss to Indiana, when they face the league's worst team in the Penn State Nittany Lions. Penn State finished just 2-16 in the Big Ten during the regular season, however one of those victories came February 27 against Michigan at home.
The night session will open up with a 7-10 match-up pitting the Purdue Boilermakers (15-16, 8-10 in the Big Ten) taking on the Nebraska Cornhuskers which finished the regular season just 5-13 in Big Ten play. Purdue won the only regular season match-up between these two clubs on January 16 at Nebraska.
Finally, the first day of the Big Ten Tournament will conclude with the No. 6 seeded Iowa Hawkeyes battling No. 11 Northwestern. Iowa finished the regular season at 20-11 overall and 9-9 in conference, and like Minnesota and Illinois could play their way into the NCAA Tournament with another win or two in Chicago.
A link to the full Big Ten bracket can be found here.
No. 9 Minnesota vs. No. 8 Illinois, 1 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: Learfield/1500 ESPN (Minnesota); Fighting Illini Sports Network (Illinois)
No. 12 Penn State vs. No. 5 Michigan 2:30 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: This game is not available on radio
No. 10 Nebraska vs. No. 7 Purdue, 6:30 p.m. ET
Radio: IMG Husker Sports Radio Network (Nebraska); Purdue Sports Network (Purdue)
No. 11 Northwestern vs. No. 6 Iowa, 9:00 p.m. ET
Radio: AM 560 and WGN Radio (Northwestern)