There has been a lot of discussion about which of the top teams can pull an upset over Ohio State and possibly take home the Big Ten Championship trophy. Travis Miller of Hammer and Rails and I, Joe Kutsunis of Hail to the Orange, today discussed which bottom tier Big Ten teams have the best chance of making a run in the Big Ten Tournament and stealing a bid from one of the conference's other teams.
Travis argues that Iowa is set up nicely for a dark horse Big Ten Championship run, with matchups against very familiar teams.
Bryce Cartwright, Melsahn Basabe, and Jarryd Cole are heavy underdogs in Indianapolis, but do not totally count them out. They open against a Michigan State team that is struggling and that lost to Iowa by 20 in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes would then play the same Purdue team they just shocked last week. Should they pull both upsets, it is likely that Wisconsin would await. Iowa took the Badgers to overtime in Iowa City, so it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that they could beat a team that just isn’t the same outside the Kohl Center.
Even if it gets to the final Iowa would have to win it in order to go to the NCAA’s, and the old fatigue factor that has killed so many Thursday teams could kick in. The Hawkeyes are specialists at this though. They have twice made it to the final from Thursday, a feat only matched by Illinois in 1999 and 2008.
I feel that Penn State though, could be in even better position to steal a bid from one of the at-large teams.
PSU ended up the season at 9-9, tied for fourth with Illinois, Michigan and Michigan State, but unlike all of those other teams, PSU has been left out of nearly all of the projected fields. PSU will draw a very down Indiana in the 6/11 game, then face a Wisconsin team that was just blown out by Ohio State, and would then draw a Purdue team that beat them by a mere one point in January. Making the championship game, likely against Ohio State might be enough to over take at least one of the Big Ten teams in front of the Nittany Lions, and enough for them to squeak into the field of 68.
Even more than that Penn State has the player that could make a tournament run like that a reality in Talor Battle. Battle is averaging 20 points per game for a team that only scores around 60 per game. If Battle gets hot this weekend in Indianapolis, there might not be anything that opposing teams can do to stop the senior point guard.
A six seed or an 11 seed going home with the Big Ten trophy? Its not crazy, it has nearly happened five times, and did happen in 2001 when Iowa won the whole thing as a six seed.