The Big Ten tournament kicks off on March 13, after a chaotic regular season. Although the Big Ten may be the toughest conference in college basketball, there are no NCAA tournament favorites in the league, after the conference's best beat each other up all year. However, the Big Ten tournament stands to toughen them up further, and get perhaps a few teams ready for a deep run in March Madness.
First and foremost, the conference tournament begins on March 13 with games between the Indiana Hoosiers and Illinois Fighting Illini, Ohio State Buckeyes and Purdue Boilermakers, Minnesota Golden Gophers and Penn State Nittany Lions, and finally the Iowa Hawkeyes against the Northwestern Wildcats. Then on March 14, the Michigan Wolverines, Wisconsin Badgers, Michigan State Spartans and Nebraska Cornhuskers will make their debut.
At one time or another, the Wolverines, Badgers, Spartans, Buckeyes and Hawkeyes were highly ranked. Yet they all struggled through the Big Ten at one point during the season, although the Wolverines finally came out on top with a 15-3 conference record.
Nevertheless, while the Big Ten has a case for being the deepest conference in college basketball, no one is in the top five or favored to get a No. 1 seed. The Wolverines could make a case by winning the conference tournament, although a wide variety of teams have a shot at it.
As for the bubble, the Cornhuskers may have gotten on the right side for good, after upsetting the Badgers on March 9. But despite an 11-7 record in the Big Ten, the Cornhuskers probably need one win in the conference tournament to be completely sure. The slumping Hawkeyes could also need one win to avoid falling into the bubble, while the Gophers need at least one upset to squeeze in.
Given how the Big Ten contenders have pushed each other all season, they may all be battle tested enough to do the conference proud in March Madness. The Wolverines made the national championship game last season, while the Spartans almost always make a run without fail. But is this a conference of merely really good teams, or one or two great teams?
The accompanying slideshow lists the really good teams who have NCAA hopes -- championship, bubble or otherwise -- going into the Big Ten tournament.