What: Big Ten championship
When: March 13-16
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis
Bracket: View tournament field here.
TV: First-round games are Thursday on either the Big Ten Network or ESPN2. Quarterfinal games are Friday on either ESPN, ESPN2 or the Big Ten Network. Semifinal games are Saturday on CBS. Title game is Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.
Last year's champ: Ohio State (26-7, No. 2 seed.)
What matters: The Big Ten is placing at least five schools in the NCAA Tournament no matter what happens between now and Selection Sunday, and Nebraska figures to be the sixth ... provided the Huskers avoid a bad loss in the quarterfinals. Oddly, that's why Tim Miles should probably root for Ohio State to beat Purdue on Thursday, so that he can avoid the possibility of taking a bad loss to the Boilermakers. Meantime, Minnesota has work to do. The Gophers undeniably need to beat Penn State, and a win over Wisconsin might also be necessary for Richard Pitino to earn an at-large bid in his first season in the Big Ten.
Who matters: Nik Stauskas was named the Big Ten Player of the Year after leading the Wolverines to the outright league title while averaging 17.4 points, 3.4 assists and 3.3 rebounds this season. Not bad for a sophomore who was just a borderline top-75 prospect in high school. Roy Devyn Marble (Iowa), Gary Harris (Michigan State), Terran Petteway (Nebraska) and Frank Kaminsky joined Stauskas on the All-Big Ten First Team voted on by the league's coaches. Raise your hand if you had those five guys picked for those five spots back in October.
Fun fact: The Big Ten is often labeled as an offensively challenged league, but that's not really the case this season. Sure, most of the schools still play at a slow tempo. But four of the nation's top 17 most efficient offenses belong to Big Ten schools, according to KenPom.com. Those schools are Michigan (No. 3), Iowa (No. 4), Wisconsin (No. 6) and Michigan State No. (17). The Big 12 is the only other league with four schools in the top 17 of the offensive-effiency ratings.
Prediction: I'm going with Wisconsin, which, I know, is coming off of a loss at Nebraska. To that, I say, so what? To focus on that is to fail to focus on the fact that the Badgers have still won eight of their past nine games. To cut nets Sunday, Wisconsin will likely have to beat Minnesota, then Michigan State, then Michigan. The Badgers actually beat those exact three teams in a three-game stretch from Feb. 9 to Feb. 16.