(CBS Chicago)- The Big Ten has been college basketball’s best conference this season featuring four teams inside the Top 10 and five inside the Top 25 of the AP poll. With its regular season wrapped up and the conference tournament tipping off yesterday, the fight to reach Sunday’s championship game on CBS has begun.
The top four seeds, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Purdue, earned the bye into the quarterfinals and won’t see action until Friday. Everyone else is taking the floor Thursday. While much of the talk this season has centered around Michigan, Illinois, Ohio State and Iowa, Purdue is a team to watch.
The Boilermakers finished the regular season on a five game winning streak and are 13th in Ken Pomeroy’s college basketball ratings. Boasting top 25 marks in both offensive and defensive efficiency metrics, Matt Painter’s group makes for a tough matchup for any team. Led by junior forward Trevion Williams (15.2) and freshman guard Jaden Ivey (10 PPG), Painter rotates nine guys including massive (7’4″) freshman center Zach Edey. In a short weekend in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium, they could make a run but they can also pose a challenge come time for the Big Dance.
“The team I’ll be intrigued with is Purdue,” said CBS Sports Network analyst Ryan Gomes. “They’re right underneath those teams. They have been playing such tough competition, not to say the other teams haven’t. But they might be able to go up against a Syracuse and handle business easily because they have been playing so competitively night in and night out throughout the league season.”
The Boilermakers are one of eight Big Ten teams that Jerry Palm has making the tournament in his latest Bracketology. Though Purdue, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Rutgers are definitely in thanks to their resumes, there are a pair of teams near the edge of the tournament field.
Michigan State, currently a 9-seed, and Maryland, a 10-seed, appear to have done enough to solidify their spots. But, the Spartans fell to Maryland 68-57 in the second round of the conference tournament Thursday. March is usually the month of Tom Izzo, but it will be a wait to see where in the bracket they fall now on Selection Sunday. Gomes likes both teams saying either has the potential to be able to pull off a couple of straight wins in the conference tournament setting. With the Terps advancing to face Michigan, an uphill climb awaits.
Speaking of Michigan, they’re a clear tournament team and likely a 1-seed come bracket time Sunday. The Wolverines have been near the top of the AP poll for the last several months and the thing that Gomes likes about them the most is their ability to play two different styles of game.
“With Michigan, even though they do score in the 70s, the thing about them I like is they can play both ways. They can play up and down, fast-paced, but can also establish a slower tempo. Illinois is another team I like in that same way and it’s because of the bigs,” said Gomes. “If you have a big down there that can establish his will down there, which Michigan has in the freshman Hunter Dickinson, I think that is the staple in being able to play two ways.”
“To play against a Gonzaga, they have the lineup. To play against a Baylor, they have the lineup,” continued Gomes. “I like Michigan, I like their chances. I think they can be an Elite Eight team, of course where they’re placed in their bracket and what their seeding is will determine that and how far they go.”
Tune in to CBS on Saturday for the Big Ten tournament semifinals tipping of at 1 p.m. ET. Then on Sunday, the championship game is set for 3:30 p.m. tip on CBS. Games will also be streamed live through Paramount+.