by Kent Sterling
The Big Ten Tournament is going to be won by one of the eight teams that will play into the quarterfinals on Thursday. That’s bold talk given that four of the eight will be on a bus or plane home by the time play starts Friday.
Indiana will play Illinois Thursday at 12p for the right to play top-seeded Michigan on Friday, and given that the Hoosiers have won consecutive Big Ten games only one time in 2014, the odds would appear stacked against them to make it to Saturday.
But the Illinois game is a coin flip, and the Hoosiers were efficient when they shot the ball Saturday in Ann Arbor in a four-point loss. The 15 turnovers Indiana committed are a big concern, and the low total of six they forced Michigan to cough up are equally problematic.
No team could run through the entire Big Ten schedule without a loss, but all that has to happen for a team to win this tournament is to put together four good wins in a building that is strange to most. Why not Indiana?
The semifinal game in the top half of the bracket would be against the survivor of the Nebraska vs. Ohio State/Purdue game. I wouldn’t bet against Purdue as the team to come out of that quadrant. Nebraska has won eight of their last nine games behind second year coach Tim Miles who has the Cornhuskers in a spot for the school’s seventh berth in the NCAA Tournament (without a single win).
And while it would be really weird to see Nebraska succeed in the Big Ten Tournament, anyone who has watched wing Terran Petteway play knows that betting against the Cornhuskers is a fool’s errand. Petteway defends well and scores 18 points per game in his first season in Lincoln after transferring from Texas Tech.
The good news for Indiana fans is that all but one of the teams on the other side of the bracket (Michigan State, Minnesota, Iowa, Northwestern, Penn State, and/or Wisconsin) will be sent home before they could possibly play the Hoosiers.
No one in his right mind would believe for a second that Indiana should be favored to win this tournament from the #8 seed, but until they lose, there’s a chance, and a chance leads to hope, and every once in awhile hope in the face of logic is validated.
That’s not a compelling case, but there is no team in the Big Ten has been immunized from the potential for an upset by one of the second division teams. The Hoosiers just need to move past the Illini, and then pull a rabbit out of big red hat three straight times.
One thing fans can count on from Indiana is that they will fight. There have been many opportunities for the Hoosiers players to fold their tent, but have battled through adversity repeatedly – granted, a good portion was self-inflicted.
Indiana has a chance to save the season and change the narrative, and it’s a longshot that fans have every right to attach themselves to. Once the season ends – and let’s face it, an invitation to the NIT is not an extension to the season for anyone but the players, coaches, administration, and parents of the players – we can sit in judgment of this team and be more declarative about its direction and legacy.
The future can wait, but the Big Ten Tournament starts Thursday, and a small chance to win four in a row is still a chance. Somebody has to run the table, and the team that will do it plays on that first day.