The B1G Tournament kicks off on Wednesday, marking the start of March Madness in the Midwest. And with the conference being as deep as it’s ever been, it should be an exciting week in Chicago.
Entering this week’s tournament, there are plenty of storylines and implications to keep an eye on over the next few weeks. Here are 10 things to pay attention to most over the next five days.
Penn State’s confidence entering the B1G Tournament
If you wanted to pick a long-shot dark horse to win the B1G Tournament, Penn State might be the best bet. The Nittany Lions have won five of six and six of their last eight games, which includes victories over Michigan and Maryland. Lamar Stevens is a great scorer and Josh Reaves was the B1G Defensive Player of the Year. Penn State is a team with the right pieces to make a run, especially considering how well it’s been playing as of late.
Carsen Edwards’ recent shooting slump
There’s no question that Edwards is one of the top scorers in the B1G, but he’s recently struggled to find the bottom of the net with any consistency. He is shooting just 39 percent from the floor on the year and has had miserable outings against Indiana (4-of-24), Nebraska (3-of-16), and Minnesota (7-of-31). Fortunately for Purdue, Edwards has gotten excellent help from his teammates. In a tournament setting, though, the Boilermakers could be a quick out if his efficiency doesn’t improve.
Indiana starting to play to its potential
Streaky, much? Indiana started the year 12-2 before dropping 12 of its following 13 contests. Now, the Hoosiers are winners of four straight, which includes victories over Wisconsin and Michigan State. A team firmly on the bubble, IU has finally gotten into a rhythm a just the right time. Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan are matchup problems for several teams in the B1G and Justin Smith has served as an X-factor recently. Indiana is a team to keep an eye on this week.
The return of Kaleb Wesson
Wesson’s suspension has clearly hindered Ohio State over the last three games, as its dropped all three to Purdue, Northwestern and Wisconsin. That’s what happens when the leading scorer and rebounder is gone from the lineup. Wesson returns to the lineup for the Buckeyes for the B1G Tournament, giving them at least a chance to win some games this week.
Will fatigue set in for Michigan State?
Credit Michigan State and Tom Izzo for winning some tough games down the stretch with such a depleted roster. Winning a B1G title is tough enough, but it’s even more difficult with two of your top three players off the floor. Now, the question is whether the Spartans have enough in the tank to play three-straight days in Chicago. Nick Ward returning should help, but after missing several weeks, his conditioning is likely to be off as well. It’ll be interesting to see how much energy MSU has this week.
Tim Miles’ last stand
After seven years in Lincoln, this could potentially be the end of the road for Tim Miles at Nebraska. He’s taken the Huskers to just one NCAA Tournament in that time and, unless something miraculous happens in Chicago, Nebraska will miss it again this year. But the idea of Miles’ tenure closing at the end of this season could provide some extra motivation and perhaps the Huskers could sneak out a win or two in the B1G Tournament.
Jordan Bohannon’s clutch gene
If you ask Bohannon what makes him so good at the end of games, he’ll tell you it’s “ice running through his veins” with a smirk. And in tournament time, that’s exactly what teams need in those critical late-game moments. The end to Iowa’s season was disastrous, losing the final four games. However, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Hawkeyes in some close matchups this week. And if games come down to the wire, expect Bohannon to deliver some big-time shots.
Ethan Happ is a matchup nightmare for everyone in the B1G. He’s also a really bad free throw shooter. The star forward converts on just 46.8 percent of his free throw attempts this season. While it’s never a good idea to put guys in early foul trouble, some coaches might utilize the “hack-a-Happ” strategy to force the All-B1G player to knock down free throws. Hey, in tournament time, nothing is out of the question.
History for John Beilein and Michigan?
In the two decades of the B1G Tournament, no team has hoisted the trophy in three consecutive years. That’s what Michigan is hoping to do this week. This might not be the deepest or most talented Michigan team Beilein is bringing into March, but it certainly has all the pieces to win a third-straight B1G Tournament title. Plus, Beilein and the Wolverines have been surprisingly impressive this month for several years now.
Upsets, upsets, upsets
This is what everyone looks forward to this time of year, and in the B1G Tournament, we could see plenty of underdogs advancing. The conference was absolutely stacked this season and teams feasted on each other week-in and week-out. While the top four seeds — Michigan State, Purdue, Michigan and Wisconsin — are the favorites to win the tournament, it wouldn’t be all that shocking if one of the lower seeds earned a trip to the championship game this week. Buckle up, because this could be one of the more entertaining B1G tourneys in recent memory.