Big Ten’s Elite Tournament Preview

Tournament basketball is finally back, and the sports world is buzzing. After being stripped of March Madness last year, it is about time to start filling out those brackets again. 

The Big Ten tournament is one of the many conference tournaments happening this weekand the last chance for teams to cement their tournament seeding. 

The Big Ten conference is the supreme basketball conference this year, with eight out of 14 teams projected to make the NCAA tournament. Focusing on the top three teams in the conference, let’s take a deep dive on how the Big Ten’s elite got here. 

The three teams that topped the standings this year are the Michigan Wolverines, Illinois Fighting Illini, and Iowa Hawkeyes 

The Wolverines are playing terrific basketball under secondyear coach, Juwan Howard. They finished the season with 19 wins and three losses, with two of those losses coming in the final three games. 

They are led by center Hunter Dickinson, who led the team in scoring with 14.4 points per game and rebounding with 7.8 rebounds per game. Forward Isiah Livers has put on a show this season for the Wolverines as well.

The Wolverines have been a stout defensive group all season, proving that against high-powered offenses such as Iowa and Ohio State. If they are to win this tournament, they will need to continue to harass opposing offenses.  

The next contenders are the second best team in the conference this season, the Illinois Fighting Illini. They are led by superstar guard Ayo Dosunmu, averaging 21 points per game on the season. Dosunmu is paired up with a dominant big man in Kofi Cockburn, who is averaging 17.3 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game. 

Illinois has a record of 20 wins and six losses. They finished the year firing on all cylinders with two victories over Michigan and Ohio State. 

The Fighting Illini are one of the best offenses in all of college basketball, as they are top 40 in the country in points per game and assists per game. They are also 22nd in rebounding, which helps their defense by giving them more possessions on offense.  

The formula for the Fighting Illini is cut and dry, they have to play through Dosunmu and Cockburn, and accept the outcome. When a team has a dynamic duo like Illinois has in these two, the sky’s the limit on where this team can go. 

The final team up is the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes are having one of their best seasons in program history, and it has led them to 20 wins and seven losses on the season. 

The Hawkeyes are led by the potential national player of the year, Luka Garza. Garza has become the all time leading scorer in Iowa basketball history, and his legend continues to grow. 

Garza is averaging 24 points per game, which is the second most in the country. He also tacks on 8.4 rebounds per game. 

Garza isn’t the only one making an impact for the Hawkeyes, as all around forward, Joe Wieskamp, is proving to be one of the best scorers in the conference.  

Iowa has a prolific offense that revolves around getting the ball to Garza in the post and letting shooters, like CJ Frederick and Jordan Bohannon, benefit from the extra attention placed on Garza. 

The Hawkeyes are third in the country in point per game, and they rank first in assists per game. 

Iowa has a lot of potential with how explosive their offense can be, but their defense can be shaky at times. Against teams like Ohio State and Illinois, Iowa struggled to stop them and they couldn’t keep up.  

The Hawkeyes can outscore anyone at their best, but in the game of basketball, sometimes the shots just don’t go in. If Iowa can make it even slightly difficult on the opposing offense, they have the advantage.  

The three teams analyzed in this article all have legitimate national title aspirations, and even other teams in the conference like Ohio State, Purdue, and Wisconsin could make big runs in the tournament. 

The quest to crown a national champion is nearly upon us, and odds are a Big Ten team will sit atop the college basketball world when the dust settles.  

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