After one of the most intriguing and fun watch college basketball seasons in Big Ten conference history came to an end last Sunday night, all eyes then turned to the conference’s post season, the Big Ten Tournament.
The tournament, which began on Thursday with a series of four games, has already seen one miraculous contest (a la Brandon Paul buzzer beater to send Illinois past Minnesota), and there should be many more to come in the highly anticipated and sure to be competitive tournament, which features four teams ranked within the top ten in the country.
For the 8th ranked Michigan State basketball team (24-7, 13-5), after earning the No. 3 seed in the tournament, thus earning a first round bye, awaited their opponents on Thursday.
And after No. 6 seed Iowa put away No. 11 seed Northwestern Thursday night by a score of 73-59, the Hawkeyes moved on to the quarterfinals to take on the Spartans. The match up between the two should tip off around 9:00 PM and will be televised on Big Ten Network.
The only other meeting on the season between the Hawkeyes and the Spartans came on January 10. In that game, Michigan State fell behind early 24-12, before storming back behind Branden Dawson’s 17 points to barely scrape by with a victory 62-59, over a Hawkeye squad that was without leading scorer Roy Devyn Marble.
As for this match up, for the Hawkeyes (21-11, 9-9), they come into this one very much on the bubble of getting into the NCAA Tournament. As of Friday morning, they have creeped up into Joe Lunardi’s “Next Four Out” and whether or not that means a No. 1 seed in the NIT, I don’t think that matters to the Hawkeyes. Regardless though, a win against a top ten team in Michigan State would do wonders for Iowa’s resume and could sneak them into the Big Dance.
But Michigan State is not interested in giving any early Easter baskets right now, they have their own set of goals to accomplish and that is winning the Big Ten Tournament, and they should have a very good shot to do so.
Like Tom Izzo has said, his team has showed up all 31 times this season and have proven that they’re good enough to play with anyone in the country. And even with their recent struggles of a couple weeks ago, it doesn’t change the fact that they are still one of the better teams in the nation.
All in all, if Michigan State wants to accomplish some of the things on their radar, they will need to take care of business Friday night against Iowa. If they can do that, it will probably take them to the part of the tournament that would be an impressive Final Four let alone a pair of conference semi final games.
Nevertheless, it certainly should be a fun tournament to watch as it will serve as a very exciting beginning to the Madness that is March.
Follow Ryan Squanda on twitter @squandarunner