MSU basketball got a decidedly easy draw in the Big Ten tournament, despite being the third best team to secure a bye (behind Wisconsin and Michigan). They were slated to play the winner of the six vs. eleven seed game, which turned out to be Iowa up against Northwestern. While Iowa was a pretty good six-seed, they had lost five of their last six games, including a double-digit loss to a struggling Spartans team. Northwestern, on the other hand, was the worst team in the Big Ten this year, going 13-18 (6-12 in the Big Ten), getting the 11-seed.Either way, MSU was going to be the favorites, but it is looking better and better each day.
On Thursday night, MSU’s chances in the tournament got a lot better. Northwestern, shooting 21% better from their usual terrible 29% three-point shooting, took down the struggling Hawkeyes, 67-62. The Wildcats will face MSU on Friday night at 9 p.m., deciding who goes to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. Being that MSU is a great shooting team and Northwestern usually has a below average offense, so if MSU can break through the hard Northwestern defense, it should not be too tough of a game.
If the Spartans win on Friday night, they will play the winner of Wisconsin vs. Minnesota, which takes place on Friday at 6:30 p.m. Wisconsin, the two-seed in the Big Ten tournament, beat Michigan State 60-58 at the Kohl Center in the two teams’ only meeting this year– Branden Dawson was injured and Gary Harris shot 3-20 from the field against the stingy Badgers defense. Minnesota is the seven-seed in the tournament. The 19-12 Gophers beat Penn State 63-56 on Thursday, keeping their NCAA tournament hopes alive. MSU beat Minnesota 87-75 in overtime in their only meeting this year. Regardless of who they face in the semifinals– if they make it– MSU will have a tougher time than they would on a normal day.
It is always important to remember the magic of the lower-seeded teams in conference tournaments. If they lose, their season is over. Their tournament hopes are on the line so it is win or go home. Izzo and the Spartans know that they should expect nothing less than the best competition from teams like Minnesota or Northwestern. If there’s a time when teams will pull off significant upsets, it will be the lower-seeded teams in the Big Ten Tournament. These next couple of days will be fun.