Big Ten Tournament primed for debut at Madison Square Garden

New Yorkers are no strangers to top-notch college basketball coming through the Big Apple. This week, the Big Ten sets up shop at Madison Square Garden, bringing its conference tournament to the city for the first time.

The 14-team tournament kicks off Wednesday and runs through the championship game Sunday. Here’s a breakdown of the teams looking to lock in a spot for the NCAA Tournament.


Michigan State, led by Miles Bridges (17.1 ppg), has been the hottest team, reeling off 12 consecutive wins. The only ranked opponent during that time was Purdue, so despite winning the conference title outright, the Spartans will have something to prove this week.

Ohio State’s resume is more of a mixed bag but sports possible Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop (19.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg) and a January win over the then-No. 1 Spartans.

Purdue can’t be discounted. The Boilermakers have struggled against the other top two, but guard Carsen Edwards can take over, as he showed with a 40-point game last week.

Dark horses

Look out for Nebraska. That might not seem shocking by looking at its No. 4 seed, but the Cornhuskers have embarked on quite the turnaround from last year’s 12th-place finish. They’ve won eight of their last nine games and are surging at the right time. They’ll need a strong performance to improve their current bubble status ahead of Selection Sunday on March 11.

Michigan, the last nationally-ranked team in the conference and the No. 5 seed, is coming off a recent win over Ohio State in a string of five victories to close the regular season. The Wolverines could have the talent to make it to the final as an encore to last year’s surprise run that took them from a No. 8 seed to tournament champions and within a basket of the Elite Eight.

No shot

Minnesota, Illinois, Rutgers and Iowa all will have the privilege of playing on Day 1. All will be long shots to even reach Friday.

Rutgers has had its ups and downs, but it’s been mostly down in-conference. Even returning to the Garden — the Scarlet Knights’ old conference tournament stomping grounds with the Big East — won’t be enough to salvage this season.