2015 Big Ten Men’s Tournament Preview
It’s been the type of season where Tom Izzo said early on that “records don’t matter” in the Big Ten conference this season. It looks like seven Big Ten teams (Wisconsin, Maryland, Ohio State, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Iowa) will be earning their bids for the NCAA Tournament.
We saw constant fighting for positioning in the Big 10, particularly in the middle of the pack. Wisconsin (28-3, 16-2, regular season champs) and Maryland (26-5, 12-4) eventually edged themselves out as the top two teams, but other contenders like Michigan State, Purdue, and Iowa (all 12-6 in conference play) had to feel their way out in the next tier of the conference, along with Ohio State (11-7).
I had the chance to cover Rutgers (Big Ten newcomer) for WCTC/WMGQ this season, which gave me the opportunity to watch these teams more thoroughly. With that said, here’s my preview of what/who to watch for in this year’s Big Ten tournament.
Must-see players in the Big Ten Tourney:
D’Angelo Russell – Ohio State
One of the top names on NBA draft boards for this June, D’Angelo Russell is a special guard talent as a freshman. He’s a dynamic lefty with an itching ability to score the ball from anywhere, plus he’s a head-up passer who creates easy baskets for his teammates. He dropped 25 points in a half against Minnesota this season. His very name got Phil Jackson fined. His credentials are strong. Russell has the ability and opportunity to make his mark on this tournament and this month.
D.J. Newbill – Penn State
Newbill led the conference in scoring all season at right around the 20-point mark. Penn State struggled as a team after starting the season 12-2, but that hasn’t stopped Newbill from doing his duty as a senior and a scorer. He’s one of those guys who just gets where he wants to go, and does everything pretty well. If he can get some scoring help and reel off a couple of big scoring games himself, being that he won’t be making a trip to the NCAA Tournament, look for Newbill to go out with a bang.
Melo Trimble – Maryland
If there were no D’Angelo Russell, Melo Trimble would have been Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Trimble is another example of a freshman with a strong command of the floor at point guard. He can really shoot the ball off the catch. He’s strong, quick, and makes terrific reads on the move. Trimble’s steady presence for Maryland team has really put him in contention as one of the best point guards in the country this season.
Frank Kaminsky – Wisconsin
Kaminsky has dominated the conference. He’s the top candidate National Player of the Year. Frankly, he’s the biggest impact player in the country. Kaminsky is a calm, versatile 7-footer who anchors the Badgers with his savvy on both ends of the floor. Opposing bigs have problems matching up with him because he does stretch the floor for Wisconsin as an outside shooter, but he also makes a fine living operating with his polished post game on the block. Whether you like his style of play or not, Kaminsky is a shoe-in as a must-watch and as the most skilled big man in the country.
Other high recommendations: Malcolm Hill (Illinois), Aaron White (Iowa), James Blackmon, Jr. (Indiana), Bryn Forbes (Michigan State), Andre Hollins (Minnesota), Jarrod Uthoff (Purdue)
Big 3’s in the Big Ten Tourney:
Melo Trimble, Dez Wells, and Jake Layman – Maryland
The backcourt of Trimble and Wells is probably the strongest and most talented in the conference. Layman adds an extra scoring punch from the wing as both a shooter and slasher.
Travis Trice, Denzel Valentine, and Branden Dawson – Michigan State
These three have been in plenty of big games together. They compliment each other positionally, with Trice as the lead guard, Valentine as the glue guy, and Dawson as a beast of an anchor. This is the most experienced and therefore possibly most dangerous Big 3 in the conference, giving them a chance against anyone.
Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon, Jr., and Troy Williams – Indiana
Ferrell and Blackmon Jr. are a great dynamic scoring back court while Troy Williams is one of the best athletes in the country. The three of them active in their roles gives Tom Crean and Indiana a fighting chance.
– Indiana: The Hoosiers can play and score with anyone. They lead the league in scoring at 72 points per game. I think they pose a threat to any team and assuming they take care of Northwestern, would be a great match up against Maryland.
– Iowa: Coming off of six straight wins to end the regular season the Hawkeyes might be the hottest team going into the tournament and are confident in who they are. They run, they play hard, and have multiple guys who can shoot the ball. Plus Aaron White has shown to be a stud of a player in the last few weeks.
I think Wisconsin comes out of the top half of the bracket having to go through Iowa in the semifinal. The bottom half is a little rougher, but I think Michigan State will win out and advance to their second straight Big Ten championship game to play Wisconsin.
Happy March Madness and enjoy conference tournament action.