NCAA Conference Tournament Preview: Big Ten

Place: Verizon Center, Washington DC

Format: 14 teams, top two seeds get double byes into the quarterfinals, bottom four seeds play to get into the second round

Top Seed: Purdue Boilermakers – Purdue earned the top seed in the Big 10 tournament on the back of its talented forward Caleb Swanigan. The 6-9 sophomore took a giant leap forward by averaging 18.6 points and 12.5 rebounds. He tended to take too many 3-pointers as a freshman, but improved his outside stroke to 45.5 percent. Swanigan’s development sent 7-2 junior Isaac Haas into a reserve role, but he could play a factor. The team is rounded out by Vince Edwards, Carsen Edwards (no relation), and 3-point marksman Dakota Mathias. Purdue plays the winner of the Michigan-Illinois game in the first round. The Boilermakers beat Illinois easily on Jan. 17, but lost at Michigan on Feb. 25.

Dark Horse: Northwestern Wildcats – Although the Big 10 schedule caught up to the Wildcats as the regular season closed, it looks like Northwestern will finally earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. The team lost six of its last nine games, including a damaging sweep at the hands of Illinois, but they highlighted the season with a Feb. 12 win at Wisconsin. Coach Chris Collins’ team has plenty of power on the perimeter with wings Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey, and Vic Law. Dererk Pardon provides interior defense and modest scoring. The Wildcats earned a bye and will face the winner of the Ohio State-Rutgers game, and have had success against both teams this year. They swept the Scarlet Knights and beat the Buckeyes in their lone meeting. Minnesota would then await, and the Golden Gophers took a hard-fought 70-66 win over Northwestern on Jan. 5.

Player to Watch: Melo Trimble, guard, Maryland Terrapins – I had Trimble penciled into this slot before he hit a game-winning 3-pointer on Sunday in the win over Michigan State. The 6-3 junior was the only player of consequence to return from a very talented Terrapin squad, but coach Mark Turgeon’s team did not miss a beat. Trimble averaged 16.8 points and hit just 33.5 percent of his 3-pointers. He scored 20 points or more five times in the Big 10 play and helped beat Northwestern on Feb. 15 with a season-high 32. It will help that Trimble gets to play in Washington DC, as the Maryland native will be close to home. The Terrapins earned a double-bye and will play the winner of the Indiana-Iowa game. Maryland split with Iowa and beat Indiana in the team’s only meeting.

Click here for Perry’s full breakdown of ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, SEC & Pac-12 conference tournaments.