Officially, the Big Ten Tournament gets underway today. I will not be going. I think it is more valuable to spend some time with my son than attend Minnesota-Illinois and Rutgers-Nebraska. Watching Minnesota and Rutgers lose is basketball sadism. Both are going to lose, and likely lose by a lot. Fortunately, I have cable and I can safely watch from home as opposed to with the dozens in attendance at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. I'll be there tomorrow, however.
In the meantime, here is your brief look to tonight as well as your GameThread if you're watching and want to actually discuss these games.
#12 Illinois (13-18, 5-13) vs. #13 Minnesota (8-22, 2-16) 4:30pm, ESPN2
This could get brutally ugly in a hurry. Minnesota got blown out by Rutgers this past weekend and Rutgers is awful. The main reason is a sheer lack of bodies for the Golden Gophers. Kevin Dorsey, Nate Mason, and Dupree McBrayer are all suspended because they were scoring (and bragging about it) off the court more than on it. Joey King is also out with a broken foot, and captain Carlos Morris was kicked off the team in February. That's only five of their top six leading scorers that aren't even with the team in Indianapolis. Freshman Jordan Murphy is good, but he is being asked to win games by himself. The Gophers have five scholarship players dressing for this. Yikes.
Illinois has had a spate of injuries, but they still have Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill. They were 2-0 against Minnesota when the Gophers had a lot more players. Minnesota is going to lose, and probably by a very large margin. As bad as Illinois has been, they are still better than Rutgers.
It should be noted that an Illinois win sets up an Iowa-Illinois game where the winner faces Purdue. The boilers were 0-3 against Iowa and Illinois combined.
#11 Nebraska (14-17, 6-12) vs. #14 Rutgers (7-24, 1-17) 25 minutes after, BTN
Who wants to see a third meeting where Nebraska has already won twice by a grand total of 60 points. Nebrasketball shouldn't be beating ANYONE by a grand total of 60 points, but in truth the Cornhuskers are a lot better than anyone else playing today in Indy. They actually won at Michigan State and generally played teams close at home. Shavon Shields and Andrew White III give them a 1-2 punch that is as good as anyone else's 1-2 punch in the conference. The problem is there is not much else behind them, and definitely no size.
Rutgers is, well, Rutgers. It took Minnesota's unique situation for them to break a 32-game conference losing streak. They are Corey Sanders ( a pretty good freshman) and four other guys. They can't shoot, rebound, or play defense, all of which are pretty essential to winning basketball games. Even after blowing out Minnesota their average scoring margin is -12.5 for dead last in the league, with Minnesota sitting 13th at -5.1.
Rutgers is possibly the worst Big Ten basketball team of the modern era, and Minnesota is so depleted that they are actually worse in their current incarnation than Rutgers.