The Big Ten was the most heralded conference in the country this season, and kick started its conference tournament Thursday afternoon at the United Center.
Earlier in the day, Illinois and Minnesota went down to the wire, with the Fighting Illni victorious 51-49 thanks to Brandon Paul’s 25 points and buzzer beating fadeaway.
Up next is Michigan, who will face last-place Penn State at 2:30 p.m. eastern time.
The Wolverines lost out on a share of the conference regular season title when they fell to Indiana 72-71 on Sunday. Guard Trey Burke’s final shot didn’t drop, but the Big Ten Player of the Year tallied a team-high 20 points with four assists, and Glenn Robinson III chipped in 13 points and five rebounds.
After an 8-4 start, Penn State went on a 14-game losing streak, but bounced back going 2-2 in their final four games, including an 84-78 win over Michigan on Feb. 27. Nittany Lions guard Jermaine Marshall knocked down six 3-pointers en route to 25 points, and Penn State forced 15 Wolverine turnovers.
Purdue and Nebraksa start the evening schedule, with the Boilermakers taking the only regular season meeting between the clubs 66-56 back in January. The winner moves on to the second round for a date with Ohio State on Friday.
Purdue is led by Terone Johnson, and 7’0” freshman center A.J. Hammons, who corrals 6.2 rebounds per game. The Boilermakers are 15th in the nation rebounding.
In the late-game, 20-11 Iowa meets Northwestern in the first round’s final matchup. The Hawkeyes began their Big Ten schedule with a rough slew of losses to Indiana, Michigan, and Michigan State, but finished strong winning six of their final eight games.
Iowa swept the Wildcats in the regular season, with a win margin average of 17 points. Northwestern has now dropped its last nine games. The winner meets Michigan State in the next round.
The tournament will be broadcast by the Big Ten Network, and the live online stream can be seen at BTN2Go here, by submitting your cable provider information.
The official bracket for the entire tournament can be viewed here.