Frank Burlison's Big Ten Tournament Preview

The Gophers could use a strong performance by Vincent Grier and a win against Indiana on Friday to ensure a invitation to the NCAA tournament.

Big Ten Conference Tournament
At Chicago (United Center)
Regular-season champion:
Illinois (15-1)

Thursday schedule: Northwestern vs. Michigan; Iowa vs. Purdue; Ohio State vs. Penn State.

Friday quarterfinals: Illinois vs. Northwestern/Michigan winner; Indiana vs. Minnesota; Michigan State vs. Iowa/Purdue winner; Wisconsin vs. Ohio State/Penn State winner.

Best potential non-championship matchup: Ohio State, in each round. The Buckeyes are trying to make a big statement, comparable to the one they made in Columbus on Sunday.

Keep this in mind: The United Center is going to be bursting on the seems with followers of you-know-who . . . Ohio State's self-imposed ban from post-season (NCAA or NIT) means Buckeyes are aiming to be considered the best team not among the field of 65 Sunday.

Player to check out: Bracey Wright. If Indiana is going to get at least the one (vs. Minnesota) and maybe the second (vs. Illinois, undoubtedly) victory it needs for an at-large bid, the junior guard will have to be dynamic.

Projected tournament winner: Illinois over Michigan State. The Illini will bounce back from their first loss in very impressive fashion.

At-large Land: Illinois will be a No. 1 seed and MSU and Wisconsin are just as safely in the tournament with solid seeds. Minnesota better beat Indiana Friday if the Gophers don't want to be sweating marbles going into CBS's Selection Show.

Recently elected to the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is's National Basketball Expert and also covers college basketball for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at

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