The Quarterfinal round has come and gone with some exciting matchups yesterday. Wisconsin took on Michigan in the first game and, despite struggling a bit early, put the Wolverines to bed to advance to the semifinals. The second game featured this year's cinderella bid in Penn State. although it seemed as though they could hang on and extend their season one more game, Purdue's size on the inside proved to be too much and the Boilermakers moved on. Maryland and Indiana played an entertaining affair in the third contest of the day at the United Center, and was able to hold off a game Indiana squad. To finish off the day, Michigan State was able to build an early lead over Ohio State and fend off a couple of Buckeye surges, as they try to move on to the Big Ten Tournament Final for the third time in four years.
No. 1 Wisconsin vs. No. 4 Purdue, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Reasons to Watch: This is going to be a matchup of power teams in the front court. Both teams have the size to bang down low and clean the glass. Even though both teams excel in the middle, one will have to impose its will on the other. In their previous game, Wisconsin struggled a bit early, but, thanks to a well rounded offensive performance, the Badgers eliminated the Wolverines. Frank Kaminsky and co. completely dominated the boards against Michigan, winning the rebound battle 34-19. Look for Wisconsin to continue to try and dominate the glass moving forward. However, that will be a tall order when faced with the colossus A.J. Hammons. Hammons was a terror on the inside against Penn State, notching 23 points and 9 rebounds. This will be a battle of literal giants in the Big Ten that should be one of the better matchups of the year.
Fun With Numbers: In their previous game against Michigan, 4 of the 7 players that saw the court for the Badgers scored in double figures. That type of well rounded offensive performance has been the key for Wisconsin of late. Additionally, Wisconsin shot the ball at a solid clip, shooting 49% from the field and roughly 37% from 3. While those numbers don't pop in comparison to some of the better offensive teams in the country, they are stellar compared to Purdue yesterday. Purdue shot 39% from the field and only 30% from three. Throughout their game against Penn State they consistently relied on their superior size and rebounding ability to edge out the Nittany Lions. However, with Wisconsin on the docket, Purdue won't be able to rely so heavily on any perceived size advantage.
Players to Watch: Frank Kaminsky vs. A.J. Hammons. This is going to be an absolute battle down low between the Conference's two best big men. However, Kaminsky has a distinct advantage over Hammons. Kaminsky's effective perimeter shooting can be the different in this matchup. Look for Kaminsky to draw Hammons away from the basket to get an open shot and prevent Hammons from affecting other Badger players' shots at the rim. Outside of those two mammoths, Sam Dekker for Wisconsin and Raphael Davis for Purdue will have to step up on the offensive end for their respective teams.
Prediction: Hammons and Kaminsky go to war down low and the Badgers escape with a win, 72-68.
No. 2 Maryland vs. No. 3 Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Reasons to Watch: Dez Wells and the Maryland Terrapins are on fire right now. They have been able to close out the Big Ten regular season schedule with relative dominance and have now prevailed in their first game in the Big Ten Tournament. Wells and Melo Trimble have been able to lead their squad offensively as they get out and run by everyone. Michigan State was able to jump out on Ohio State early in the nightcap at the United Center, and while the Buckeyes made a couple runs, the Spartans did let Thad Matta's team get any closer than five points. Denzel Valentine and Branden Dawson both flirted with triple-doubles, with Valentine racking up a team-high 23 points to go with seven rebounds and six assists. Dawson added 14 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. Not to be outdone, Travis Trice added 18 points. The trio of veterans could cause problems for Maryland with their Big Ten Tournament experience.
Fun With Numbers: These teams have squared off twice this year, with Maryland taking both of the matchups against the Spartans. The notable of the two matchups came in the Big Ten opener for both teams, with Maryland taking a 68-66 decision in double overtime in East Lansing on December 30th. The first half of that game was beyond ugly, with Maryland holding a 17-14 lead at halftime. A major reason why the Terrapins were able to pull out the victory on the road in their first Big Ten game was after shooting zero free throws in the first half, the Terps were able to go to the foul line 32 times in the second half and overtimes. The second meeting between the teams saw Michigan State again struggle, while Maryland found a lot more comfort at home. In both matchups Michigan State struggled behind the three-point line, only hitting eight of their forty attempts between the two games.
Players to Watch: Melo Trimble and Dez Wells represent the engine of the Maryland offense. As they go, so go the Terrapins. Guarding both of these guys is a tall order no matter how talented an opposing team's back court can be. While Michigan State might not have the bright stars like Maryland does with Trimble and Wells, their trio of Dawson, Valentine, and Trice can be dangerous when they are clicking together. It will be interesting to see if the experience of the three Spartans can erase some of the shine Trimble and Wells have deservedly earned themselves with some of their stellar performances this year.
Prediction: The experience of Michigan State over the years in the Big Ten Tournament is a little too much for the conference newbies to overcome. 67-63 Spartans.