The Big Ten Tournament is underway. Already Illinois and Penn State are out, Iowa and Indiana move on, and Northwestern and Minnesota are fighting for their lives as I write this.
Although I think the regular season Big Ten title is the real prize, the tournament has its place. The tournament champion gets the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. As a result, the tournament gives second life to under-performing teams and allows them to dream of going on a run and winning their way into the Big Dance, or to pad their resume with a few more wins.
For teams like Ohio State, the Big Ten Tournament is a different challenge entirely. The Buckeyes clearly are NCAA-bound — and they also are banged up. I hope Coach Thad Matta gives Aaron Craft, Jared Sullinger, and Deshaun Thomas as much rest as possible, and allows Amir Williams, Jordan Sibert, LaQuinton Ross, and others to play meaningful minutes in a tournament setting. In the NCAA Tournament, you never know when an injury or foul trouble might require you to go deeply into your bench. Why not give those team members some playing time in Big Ten Tournament games to get them ready?
One other thing about the Big Ten Tournament — it produced one of my favorite recent Ohio State sports moments, featuring Evan Turner and some disappointed Wolverines. Buckeye fans, you know what I’m talking about, don’t you?