There’s only one real thing that you can bank on in relation to the Big Ten basketball tournament that begins on Thursday in Chicago. There are no certainties.

If this year’s helter-skelter Big Ten race has shown anything, it’s that anyone is capable of winning at any time.

No. 8 Ohio State vs. No. 9 Iowa: Talk about a matchup of two teams stuck in a downward spiral.

Ohio State was expected to challenge for an NCAA Tournament spot, while Iowa was up near the top of the coference for much of the year. Both teams have struggled massively in the second half.

The winner gets to play regular season champion Wisconsin. Congrats.

Ohio State 74, Iowa 60

No. 7 Minnesota vs. No. 10 Northwestern: The Golden Gophers are clearly on the NCAA Tournament bubble, sitting at 16-11 overall.

Northwestern has played better basketball as of late, but the Gophers ought to be desperate.

They’re going to need to knock off both Northwestern and Illinois to get to the Big Dance.

Minnesota 83, Northwestern 69

No. 6 Indiana vs. No. 11 Penn State: This one looks a lot more interesting after the Nittany Lions stunned Indiana in Happy Valley on Saturday night.

The Hoosiers are in the same boat as Minnesota, desperately in need of a victory – and probably two – to get to the NCAA Tournament.

The winner gets Michigan.

Indiana 77, Penn State 71

So there’s the first round. But the real focus will be on who gets out of the second round – the four teams that will get to the Big Ten’s Final Four:

No. 1 Wisconsin: The Badgers are red hot, and always dangerous in tournament play because of their ferocious defense. They should cruise into the weekend.

No. 5 Michigan State: The Spartans are scorching, and have an NCAA Tournament berth wrapped up. Purdue’s in trouble on Friday.

No. 7 Minnesota: Here’s the sleeper. The Gophers, assuming they get by Northwestern, will get Illinois for the second time in a week. That proposition could be a very dangerous for the Illini, despite the home court advantage in Chicago.

No. 3 Michigan: Don’t count the Wolverines out just yet.

Sure, they’ve struggled lately, including Saturday’s disastrous loss at home to Purdue. But you can’t count out the aura of desperation – this is Michigan’s NCAA Tournament.

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