March Madness is nearly in full swing, so let the speculation
begin.

Julie Pannuto
Daniel Horton and the rest of the Wolverines still have a chance to dance. A win against Iowa on Friday could be enough to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament. (FOREST CASEY/Daily)

It’s almost guaranteed that the Big Ten will get at least
three NCAA Tournament berths from its top three teams: Illinois,
Wisconsin, and Michigan State.

But beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess.

“I still think five or six teams is realistic (for the Big
Ten),” said Purdue coach Gene Keady, whose team sits at 7-9
in conference games and is seeded seventh in the Big Ten
Tournament.

While Keady’s venture looks to be a little unrealistic,
Iowa coach Steve Alford said that he believes a minimum of four Big
Ten teams will be dancing by week’s end.

And since the Iowa-Michigan matchup will feature the Big Ten
Tournament’s fourth and fifth seeds, it’s likely that
the winner of that game would grab a fourth bid if one were
available for the Big Ten.

The winner of that matchup could also be a sleeper for the rest
of the tournament.

“We know that we’ve got to do a good job of going in
there and trying to take care of business on Friday, because I
think it’s a must-win for both teams,” Alford said.

Ohio State associate head coach Rick Boyages agreed.

“I think the three top teams are all more than capable,
and then after that you look at the Iowa-Michigan matchup, whoever
survives that, has a chance (to win the Big Ten Tournament),”
Boyages said. “I think with Iowa, depth is a factor, and Iowa
very easily could win against Michigan.

“But from a depth standpoint, to get to the finals or win
the thing, Michigan may have an edge that way, with the number of
the players they play.”

Iowa was the lowest seeded team ever to win a Big Ten Tournament
in 2001, when they entered as the sixth seed.

Based on his past experience of guiding the Hawkeyes to that
2001 title, Alford said he believes that the lower-seeded teams can
sneak up on the top teams in the second round.

“I’ve always felt like the teams that play on
Thursday, have an advantage … because they’ve already
played a game in that city, in that environment,” Alford
said. “I think you have a lot of upsets on Friday because of
that.

“It is the first game for the high seed, when you got a
league that’s got a lot of parity in it. I think those Friday
games become very dangerous.”

For Michigan, its first game will come on Friday, which will
also be Iowa’s first game of the tournament. Michigan coach
Tommy Amaker is looking forward to that extra day off for his
team.

“I think it gives us an added day in terms of rest and
preparation,” Amaker said. “We feel very good about
ourselves to have accomplished that, the way it fell.”

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