Opinion: Big Ten promises bruising, exciting tournament that could yield national champion

The only sure thing heading into the Big Ten tournament, which begins Wednesday in Indianapolis, is that no team will leave Lucas Oil Stadium unbruised.

If the NCAA Tournament promises intrigue and unpredictability during this pandemic-driven season, the Big Ten's wealth of depth and championship contenders makes the conference tournament the next-best thing — five days of bruising, physical play pitting many of the best teams in college basketball.

With one day left in the regular season and Selection Sunday a week away, the Big Ten has five teams in the Ferris Mowers Coaches Poll, including four of the top 10; has two No. 1 seeds, Michigan and Illinois, in the latest USA TODAY Sports bracketology; another two No. 2 seeds, Iowa and Ohio State; and as many as nine teams either solidly in or on the verge of securing a place in the 68-team field.

Sending nine teams into the NCAA Tournament would set a Big Ten record, breaking the mark of eight set in 2019, and would trail only the Big East in 2011 for the most teams from one conference in a single tournament field.

You can easily make a case for one of the top three to win the conference. No. 2 Michigan has lost just twice all season. No. 4 Illinois is surging, with wins against Wisconsin, the Wolverines and No. 10 Ohio State to cap the regular season. No. 8 Iowa has firepower on offense and, in center Luke Garza, the league's best player.

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