Preview: What You Need To Know About The Big Ten Conference Championship Game

Preview: What You Need To Know About The Big Ten Conference Championship Game

INDIANAPOLIS | IN – On the morning of one of the most highly regarded days in collegiate athletics, that being Selection Sunday, The Big Ten Conference Tournament Championship Game will also take place. Today is a day where teams will celebrate a tournament bid or realize they will not be dancing in March.

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(Photo: Big Ten Network)

Neither Purdue nor Michigan State have to worry whether or not they will receive a tournament bid, as both teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25 and Top 5 teams in the Big Ten Conference. The #2 team in the country, Michigan State, will look to make history in the conference. The Spartans are tied for the most Big Ten Conference Tournament Championships (4) since the tournament began back in 1998. Michigan
State has won the championship 2 out of the last 5 years and under Coach Tom Izzo they are 92-35 in the month of March since the 1998-99 season. More impressively, the Spartans are 46-15 in March since 2009.

With that said, they also have arguably one of the best players in college basketball in Senior Guard Denzel Valentine. Valentine has been

(Photo: Dave Wasinger, Dave Wasinger/Lansing State Journal)

(Photo: Dave Wasinger, Dave Wasinger/Lansing State Journal)

named USA TODAY and NBC Sports National Player of the Year averaging 19.6/7.5/7.5 looking to become the first player to do that in a season since 1983-84 season began. The list of awards and recognitions for Valentine go on and on as he has lead the Spartans back to the Big Ten Conference Championship game. Valentine has lead the Spartans in scoring 28 out of the 34 games played this year. The last time he faced off against Big Ten opponent Purdue, scoring 27 points with 5 three pointers. One of the most threatening parts of Denzel Valentine’s game is his ability to take over the way the rest of the team plays on the floor. Valentine scores at will while maintaining a “pass first”, point guard mentality. It is especially frightening for opponents when he can run the point on one possession, knock down a three on another, or even post up defenders with success.

Valentine is complimented by Senior Guard Bryn Forbes, who was second behind him in scoring (14.9 PPG) and shot over 50% from the three point arch. Forbes was named Second-Team All-Big Ten by the media and coaches, and looks to bounce back after missing all four attempts from the three point line against Maryland on Saturday. The impressive showing of the senior leadership on this team has them undoubtably one of the most difficult opponents for any team to face.

So how does Coach Matt Painter feel about the opportunity to play for the Big Ten Conference Tournament Championship Sunday?

It helps you get into that tourney mode. You get on a neutral court. You have some success. You shoot on different rims. You play with different basketballs. And now when you have that adjustment to wherever you’re — wherever you go in the NCAA Tournament, you’ve already made one adjustment within the past week in those areas. You’re going to get some different officials, these guys are guys that officiate our games. We might see a guy or two that you see. So there’s a lot of adjustment.”

Certainly Purdue has a NBA ready talent in their Senior Center A.J. Hammons, who was also named to the 2016 first-team All-Big Ten. Hammons, who was named 2016 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year is coming off an extremely impressive performance against Michigan (27 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks). Hammons continues to become the essential threat to opponents on both sides of the ball. Much like Valentine, their team seems to thrive on offense success when Hammons touches the ball. The size advantage that Purdue has not only in AJ Hammons but Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan gives the Boilermakers a vital advantage.

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The height that Purdue has makes them a potential Elite-8/Final Four contender, but hinges on the production of the guards. Raphael Davis who was named to the Big Ten All-Defensive Team will truly be tested if Valentine spends much of his time facilitating the offense. If the big men for Purdue are being tested early, they will need to look for shooters like Vince Edwards or Ryan Cline to knock down shots from the three point arch and spread the Spartans defense out. Coach Painter praised freshman Ryan Cline, saying “He is the best shooter I have ever recruited”.

Ultimately, Sunday comes down to bragging rights for the Big Ten for the rest of the year and a chance to go into the NCAA Tournament with major momentum.635906601322041629-SMG-20160209-ads-ss1-16 If Purdue can get A.J. Hammons going early and establish his presence down low, the Spartans could be in for a whole lot of trouble. On the flip side, if Hammons gets into early foul trouble like he did against Indiana, the Boilermakers might find themselves forcing unnecessary shots and creating opportunities for Michigan State to drive. The one thing Purdue wants to eliminate is the ability for Denzel Valentine to get to the bucket with ease and don’t let the best player on the team beat you. Purdue needs to force Michigan State to utilize their other offensive weapons in order to win.

Sunday’s Big Ten Conference Tournament Championship tips off at 3pm EST at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN. Stay up to date with all the action on social media by following @IndianaTalks or @JMalyWIUX on Twitter.

Written by Jordan Maly

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