WASHINGTON — The Big Ten Tournament marches on in the nation's capital Saturday with the two semifinal games. Here's a look at the action to come in D.C. Listed start times are Central.
No. 4 Minnesota vs. No. 8 Michigan
12 p.m., CBS
This matchup might seem a little funky, but it might not have been terribly difficult to predict considering the way these two teams were playing to close out the regular season. Minnesota has been one of the best teams in the world since the start of February, rattling off eight straight wins before stumbling the regular-season finale against Wisconsin. But the Golden Gophers got back on track with a win over Michigan State on Friday. Richard Pitino's team didn't play out of this world — it probably should've smoked Tom Izzo's group, which shot horribly — but it got the win it needed to get back on track and has now won nine of 10. Michigan, of course, is the feel-good story of this week's tournament, winning twice in two days after enduring that horrifying aborted takeoff on Wednesday. And the Wolverines have looked incredible in winning the games they've won, blowing out Illinois before grabbing a huge win over top-seeded Purdue on Friday.
While both teams have stellar point guards in Nate Mason and Derrick Walton Jr., the bigs could determine this one. Moe Wagner and D.J. Wilson have taken turns starring for Michigan with an ability to score inside and out. Meanwhile, Reggie Lynch is the newly minted Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and backed it up with five blocks Friday. Jordan Murphy ain't no slouch, either, turning in a double-double against the Spartans.
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No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Northwestern
2:30 p.m., CBS
It's a rematch of a Feb. 12 game in which Northwestern went up to Madison and grabbed a landmark, NCAA tournament resume-building victory. That was just the Badgers' second loss since Thanksgiving at the time, but it started a losing stretch of five defeats in six games. For the Wildcats it was an anomaly during a 2-5 stretch. Northwestern played near-perfect defense in that game and turned the remainder of Ethan Happ's season into an inconsistent roller coaster by double-teaming him at every opportunity and sending him to the bench the majority of the second half he was so ineffective.
Wisconsin is playing better now, the winner of back-to-back games including Friday's tournament win over Indiana in which it flexed its league-best defense. It'll need to flex it again as Northwestern's offense has been sensational in two games in Washington, shooting 60 percent against Rutgers and 55.3 percent against Maryland. Scottie Lindsey — who didn't play in that game up in Madison — and Vic Law have found their grooves after searching for their shot down the stretch of the regular season, combining for 66 points in the two wins. But the Badgers can shoot, too, anf they buried 10 triples in Friday's win.
The Cats will likely be the sentimental favorites, on the verge of their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance with a chance at more program history this week in D.C. But the Badgers are the No. 2 seed for a reason.