The Washington Times-Herald

The "Z" Watch

March 13, 2013

IU in drivers seat as No. 1 seed

CHICAGO — Four times in the first six years of the Big Ten Tournament, the No. 1 seed lost its opening game.

Indiana’s hoping recent history holds to form, as the top seed has won the tournament five times in the last six seasons, including the past three years.

The Hoosiers (26-5) enter the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 1 seed for the first time, and therefore won’t have to play on the tournament’s first day. It’s the first time since 2008 that IU has drawn a first-round bye.

IU will face either Illinois or Minnesota in Friday’s first game. Not only were the Illini and Golden Gophers each ranked in the Top 10 at one point this season, they’re also the only two Big Ten teams who IU lost to away from Bloomington this season. The Hoosiers had the conference’s best road record at 7-2.

“Practice has been kind of different because we’ve been going over both teams’ plays and players,” Derek Elston said. “We don’t know exactly who to get ready for, but we keep doing what we do in practice.”

The Illini defeated the Hoosiers 74-72 when Tyler Griffey was left undefended and scored a layup at the buzzer. IU answered that loss with four straight wins, including road victories over then No. 10 Ohio State and then No. 4 Michigan State. Then Minnesota outmuscled the Hoosiers 77-73 behind a 21-point, 12-rebound performance by Trevor Mbakwe. IU has won two of three since, including Sunday’s comeback at Michigan to win the regular-season title.

But the Hoosiers have never won the Big Ten Tournament. IU has played in the championship game just once in the tournament’s 15-year history, in 2001.

“This year, to have a bye and to be able to play on Friday just shows how much hard work we’ve gone through during the season,” said Victor Oladipo, who was named Player of the Year by The Sporting News on Wednesday. “We want to accomplish so much more.”

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