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Indiana gets top seed; Big Ten tourney champ Ohio State earns No. 2 spot

The Ohio State Buckeyes celebrate with Big Ten Tournament trophy after defeating WisconsBadgers 50-43 championship game Sunday March 17 2013

The Ohio State Buckeyes celebrate with the Big Ten Tournament trophy after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers 50-43 in the championship game Sunday March 17, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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They’re in

• Indiana (27-6): No. 1 in EAST vs. No. 16 North Carolina A&T or Liberty, Thursday in Dayton.

• Ohio State (26-7): No. 2 in WEST vs. No. 15 Iona, Friday in Dayton.

• Michigan State (25-8): No. 3 in MIDWEST vs. No. 14 Valparaiso, Thursday in Auburn Hills.

• Michigan (26-7): No. 4 in SOUTH vs. No. 13 South Dakota State, Thursday in Auburn Hills.

• Wisconsin (23-11): No. 5 in WEST vs. No. 12 Ole Miss, Friday in Kansas City.

• Illinois (22-12): No. 7 in EAST vs. No. 10 Colorado, Friday in Austin.
• Minnesota (20-12): No. 11 in SOUTH vs. No. 6 UCLA, Friday in Austin.

They’re out

• Iowa (21-12)

The annual debate about where the Big Ten ranks among the nation’s elite basketball conferences isn’t even a debate.

No other conference has four teams ranked in the top 10, and seven Big Ten teams will participate in the tournament, second to the Big East’s eight.

The league has been so dominant, in fact, that it might need to win the title or send two teams to the Final Four just to keep up appearances.

“The hard thing about going through 18, now 20 games, in the Big Ten is it beats you up,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “I mean, this is as brutal as [anything] I’ve ever gone through.”

Ohio State and Wisconsin both looked tired Sunday at the United Center during the Big Ten tournament final, a 50-43 Buckeyes victory. Which brings us to the age-old question: Will the most rugged regular season in memory prepare teams for a deep tournament run, or will it hamper them?

“I’m really looking forward to playing somebody else, and I think all the Big Ten teams are, and deservedly so,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “We’ve beaten the hell out of each other. We really, really, really have, and it’s going to help all of us in the end. I really believe the toughest team is the one that has been through the most, the one that can sit there at a pregame or at a halftime and say, ‘We’ve done this, we’ve been there, we’ve played these guys.’ It’s going to be a benefit.”

Indiana’s loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten semifinal game prevented the third-ranked Hoosiers from being the No. 1 overall seed and landing atop the Midwest Regional in Indianapolis, which would’ve been decked out in candy-striped pants for the occasion.

Instead, the Hoosiers will travel to Dayton, where Ohio State is happy to be heading.

“Playing in Dayton, it can’t get any better,” Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft said. “Buckeye Nation travels very well, especially when it’s only a hour down the road.”

Michigan and Michigan State will both participate in the regional in nearby Auburn Hills, which should help the fourth-seeded Wolverines and the third-seeded Spartans advance in a tournament that could be as unpredictable as the regular season has been.

“We have had numerous times a change in No. 1, and I think it’s going to make for a great NCAA tournament, because I don’t think a whole lot of one seeds are going to be making the Final Four,” Wisconsin forward Mike Bruesewitz said. “If they do, that’s great, but it’s a wide-open thing. Anybody can beat anybody on any night.”

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