Northwestern and the Big Ten Tournament

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Big Ten released the official bracket for the conference tournament on Sunday. The United Center will host all the Big Ten teams March 11-15.

Northwestern was on the bubble heading into Sunday for a first round bye, with Minnesota and Nebraska. Minnesota’s last second loss to Penn State early Sunday afternoon allowed Northwestern to jump into the 10 seed and a first-round bye in the Big Ten conference Tournament.

Northwestern will now face Indiana in the second round for the second time this season. The previous meeting between the Hoosiers and the Wildcats resulted in a Northwestern 72-65 win.

Tre Demps tied his career high 23 points and Alex Olah chipped in 17 points and 11 rebounds. Both players were announced to the honorable mention Big Ten team.

Heading into the conference tournament Indiana ranks last in scoring defense, allowing 71.8 ppg, and field goal percentage in the Big Ten. Allowing such big numbers on defense gives Northwestern a chance to jump out on Indiana early and take control of the game.

In the first matchup Demps scored in multiple ways. Shooting 8-12 from the floor and 2-6 from three, proves Demps was able to get to the rim, taking high percentage shots. Demps also converted five of his six shots from the free throw line. Just like Demps, Olah was able to get to the rim and the free throw line multiple times. Olah finished the game shooting 5-12 from the field and 7-8 from the charity stripe.

Northwestern’s motto for the 2014-15 season is “pound the ball.” Getting the ball down low to Olah seems to be the most effective game plan. Freshman guard Bryant McIntosh, who was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team, ability to drive into the paint will open up shots for himself and opportunities for outside shots.

The turnaround for Northwestern has ignited their offense and defense. The ability to respond after emotional games shows the fortitude of this young Wildcats team.

Where Indiana is strong, Northwestern is weak.

Indiana is the top rank team in the Big Ten in three-point percentage; Northwestern is last in three-point defense.

If Northwestern jumps out to an early lead, exploiting Indiana’s interior defense the Hooisers have the chance to get themselves back in the game shooting the long ball.

Last season Northwestern upset the Iowa Hawkeyes in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Having players who have been in the spotlight of the United Center before allows some pressure to be taken off the freshmen.

The experience from last year and the adversary of this season make Northwestern poised to advanced at least to the second round of the conference tournament and give teams pressure to perform their best in order to move on.

Although the game is play on a neutral court, the Wildcats should feel at home at the United Center as they are Chicago’s Big Ten Team.