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March 14, 2013

IU top seed as Big Ten tourney set to start

BLOOMINGTON — Four times in the first six years of the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament, the No. 1 seed lost its opening game.

Indiana University is 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 that 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,” IU senior 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 Indiana junior Victor Oladipo, who was named Player of the Year by The Sporting News on Wednesday.

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Tribune-Star/Bob PoynterOuch: Defending Men's City Chamion Tom Jones reacts to a missed putt on the 6th hole at Rea Park Saturday morning. Jones is seeking his 9th Men's title.

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