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Michigan to Open the Big Ten Tournament against Northwestern

The Wolverines and Wildcats will square off in the 8/9 game Thursday.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten Tournament bracket isn't finalized yet, but Michigan's first game is.

#8 seed Michigan (20-11, 10-8 Big Ten) will face #9 seed Northwestern (20-11, 8-10 Big Ten) in its first Big Ten Tournament game on Thursday. The Wolverines were locked into the #8 seed when Michigan State beat Ohio State on Saturday, and Northwestern secured its spot as the #9 seed when it beat Nebraska, 65-54, in Evanston on Sunday.

Michigan and Northwestern met once in the regular season. Less than two weeks ago in Ann Arbor, the Wildcats raced out of the gates to take a 17-4 lead against Michigan. The Wolverines had a difficult time defending Alex Olah, who finished with 19 points and five rebounds and has developed a reputation as a Michigan killer. However, the Wolverines fought back. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Derrick Walton combined for 35 points on 12-of-23 shooting and propelled the Wolverines to the comeback win, 72-63.

Michigan will need a second win against Northwestern if it wants to preserve any chance of making the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team. The Wolverines fell out of the field in most brackets after they were unable to hand the Hawkeyes a loss on Saturday night. They are the first team out on Bracket Matrix and probably need another quality win to get back in. That means not only beating Northwestern but also then upsetting #1 seed Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. Unfortunately for Michigan, the Hoosiers are playing their best ball of the season, and there will be a large contingent of Indiana fans in the stands as the Big Ten Tournament will take place in Indianapolis.

Michigan's game against Northwestern will be at noon on Thursday, televised by BTN. If the Wolverines win that first game, they'll take on Indiana at noon on Friday on ESPN.