Predictions for the Big Ten men's basketball tournament
Ohio State is the No. 1 team in the country. and the favorites to win the Big Ten tournament and reach the Final Four in Houston.
But will the Buckeyes get there?
The Big Ten has been a jumble this season, with four teams tied at the middle of the pack at 9-9 and only Ohio State standing out. What follows is my prediction at what will happen over four wild days in Indianapolis.
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com
No. 8 Northwestern vs. No. 9 Minnesota: This is a matchup of two teams who were hoping to be playing for a NCAA berth. Instead injuries marred both their seasons — Al Nolen’s broken foot for Minnesota and John Shurna’s injured ankle and concussion for Northwestern. Without them, both teams struggled. The Gophers, though, have been far worse off. They have lost 9 of their last 10 games and went from a NCAA tournament team to the NIT. Expect the slide to continue. Pick: Northwestern 70, Minnesota 62.
No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 10 Iowa: The Hawkeyes beat Purdue in their regular-season finale and have played much better than their record, taking both Wisconsin and Michigan to overtime in the past month. Michigan State, meanwhile is a team that hasn’t been able to figure things out all season. But the Spartans have too much talent and likely still remember the 20-point loss to Iowa that put them in this position. Kalin Lucas is going to have a big game. Pick: Michigan State 75, Iowa 65.
No. 6 Penn State vs. No. 11 Indiana: Indiana may be playing close to home, but the Hoosiers haven’t impressed anyone this season. Penn State, meanwhile might be the league’s second-most positive surprise other than Michigan. Talor Battle knows his team needs a big run to have a shot at his first-ever NCAA tournament berth and Indiana isn’t going to stop that. Battle will score 30 on IU. Pick: Penn State 66, Indiana 60.
No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 8 Northwestern: The Wildcats almost knocked off then-undefeated Ohio State in Evanston on Jan. 29 before falling, 58-57. Right now, though, no team in college basketball in playing better than the Buckeyes. Jon Diebler continues his hot streak — the senior has made 17 of his last 20 3-pointers — and shoots the Buckeyes into the semifinals. Pick: Ohio State 80, Northwestern 62.
No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 5 Illinois: In a game of bubbling proportions for both schools, Michigan is the hotter team. The Wolverines lost by two, 54-52, at Illinois on Feb. 16 and since then won 3 of 4 to close out the season. This might be the closest game of the four quarterfinals but freshman guard Tim Hardaway Jr. continues his impressive play with a 24-point outing and Michigan advances to the semifinals. Pick: Michigan 61, Illinois 57
No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 7 Michigan State: In two games against the Spartans, JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore combined to score 85 points and the Boilermakers twice beat MSU by double-digits. Michigan State doesn’t have the interior post game to deal with Johnson and Purdue will exploit that. Pick: Purdue 72, Michigan State 61.
No. 3 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Penn State: There’s always one player who can carry a team through a tournament. Battle is going to be that player in Indianapolis. In a slow-paced game, a hot Battle will make life difficult for the Badgers. He scored 45 points combined in the two games the teams split this year. He scores 25 in this one, Jeff Brooks adds 15 and the Nittany Lions pull the upset. Pick: Penn State 65, Wisconsin 60.
No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Michigan: The Wolverines almost beat Ohio State in Ann Arbor and had a halftime lead on the Buckeyes in Columbus. No reason to think the third game isn’t close. But Jordan Morgan ends up in foul trouble again and while Evan Smotrycz’s post defense is better, Michigan can’t handle Jared Sullinger late. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year scores 10 of his 25 points late as the Buckeyes pull away from Michigan. Pick: Ohio State 69, Michigan 60.
No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 6 Penn State: The Nittany Lions aren’t deep, but Battle has one more big game left in him. He outshines Moore in the best individual guard matchup in the tournament and Brooks and Andrew Jones score a surprising 15 points each as Penn State puts itself in bubble consideration, knocking off Purdue. Pick: Penn State 69, Purdue 66.
No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 6 Penn State: The extra day of playing catches up to surprising Penn State in the second half of the final. The Nittany Lions lead Ohio State at the half but David Lighty and William Buford take over the game in the second half. They score a combined 25 points in the second half and win the Big Ten title — perhaps cementing the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. Pick: Ohio State 72, Penn State 59.