As the sun came up today, it was the dawn of the first day of “real” conference basketball tournaments! That’s right, folks, it is finally Day 1 of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament!
Each day this week, we will offer a brief rundown of the day’s matchups. It’s just a little something for you to whet your appetite with while you wait for the Buckeyes to take the hardwood.
Make absolutely certain you don’t take any of these predictions to your favorite betting locale. If you do, we’re not responsible for the results – unless you win.
The Big Ten tournament, as a whole has been a particularly unpredictable beast. Teams at the bottom of the seeding, knowing that their fates on in their own hands and their season is coming to a premature end, tend to play beyond themselves. It is not unusual for a team that plays in the first round to make it to the Championship game, though that’s also not particularly common either.
For our rundown of today’s games,
As usually occurs in this tournament once a year, these teams met each other only a week ago. That game went to Northwestern 68-57, splitting the series for the season. Not surprisingly, with Minnesota missing excellent point guard Al Nolan, they have lost 9 of their last 10 games, with their only win coming against bottom feeder Iowa.
Northwestern, on the other hand, has been trading wins and losses all conference season long, particularly with the questionable health of their own key player John Shurna.
Usually, when two teams replay each other so rapidly, the games end up being split. Ultimately, though, given the way Minnesota has been playing the last few weeks, this one seems like it won’t follow the pattern.
Without Al Nolan, this Golden Gopher team is simply not capable of taking care of the ball, nor able to get their offense moving. Northwestern will carry the day.
Chance to win
Despite what many people have been saying, I strongly believe that Michigan State still has work to do to get into the tournament – and a win over Iowa won’t be enough. Michigan State needs to at least play Purdue close in the second round, if not beat them, to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Of course, they have to beat Iowa first, and as the Spartans discovered earlier this season, that’s easier said than done. Now, don’t expect that Iowa is suddenly going to manage another 20 point win on MSU (because they won’t). That result came at Iowa when MSU was struggling with their team’s identity – struggles that they seem to no-longer have.
Iowa can win this game. Fran McCaffery has proven himself to be a very good tournament coach, and Michigan State is vulnerable right now. Having just defeated Purdue, Iowa will be looking to continue that hot streak into the tournament and make a name for themselves going into next year.
Give it to Iowa, barely.
Chance to win
Michigan State: 49%
Indiana has been absolutely dreadful this year, playing even worse in conference than they did last season. The Hoosiers need one more win to match their conference win total of last season. Unfortunately, they’re running into a potential buzz-saw.
Penn State is looking desperately for an NCAA tournament bid in this, Talor Battle’s Senior year. They currently sit on the bubble, which is surprising for a 16-13 team overall. Wins over Indiana and Wisconsin could conceivably punch an at-large ticket for Penn State.
Knowing that there is still work to do, and that it is within reach, Penn State could be the most dangerous team in this tournament this season. If Talor Battle and company suddenly get hot, watch out, because it will be tough to stop them.
Penn State will roll over the overmatched and pathetic Hoosiers.
Chance to win
Penn State: 80%
Check back later today for Jay’s preview of tomorrow’s Ohio State game. Also make certain to check back tomorrow morning for another rundown of the day’s tournament games!