Wednesday, March 12, 2014
The Big Ten Tournament gets started on Thursday. This year’s tournament features nine team that I think could legitimately make a run and win. It should be an exciting week in Indianapolis. Here are my picks for each game (which are sure to be completely wrong after the first day)
No. 8 Indiana vs. No. 9 Illinois: Indiana has a good opening matchup, as the Hoosiers face a team that aren’t offensively gifted. Look for the Hoosiers to clamp down on defense and use the Indiana crowd to carry them to a victory.
No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 12 Purdue: Purdue has been in a free fall for a few weeks now and I don’t expect that to change against the defensively strong Buckeyes. Look for Ohio State to win.
No. 7 Minnesota vs. No. 10 Penn State: The Gophers are a team that could win the whole thing, but they can also lose this opener to Penn State. I think they do enough to find a way to beat the Nittany Lions.
No. 6 Iowa vs. No. 11 Northwestern: Northwestern looked like it might have a respectable Big Ten season this year, but then lost seven straight. Iowa is a team that could use a strong performance this week to really improve its NCAA Tournament seeding. Look for Iowa to win.
No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 8 Indiana: The Wolverines and Hoosiers have been evenly matched in the two games this season. It will be a tough opening game for Michigan, but I think the Wolverines find a way to get it done against the Hoosiers.
No. 4 Nebraska vs. No. 5 Ohio State: I really like Tim Miles and what he has done with the Cornhuskers, but I still have trouble predicting them to beat any of the top tier Big Ten teams. I think Ohio State’s defense will allow them to get past the Huskers.
No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 7 Minnesota: I am calling for an upset in this one. The Gophers seem to play better against the strong Big Ten teams and there is something about the Badgers I just don’t trust. Though they are slated to earn the best seed in the NCAA Tournament out of the conference, I just don’t see them making a run this weekend or next.
No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 6 Iowa: Can Michigan State get it figured out? They seemed to take a step toward that at home against Iowa, but then lost on the road to Ohio State. The Spartans will have to shoot well against the Hawkeyes, which Iowa usually allows, but I am going to predict Iowa in an upset on Friday. I think this weekend will be the weekend the Hawkeyes show their best stuff.
No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 5 Ohio State: Michigan has the scorers to beat Ohio State and getting another shot at your rival always helps. The Wolverines will win this game behind their guards and Ohio State’s lack of ability to match Michigan score-for-score.
No. 6 Iowa vs. No. 7 Minnesota: Similar to the other semifinal, I don’t think Minnesota will be able to consistently find the offense to keep pace with Iowa. The Hawkeyes can be difficult to slow down once they get going.
No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 6 Iowa: Iowa really needs this championship to help define its season and take a step as a program. The Hawkeyes are one of those dangerous teams that has the talent, but hasn’t found the formula. Perhaps I am crazy to pick Iowa to win the Big Ten Tournament, but I feel like taking a chance this week. Motivation in a conference tournament can be tough for teams that have established their NCAA Tournament seeding. Iowa has a chance to improve their seeding this week and build momentum for next weekend. This championship game would be a shootout, but I pick Iowa to win. The Hawkeyes gave Michigan problems during the season and just seem to be a matchup problem for them.
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Time: 4:30PM ET
Venue: Value City Arena
Records: Michigan State 23-7, 12-5 Big Ten; Ohio State 22-8, 9-8
Michigan State stat leaders: Points – Garry Harris (17.7 ppg); Rebounds – Branden Dawson (8.6 rpg); Assists – Keith Appling (4.7 apg); Steals – Harris (2.0 spg).
Ohio State stat leaders: Points – LaQuinton Ross (14.6 ppg); Rebounds – Amir Williams (5.8 rpg); Assists – Aaron Craft (4.5 apg); Steals – Craft (2.5 spg).
Current Streaks: Michigan State W1, Ohio State L2
Point Spread: Ohio State -2.5
Prediction: I am very surprised to see Ohio State as a 2.5-point favorite here. I know Michigan State hasn’t been exactly rolling, but neither has Ohio State. The Buckeyes have two straight losses to Indiana and Penn State and their issues from earlier in the season are still big problems right now. The Buckeyes lack scorers, and that is a big problem against a team like Michigan State. Ohio State defended MSU well in the Breslin, but Gary Harris played very timid. I don’t think that will be the case today. Ohio State will be in the game and keep it close because of their defense, but ultimately the talent will win out, and Michigan State has a lot more of that. Michigan State 70, Ohio State 63
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Time: 6PM ET
Venue: Crisler Center
Records: Indiana 17-13, 7-10 Big Ten; Michigan 22-7, 14-3
Indiana stat leaders: Points – Yogi Ferrell (17.4 ppg); Rebounds – Noah Vonleh (9.1 rpg); Assists – Ferrell (3.8 apg); Steals – Will Sheehey (1.0 spg).
Michigan stat leaders: Points – Nik Stauskas (17.3 ppg); Rebounds – Jon Horford (4.6 rpg); Assists – Stauskas (3.5 apg); Steals – Caris LeVert (1.2 spg).
Current Streaks: Indiana L3, Michigan W4
Point Spread: Michigan -10.5
Prediction: This game should be interesting as Michigan certainly wants to hand a loss to Indiana, who has owned this series the past two seasons, while the Hoosiers need a strong run over the next week to make the NCAA Tournament, starting with a win today. I don’t think Indiana will get that win today, but I do expect this game to be somewhat of a dog fight. I was really impressed with Michigan’s performance at Illinois, but I don’t know that they can repeat that today. The Hoosiers will try to grind this one out and win with defense, because they can’t go in looking to match Michigan shot-for-shot. Ultimately, talent should win out. The Wolverines have more talent and still have a slim chance at making a run at a No. 1 seed should it win out and a few teams fall along the way. Michigan 68, Indiana 61