The Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament tips off Thursday, March 8, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Heading into the tournament, the Big Ten continues to lead all conferences in the RPI and Sagarin ratings and is the only conference in the country with five top-15 teams.
So you could easily say it’s the toughest conference in college basketball. But it doesn’t mean the games will be the prettiest; in fact you might see a couple ugly ones.
No. 9 Illinois Fighting Illini 64 No.8 Iowa Hawkeyes 61
11:30 a.m., BTN
“How many times in that last week did you not think the Cardinals weren’t going to make the playoffs?” Weber asked the media following his team’s home loss to the #13 Michigan Wolverines.
“And yet they got in and didn’t even have to play the extra game, and they ended up winning the thing. A lot of things can happen but you have to go earn it,” he continued.
Weber is of course speaking of Major League Baseball’s most recent champion, as the St. Louis Cardinals over came a lackluster regular season to win the World Series; doing so in extremely exciting fashion. It also sounds like he’s describing the 2006 World Series Champion Cardinals, who went 83-79, and barely got into the postseason. That St. Louis team had about as poor a record as a champion can have.
It was an interesting appeal to analogy
But hey, there is a NCAA Regional in St. Louis this year.
On the bright side, Illinois has the most wins and the highest winning percentage in BTT history, and they are the only school to have ever advanced to or automatically qualified for the bye round of the tourney quarterfinals. I think this year will be no different as Illinois has beaten the Hawkeyes seven straight times.
No. 5 Indiana Hoosiers 78, No. 12 Penn State Nittany Lions 51
approx. 2 p.m., BTN
Match-up between the two schools that have hurt attendance at this event the most since it moved to Indy. Penn St. because it has three whole basketball fans, Indiana because although they’re nearby, Kelvin Sampson wrecked the program for three years. But Crean and Crimson is back, and Tom has IU fans excited again, so look for the house to be rockin’ and the Hoosiers to be rolling the Lions.
No. 7 Northwestern Wildcats 84, No. 10 Minnesota 77
5:30 p.m., ESPN2
It’s a shame for Northwestern that Seton Hall just dropped their last two Big East games to conference weaklings DePaul and Rutgers, both have RPI in the high 100s. NU is 1-10 now versus the RPI top 50. To me that sounds like you need to win at least two, not one in Indianapolis to get in. They’re on the last four in line now, but won’t stay there unless they take care of business themselves.
No. 6 Purdue 71, No. 11 Nebraska 63
approx. 8 p.m., ESPN2
No doubt the Boilers have had their issues in this building, and they will yet again in this tournament- just not in this game. They have too much more than the Huskers.
No. 1 Michigan State Spartans 70, Illinois 49
Yes, the Illini won the last meeting. No, that doesn’t matter one bit. Tom Izzo is going to be angry after dropping his last two, and looking to re-establish some era of good feelings entering the tournament. Expect a few questions about Weber’s job security in this postgame press conference and anticipate Izzo saying a lot of noble things about his good friend when those questions come up.
No. 5 Indiana Hoosiers 56, No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers 51
approx. 2:30 p.m., ESPN
For the Badgers, not as bad as the Penn State nightmare last year, but their hiccup before the tourney; in which I predict them to make a deep run. Expect lots of Wisconsin backcourt scoring, as Jordan Hulls is quite possibly the worst defender in power conference basketball
No. 2 Michigan Wolverines 65 vs. Northwestern 61 (2 OT)
6:30 p.m., BTN
Someone famously said it’s hard to beat the same team three times in one season. That guy hasn’t seen how DIFFICULT it is for NU to close UM. The lack of closing reminds me of Charlie Brown and that red-haired girl he had a crush on. Ok, that analogy is lame because “Peanuts” is not funny even when you are a kid, but you can say the same for Family Circus, Hagar the Horrible, Beetle Bailey, Cathy and The Lockhorns. Expect another low-scoring, super-tight game.
No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes 88, Purdue 64
approx. 9 p.m., BTN
William Buford has kind of been forgotten this year, and I’m expecting him to breakout for 25+ here. For the life of me, I still don’t get why Thad Matta only plays like 6 guys every game. During the Evan Turner era I’d let it slide, but when you have all these big name recruits, why not use them? What’s the point in having all those McDonald’s All-Americans if they don’t play?
Michigan State 69, Indiana 61
1:40 p.m., CBS Sports
Interesting to see how the Spartans adjust to life without wing Branden Dawson, who’s been a key contributor this year, and a crucial part of their revival. Expect guys like Brandon Kearney, Austin Thornton, Travis Trice, Brandon Wood to do some of the things Dawson used to do before the ACL. Spartans look for and get revenge from last week.
Michigan 57, Ohio State 51
approx. 4 p.m., CBS Sports
This game will not get the hype it deserves because these two schools are known first and foremost for football. As great a rivalry as they have- hey Kate Upton was at the game last year, this is going to be one hell of a basketball game. Look for Jordan Morgan and Trey Burke to step up big time here.
Michigan 59, Michigan St. 54
3:30 p.m., CBS Sports
I still think MSU is the best team in the conference, but the Dawson injury, coming off a two game slide is difficult to stop. Look at the Wolverines! Big Ten regular season co-champs, now a tourney title, to complement a BCS win college football. Athletic Director Dave Brandon is riding high right now. Hard to pick a MOP for this tournament. It’s like Jermaine Dye getting World Series MVP in 2005, it’s a team effort really, but it’s got to go to someone, so I’ll predict Trey Burke.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
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