The Big Ten Tournament starts tomorrow, and the BT Powerhouse staff couldn't be more excited! Here the staffers give their take on potential upsets, pick a most valuable player, and predict the championship game for the Big Ten tournament.
1. What team with a bye is most likely to get upset?
Andy Creal - I think you have to look at Nebraska. Not that they aren't deserving of their 4 seed but as a program they are just so new to this position. Assuming Ohio State beats lowly Purdue in the opening round it sets up a 4-5 matchup that presents a lot of issues for Nebraska. Ohio State is coming off a big home win against Michigan State to close the regular season and in March, defense plays a much bigger role in determining the outcome of games and that is one area the Buckeyes excel.
Thomas Beindit - You sort of have to go with Nebraska here, right? The Cornhuskers have been a great surprise, but they have the toughest road ahead. They will likely get OSU in their first game, which should already raise some flags. The Buckeyes have been the best Big Ten team in the conference tournament in the last 5 years, winning it 3 times and making the title game each time. Plus, along with a tougher road, there is a divide between those top 3 teams and Nebraska, despite the Cornhuskers beating MSU and Wisconsin. Essentially, with a thinner line between winning and losing and a tougher opponent, Nebraska has to be the pick.
Tim Beck - I think the most obvious pick would be Nebraska, however I am going to go away from the Cornhuskers here and pick Michigan. I just think that Indiana matches up with Michigan so well, that if the Hoosiers get by Illinois I would not be surprised to see Michigan fall. Yogi Ferrell has been beyond amazing against the Wolverines in two games. His quickness is a problem for the Wolverines. Yes, Michigan won in Ann Arbor on Sunday, but the Hoosiers seem to bring their best basketball for this matchup. I am not saying it will happen, but it will be the best shot outside of Nebraska to get upset.
Andrew Holmes - One thing I can guarantee about this week in college basketball? You will hear an announcer say something along the lines of "it is very difficult to beat a team, especially a good team, three times." That would be the case in the potential Iowa-MSU game. Both teams have struggled down the stretch, with Iowa going 1-5 in their last six and Michigan State going 2-4. The Spartans beat the Hawkeyes on senior night last week, but Indianapolis is going to have a much more even crowd. Historically, the 6 seed has played very well in the BTT. The lowest seed ever to win a tournament title? The 6 seeded Iowa Hawkeyes in 2001.
Jason Dorow - The answer here has to be Nebraska. None of the teams on bye are going to get an easy first game, but Nebraska will likely face Ohio State. They split in the regular season, but OSU clobbered the Cornhuskers by 31 in their victory. Nebraska is still on the bubble, unlike all the others team on bye, and questions remain about the depth of Tim Miles' squad. The experienced Buckeyes will present a tough task for Nebraska.
2. What are the odds a double-digit seed gets a victory?
Andy Creal - To put it blunt, not likely. If one is to pull the upset I have to look at the Penn State Minnesota matchup. The reason I believe there is a chance of an upset here is more because of the Gophers lack of consistency than of some sudden switch that Penn State is going to flip on and all of a sudden become highly competitive. The bottom of the Big Ten, like most major conferences, is comprised of a few very average programs.
Thomas Beindit - This may be surprising, but I actually think there's a pretty solid chance that we see one of Penn State, Northwestern, and Purdue snag a win. First, remember that none of these teams are horrible. Each has won 5 conference games already this year. Plus, let's look at the teams they face in the first round: OSU, Iowa, and Minnesota. OSU was swept by PSU this season and Minnesota went down to Northwestern this year. Along with this, Iowa had a close scare against PSU and OSU had a tougher opener against Purdue. Plus, Iowa has lost 5 of its last 6 games. On paper, the higher seeds are better, but we're not talking about Arizona against a MAC team here or something. Obviously, a double-digit seeding getting a victory would be an upset, but I think something like 40% odds isn't that unrealistic.
Tim Beck - The odds are not very good. The Iowa/Northwestern game is intriguing, but the Hawkeyes swept the Wildcats this season and the games were not really that close. The best chance for an upset I would think is the Minnesota/Penn State game. Again, Minnesota swept that series, including a win by nearly twenty on Sunday.
Andrew Holmes - Every double-digit seed has a chance, especially this season with each team having at least five wins. I wouldn't be surprised if they all won, but I think Purdue has the best shot against Ohio State. The Boilers had some impressive runs in the two losses against the Buckeyes. Purdue has the talent to beat anyone in the conference, but have struggled with effort and consistency in-game. Indianapolis isn't Mackey, but there should be more support for Purdue than Northwestern or PSU.
Jason Dorow - What's the closest you can get to zero percent? I see no way Northwestern defeats Iowa. There's simply too much size and depth in the Hawkeye lineup. Penn State gave Minnesota a scare last weekend, but the Gophers ended up with a 18-point victory. And Purdue has looked absolutely miserable in the last several weeks. Penn State is the only double-digit see with a shot, and it's a shot in the dark at that.
3. Who will be the most valuable player of the tournament?
Andy Creal - I think you have to look at the best player on the best team seed wise in this tournament. Nik Stauskus is poised to solidify his resume for Big Ten POY. It's also important to consider who him and the Wolverines will face. Both Illinois and Indiana have struggled mightily to defend Stauskus this season, particularly the Illini. A potential matchup with Aaron Craft in the semi-finals could be challenging but if the Wolverines get through to the final, neither Michigan State or Wisconsin have shown the ability to contain Michigan's sharpshooter.
Thomas Beindit - I'm going to go with Adreian Payne here. Payne is arguably the conference's top big man and MSU is almost surely going to need him. As of now, they are likely to face Iowa in their first game and with a win would most likely face Wisconsin. Both of these teams have a strong frontcourt and MSU will rely on Payne to make the difference. The Spartans need a big run in the Big Ten Tournament to get things back on track and Payne will be the key.
Tim Beck - It will come down between two players: Nik Stauskas and Frank Kaminsky. That is my Championship match, and the winner of that game will have the MVP of the Tournament.
Andrew Holmes - Terran Petteway, I think he leads the Huskers to the championship. This season has had two themes, anything is possible and Nebraska keeps getting better. Petteway had 26 points and 10 rebounds against Wisconsin and I think he carries that momentum into Banker's Life.
Jason Dorow - Gary Harris. Michigan State finally appears to be fully healthy. It's time for them to get some momentum going into the NCAA tournament. Harris is going to take them on a run in the Big Ten tournament.
4. Championship Game Predictions
Andy Creal - Despite Michigan State's recent struggles I see them figuring it out against Iowa (the only team the Spartans have defeated in its last four) and then defeating the Badgers in a close game. I don't think Ohio State has enough offense to keep up with Michigan. That sets up a battle for the mitten round 3 for what would be a fantastic championship game with a lot on the line for both teams. At the end of the day, you need players to put the ball in the basket and Michigan simply has more consistent, proven scorers at this time. It's a battle as always, but Michigan wins the tournament after winning the league a full 3 games. Michigan 78, MSU 74.
Thomas Beindit - Michigan has been pretty awful in the Big Ten Tournament during the last decade, but I think this is the year they get their act together. Not only are they a great team, but they have pretty good matchups. Indiana could be trouble if they face them, but Nebraska and OSU both struggled against Michigan this year. Michigan is simply better than every team in their side of the bracket. This makes sense as they're the #1 seed, but avoiding underachieving teams like Iowa who are loaded with talent was a big break. On the other side, Wisconsin and MSU are the favorites, but I think there is going to be a big run from a lower seeded team. I'm picking Iowa. This will probably blow up in my face, but I think their depth is going to allow them to play well in a back-to-back setting and they will finally get things clicking. In the championship game, I think I will take Michigan 75, Iowa 69.
Tim Beck - My two teams are the two best teams in the league. Before Wisconsin lost to Nebraska, fans were demanding respect that Wisconsin, not Michigan, be rewarded the BEST team in the B1G. They are not the best, but they are definitely the second best. MSU is a mess right now, but Izzo should have a few games to get it together. But he will run into Bo Ryan's squad before he figures it all out. Michigan, on the other side, may have the toughest matchup in their first game of the bye teams. This, of course, is if they face Indiana, and not Illinois. The Wolverines are arguably playing the best right now, and they will face off with the Badgers for the Championship. The rubber-match will go to the Wolverines: Michigan 73, Wisconsin 69.
Andrew Holmes - I think Michigan is a great team, and they could be headed to another NCAA title game. However, I don't think they are headed to the Big Ten Tournament title game, even though they are the best team in the league. History says Michigan plays poorly in the BTT, it said the same last year about #1 seeded Indiana, and the Hoosiers lost in the semis. Nebraska and Michigan are both playing extremely well right now, but someone has to lose. My gut and my heart have overruled my brain and they think Nebraska is going to keep shocking people: Nebraska 71, Wisconsin 68 p.s. The Badgers are still the hottest team on the other side of the bracket so they are the easy choice for the title game.
Jason Dorow - Michigan State has been all over the place lately. Finally, Tom Izzo has some time to calm his guys down and prepare for some big games. The Spartans are healthy and one of the most experienced teams in the conference. On the other side, Michigan is going to claw its way to the title game. Illinois or Indiana is going to challenge them in the first round (upset alert), but the Wolverines should sneak by. Nik Stauskas has been so good this year, and their big men have stepped up with McGary out. It's going to be an in-state battle for the conference title. Beating a team three times in one season is incredibly tough, especially one led by Adreian Payne and Gary Harris. Spartans prevail heading into the Big Dance. Michigan State 78, Michigan 74