When the 2011 Big Ten Tournament tips off in Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Thursday, there are several teams that must get wins if they have any shot at getting into the NCAA Tournament. Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin have separated themselves this season as the top-tier Big Ten teams. These three teams have the best chance of winning the tournament. Ohio State leads both Purdue and Wisconsin with the best chances, while Purdue leads Wisconsin for the second best chances to win it all, according to kenpom.com.
This year's Big Ten Tournament is sure to be an exciting one. With the Big Ten as competitive as it has been in a long time, there are sure to be upsets, drama and buzzer beaters.
After the jump, you will find my projected winners, game by game. It's March! Let the madness begin!
Game 1 - #8 Northwestern Wildcats vs. #9 Minnesota Golden Gophers
Date: Thursday, 3/10 Time: 2:30pm ET TV: ESPN 2
Who would have ever thought at the beginning of the season that Minnesota would be the ninth seed in the Big Ten Tournament? But then again, who would have thought Michigan would be the fourth seed? This season has been full of surprises. Minnesota and Northwestern split the season series but Minnesota is playing terrible basketball at the moment. They have lost their spark. Northwestern's last regular season game was Minnesota, so playing them back to back should have Northwestern pretty well prepared, as that is probably the last film they watched. I think this will be a close game as both teams don't have a shot at the NCAA Tournament unless they win this tournament. In the end I think Northwestern's John Shurna and Michael Thompson propel Northwestern to victory.
Projected Winner: #8 Northwestern
Game 2 - #7 Michigan St. Spartans vs. #10 Iowa Hawkeyes
Date: Thursday, 3/10 Time: 25 minutes after Game 1 TV: ESPN 2
Michigan State is coming off a loss at their rival Michigan, while Iowa is coming off a huge upset on senior night against Purdue. Michigan State put the beat down on Iowa in their last home game of the season and I think it is very possible that Iowa gets their heads caught in the clouds in this game as they will still be flying high after that upset. If you remember, Iowa tore apart Michigan State in Iowa City, in probably the worst loss of Tom Izzo's career. I don't think that happens again. I think Michigan State wins by a comfortable margin in this one. I am expecting big games from Draymond Green and Kalin Lucas. Michigan State will have to prove that they belong in the NCAA Tournament. If they win this, I think they really must beat Purdue in order to ensure a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Iowa's road ends here.
Projected Winner: #7 Michigan State
Game 3- #6 Penn St. Nittany Lions vs. #11 Indiana Hoosiers
Date: Thursday, 3/10 Time: 7:30pm ET TV: Big Ten Network
Penn State has a chance to get back on the bubble if they make an impressive run in this tournament. To do that, they would likely have to beat Wisconsin and Purdue. It definitely wouldn't be easy but they have beaten Wisconsin this season at home and came within a basket of beating Purdue on the road, so anything is possible. IU and Penn State and only met once in the regular season with Penn State winning on the road 69-60. I think that game will resemble how this game will go. Indiana has no shot at a post-season, while Penn State knows they are playing for their NCAA Tournament lives. I think Penn State wins a close one.
Projected Winner: #6 Penn State
Game 4 - #1 Ohio St. Buckeyes vs. #8 Northwestern Wildcats
Date: Friday, 3/11 Time: 12:00pm ET TV: ESPN
Ohio State is coming off a big win over Wisconsin at home. Northwestern would have beaten Minnesota to get here. Ohio State has only played Northwestern once this season in a game where they escaped by one point on the road. It would be interesting to see how Ohio State reacts after their big win and with Northwestern still holding on to hopes of an NCAA Tournament. I think this has the potential to be close. If Jon Diebler get firing from three point range, I don't see how Northwestern can make up the points. It all depends on who shows up and how they show up. But Ohio State should win this game with ease.
Projected Winner: #1 Ohio State
Game 5 - #4 Michigan Wolverines vs. #5 Illinois Fighting Illini
Date: Friday, 3/11 Time: 25 minutes after Game 4 TV: ESPN
Illinois beat Michigan at home by two points earlier this year. I think this Michigan team is gelling at the right time. Illinois is coming off a game where they beat Indiana by nearly 30 points. I think Michigan makes this another close game and pulls it out in the final 10 minutes. Michigan is a team that started the Big Ten regular season with a 1-6 record and have since then went 8-3. It has been an unexpected impressive season from Michigan, while it has been a disappointing one for Illinois. This will make for a great game.
Projected Winner: #4 Michigan
Game 6 - #2 Purdue Boilermakers vs. #7 Michigan St. Spartans
Date: Friday, 3/11 Time: 6:30pm ET TV: Big Ten Network
It is hard to beat an opponent three times in the same season. Purdue beat Michigan State both times by double digits. By 10 at home and by 20 on the road. Purdue is coming off a loss to Iowa, one that probably ticks this team off. Purdue is very good coming off loses. They probably feel embarrassed after taking a two point loss in Iowa City. I see Purdue putting this one away. I think it will be another double digit win by Purdue as they will pull away in the second half. Michigan State's record this year describes what they are. I don't think Michigan State will have enough gas left in the tank to overcome the Boilermakers. This is a game that Michigan State really needs to win to get into the Big Dance, but I just don't see them doing it.
Projected Winner: #2 Purdue
Game 7 - #3 Wisconsin Badgers vs. #6 Penn St. Nittany Lions
Date: Friday, 3/11 Time: 25 minutes after Game 6 TV: Big Ten Network
Here is my risky pick of the tournament. I think Penn State has a really good chance of upsetting the Badgers, as Wisconsin isn't their best away from the Kohl Center. Penn State has already beat Wisconsin once this season and they are coming off a letdown on senior night against the number one team in the country. I think Penn State wins this because Talor Battle and Jeff Brooks have big games. Penn State is capable of shutting down some of Wisconsin's key scorers and I think they do it.
Projected Winner: #6 Penn State
Game 8 - #1 Ohio St. Buckeyes vs. #4 Michigan Wolverines
Date: Saturday, 3/12 Time: 1:40pm ET TV: CBS
At last, a rematch of the 2010 Big Ten buzzer beater of the year in the Big Ten Tournament. This time, in the semifinal, rather than the quarterfinal. I think Michigan has good of a shot at beating Ohio State as anyone right now. I think ultimately Ohio State gets an easier quarterfinal game and Michigan should be a little worn down from Illinois the day before. I see Ohio State prevailing in a close one with arch-rival Michigan. Ohio State advances to the Big Ten Tournament final for the third year in a row.
Projected Winner: #1 Ohio State
Game 9 - #2 Purdue Boilermakers vs. #6 Penn State Nittany Lions
Date: Saturday, 3/12 Time: 25 minutes after Game 8 TV: CBS
Purdue and Penn State were interesting to watch this year. Purdue beat Penn State easily on the road, but only pulled off a one point victory at home against the Nittany Lions. I think Big Ten Player of the Year, JaJuan Johnson will have his team ready to play in this one. Talor Battle and his team will also be fired up as they would be coming off a huge win against Wisconsin and would be playing to advance to the final game for the first time ever. With that said, I think Purdue wants a Big Ten title this year as they were let down at Iowa and had no shot at it. That disappointing game propels them to the final.
Projected Winner: #2 Purdue
Game 10 - #1 Ohio St. Buckeyes vs. #2 Purdue Boilermakers
Date: Sunday, 3/13 Time: 3:30pm ET TV: CBS
A rematch of the 2009 Big Ten Tournament, where Purdue prevailed over Ohio State for their first Big Ten Tournament title. This year, Ohio State beat Purdue very easily at home, while Purdue's E`Twaun Moore scored 38 points at home in the game against Ohio State that helped push the Boilermakers to victory. This is a very intriguing matchup. The rubber match, as some like to call it. I think this will be a very close game and a very difficult one for Ohio State as Purdue's home away from home is Conseco Fieldhouse. With all the scoring threats in this game and with Ohio State handling Purdue on the road really easily, it think that Ohio State will win this tournament, in a close one. But, I wouldn't be shocked if Purdue pulled it out if this matchup did occur.
Projected 2011 Big Ten Tournament Champion: #1 Ohio State
Some of the BT Powerhouse staff picked their Big Ten Tournament winners.. they are below!
StegerWithSwagg- "Ohio State. Plain and simple. With Purdue and Wisconsin both losing, they also lose a bunch of momentum coming into the tournament. The way that Ohio State is playing is ridiculous. They are almost unstoppable and they can take on every team in the Big Ten. Look for Ohio State to own the tournament and take their momentum into a number one seed and a good shot in the NCAA Tournament."
OBrienSchofieldismyHero- "Wisconsin. They're amazing when coming off a loss, and I would NOT want to be in Indiana/Penn State's shoes right now."
ratherfantastic- "I'm going with Ohio State on this one. I have no clue how long Jon Threebler's hot streak can possibly last, but I think That Matta's will have this team focused for the post-season from the get-go, and there may be some close calls, but I think the Bucks will pull it off. Just watching Ohio State play, they're so amazingly efficient on offense and tenacious on defense. I like to knock on teams that don't go deep in their bench, but did they even go 7 deep in the first 30 minutes of today's game? I think the only guy coming off the bench for Matta for most of that game was Craft, who was great. They have the most complete and consistent starting lineup in college basketball, and that is why they are my first pick, followed by Michigan. That said, I can't shake the feeling that Northwestern (who lost by a combined 4 points to OSU, I believe) could pull the upset on the Bucks if they take care of Minnesota. In that case, my pick for a Championship Game is Michigan vs. Wisconsin, where I say Michigan gets revenge from that banked three-pointer by John Gasser. In other words, I'm confident in my indecisiveness."
BT Hoops- "I remain hopeful that Purdue will win it, but I just think Ohio State is going to go into a tournament mode, and they will be deadly. My pick is Ohio State."