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Big Ten Tournament: Thursday Night Thoughts

Blowouts set the table for a great weekend.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Illinois vs Michigan Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Day two at the Big Ten Tournament was filled with blowouts. Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern and Indiana all won by 20 points or more. Thursday really just set the table for the weekend; the fat has largely been cut out of the tournament.

Let’s go over a few thoughts from Thursday’s action.

-Blowouts are good for the long term.

Blowouts generally mean favorites are winning. (Margin of victory on Thursday was just under 23 points.) Either the competition was pretty weak in the second round, or the four winners are peaking at the right time.

With apologies to Iowa, Illinois, Penn State and Rutgers, the weekend ought to be more exciting this way. The better teams have advanced. Upsets are fun, but it could be a better weekend with the best of the best.

Three particular match ups have the potential to be classics: Wisconsin-Indiana, Minnesota-Michigan State and Northwestern-Maryland. And, I wouldn’t sleep on Michigan-Purdue either.

-Indiana might be the tournament’s sleeper.

It’s hard to fly under the radar after shooting 60 percent from three and scoring 95 points. But, Indiana looked solid in their opening round game against Iowa. We shouldn’t overreact, but Wisconsin’s a good match up for the Hoosiers, just in that Wisconsin has struggled of late.

The Hoosiers, a ten seed, finished with a 7-11 conference record, and are unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament. Saddled with injuries and inconsistent play, Indiana really never established any consistency during the regular season.

Indiana’s depth was in full force against Iowa; the bench produced 35 points. The injuries have forced inconsistent lineups, but if the roster’s chemistry comes together, as it did on Thursday, Indiana could play into the weekend.

-Michigan’s Uniforms.

Michigan should probably play the rest of the Big Ten Tournament with some version of those practice-like uniforms. Due to a plane sliding off the runway, the Wolverines couldn’t travel to Washington, D.C. until Thursday morning. Thankfully nobody got hurt or worse.

Since the accident is under investigation, nothing could be removed from the plane, including all the team’s uniforms and gear. No matter, Michigan beat Illinois by 20, and the incident may have rallied the team.

-31-0 Scoring Runs.

They don’t happen very often. After taking a 9-6 lead over Northwestern, Rutgers didn’t score for the next 10 minutes. Not great, but it’s an even bigger problem if the opponent scores 31 points during the same stretch.

The Wildcats are likely in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. But, this team ought to have higher aspirations, and the Big Ten Tournament is the first opportunity to really showcase the progress in the post-season.

-Third Round Vulnerability.

Of the favorites, I’d consider Wisconsin the most vulnerable in the third round. Indiana may have just caught a hot streak against Iowa, but the Badgers haven’t been playing super well of late. If Indiana can defend a little and get open looks in transition, the Hoosiers could pull the upset and play into the weekend.

Right now, the available spreads are close. According to Covers, Michigan State’s a one-point favorite over Minnesota, and Purdue’s only laying 2.5-points against Michigan. (The lines for Wisconsin-Indiana and Maryland-Northwestern were not yet available on Covers.)

The line suggests Purdue faces a tough test, so even the one seed’s vulnerable in the quarterfinals. The weekend’s going to be fun.