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3/11 Big Ten Tournament Preview: Semi-Finals

The conference prepares for two huge semi-final matchups on Saturday afternoon.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Minnesota Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Although Thursday’s slate of games in the 2017 Big Ten Tournament was a relative dud with four blowouts, Friday’s slate lived up to the hype. The day featured four competitive games, including a great overtime showdown between Michigan and Purdue and an upset win for Northwestern over Maryland.

Those games leave us with two Saturday matchups.

Here’s what to expect.

Big Ten Game of The Day:

-No. 8 Michigan Wolverines vs No. 4 Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • TV/Time: 1:00PM ET - CBS
  • Spread: Michigan (-3)

Talk about red hot. Despite both Michigan and Minnesota facing tall tasks in Purdue and Michigan State, respectively, on Friday, both teams pulled off huge wins. Now, the two teams will face off in what should be a competitive game throughout.

The lone regular season meeting between Michigan and Minnesota was a thriller. The two teams battled to a tie in regulation in Minneapolis. In overtime, the Gophers had just a little extra and pulled a narrow win out over the Wolverines.

Don’t expect this game to be any different.

Michigan has won 8 of its last 10 games and Minnesota has won 9 of its last 10 games. These are the two hottest teams in the league and something’s gotta give.

The major matchup to watch will be in the backcourt, where Michigan’s Derrick Walton will face off against Minnesota’s Nate Mason. Both received some type of All-Big Ten honors and both were prime contenders for first team status, which Mason received.

Upfront, it will also be interesting to see what Michigan big men Moritz Wagner and DJ Wilson can do with Minnesota’s Reggie Lynch. Of course, Lynch is the Big Ten’s best shot blocker and will work to make things difficult for the Wolverines.

Additionally, there’s one other thing worth noting. Minnesota guard Akeem Springs was injured in Friday’s win over Michigan State. He had been playing starter minutes for the Gophers. It’s unclear where he will play.

[Update: Akeem Springs announced that he will miss the remainder of the season for Minnesota with a lower body injury.]

  • Pick against the Spread: Michigan

The Rest:

-No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers vs No. 6 Northwestern Wildcats

  • TV/Time: 3:30PM ET - CBS
  • Spread: Wisconsin (-3)

The day’s second game should feature a battle between two teams trying to put a bright finish on what has been a rough last month of the season. Heading into Washington, D.C., Wisconsin had lost five of its last seven games and Northwestern had lost three of its last four.

But both teams appeared to get things back on track on Friday. Wisconsin scored a solid win over a hot Indiana team and Northwestern pulled off an upset against a Maryland team that was essentially playing a home game. Both were key victories that should build confidence for both groups.

And now, the two will tango on Saturday.

For Northwestern, this is a chance to further secure its NCAA Tournament footing and for Wisconsin, this is a chance to move back up the seeding ladder after sliding down substantially over the last month. Additionally, it’s a huge opportunity for the Wildcats, who have never been to the Big Ten Tournament championship game.

Expect this game to be a hard fought one, as both teams rank in the top 35 in defensive efficiency and in the top four in the league. In particular, Northwestern’s defense on Friday was impressive, allowing just 1.0 points per possession against a Maryland team with plenty of firepower.

The individual matchup is going to be Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig against Northwestern’s Bryant McIntosh. Ethan Happ is the best player on either team, but expect him to face plenty of double-teams in the matchup. So, it will be up to Koenig to keep the offense running.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Wisconsin