With Wednesday’s games in the books we can now move forward to an even more exciting Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament. Each game has the making to be a great one with all eight teams playing for something.
None of these games are expected to be blowouts, and I’m anticipating at least one if not a few upsets to come out of Thursday’s action.
Let’s take a look at the four games that will take place on Thursday in Washington, D.C. in the Big Ten Tournament. All lines are courtesy of Vegas Insider.
Big Ten Game of the Day:
-No. 7 Iowa Hawkeyes vs. No. 10 Indiana Hoosiers
- TV/Time: 6:30 PM ET on ESPN2
- Spread: Indiana (-1)
All of Thursday’s games in the Big Ten Tournament are going to be great, but for me this is the best one on the slate for a number of different reasons.
This year’s 7-10 matchup features a pair of desperate teams that still both have an outside chance of reaching the big dance. Mix that with a great regular season matchup that needed overtime and we got a recipe for a barn burner.
Both teams enter the Big Ten Tournament on winning notes. Indiana picked up only its second win in its last eight games in the regular season finale at Ohio State, and Iowa cruises into the Big Ten Tournament on a four-game winning streak, which was started with that thrilling overtime win over Indiana on Feb. 21. Senior guard Peter Jok had 35 points that day — 22 from the free throw line — to lead the Hawkeyes back from an early 13-point deficit. However, it should be noted Iowa shot 28 more free throws then Indiana in that game.
Neither team has lived up to expectations for most of the year, but both still have a lot of talent and are dangerous teams in a single-elimination bracket. Indiana’s downward spiral to end the season has been well documented but this is still a team that beat Kansas and North Carolina. And Iowa has grown up a lot throughout the season, and is starting to really see this young team bloom down the stretch.
The key matchup to watch in this game is the battle between Jok and Hoosiers junior guard James Blackmon Jr. Jok got the best of Blackmon in the first matchup as Blackmon finished with 18 points, but more importantly fouled out. Whoever has a better game between these two is going to put their team in a good position to win this game. Also keep an eye on the battle in the post between Iowa freshman forward Tyler Cook and Indiana sophomore center Thomas Bryant.
I like Indiana to win this one. As I mentioned above both teams have a lot to play for and I would go as far as saying Iowa has more to play for with a better chance at reaching the tournament. But this time around Indiana won’t send the Hawkeyes to the charity stripe 47 times and they’ll have a better strategy for containing Jok. The Hoosiers pop the Hawkeyes bubble and remain alive for at least one more day in the nation’s capital.
- Pick Against The Spread: Indiana
-No. 8 Michigan Wolverines vs. No. 9 Illinois Fighting Illini
- TV/Time: 12:00 PM ET on BTN
- Spread: Michigan (-5)
This was a close second for my game of the day on Thursday with an exciting start to the day expected. Michigan and Illinois kickoff the action on Thursday and will feature a pair of NCAA Tournament bubble teams. The Wolverines enter the contest after throttling Nebraska in the season finale, while Illinois looks to bounce back from a disappointing loss at Rutgers in their season finale.
These two split their regular season battles with the home team picking up the victory. The Wolverines used the victory over Illinois on Jan. 21 to jumpstart a strong finish to their season, winning eight of their final 12 games. During that stretch senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. was incredible averaging 17.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game.
Opposite of Walton will be Illinois senior guard Malcolm Hill. Both of these guys can put the ball in the hoop and do a little bit of everything else for their teams. Expect both to have great games, but I think the game-changer in this one is Michigan junior forward D.J. Wilson. He put up 19 points in each of the two contests against Illinois earlier this year, and I think he’ll have another big game on Thursday.
Behind the strong play of Walton and Wilson Michigan will pick up the win to solidify its spot in the NCAA Tournament and move on to face Purdue in the quarterfinals.
- Pick Against The Spread: Michigan
-No. 5 Michigan State Spartans vs. No. 13 Penn State Nittany Lions
- TV/Time: Approximately 2:30 PM ET on BTN
- KenPom Spread: Michigan State (-4)
Michigan State will get its chance at revenge on Thursday against Penn State as they look to avenge one of their worst losses of the season. The Nittany Lions got the Spartans back in January on a neutral court game in Philadelphia, but don’t expect a similar result on Thursday.
Penn State needed overtime to get past Nebraska in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday, and will need to get right back up if they want to pull the upset on Thursday. The Nittany Lions dominated the boards in the earlier matchup between these two teams, but with a much improved freshman forward Nick Ward and tired legs on the Penn State bench I don’t think that’ll happen again.
Penn State has experienced some success in the Big Ten Tournament under Pat Chambers, and I do think this one will be close at half. But Michigan State has too much to lose in this one and I think we’ll start to see Penn State show signs of fatigue in the second half. The Spartans will make just enough plays down the stretch to pull it out. The win should lock the Spartans into their 20th straight NCAA Tournament and also sets up an exciting matchup with Minnesota on Friday in the quarterfinals.
- Pick Against The Spread: Michigan State
-No. 6 Northwestern Wildcats vs. No. 14 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
- TV/Time: Approximately 9:00 PM ET on ESPN2
- KenPom Spread: Northwestern (-7)
The final game of the day on Thursday could end up being another upset special that no one would have predicted.
Rutgers used a big performance from junior guard Nigel Johnson on Wednesday to knock off Ohio State in the opening round. Rutgers has picked up two straight wins for the first time since before Christmas and creates a scary matchup for Northwestern.
Rutgers played the Wildcats tough in both games during the regular season, and has enough talent in the backcourt to also make this one interesting. In the end Northwestern is simply the better team and in these kinds of tournaments the better team normally wins.
Like in the first two games, expect it to be close throughout, but in the end Northwestern pulls away with a few big shots from their star in the backcourt Bryant McIntosh. But Rutgers will cover the spread.
- Pick Against The Spread: Rutgers