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Big Ten Tournament Bracket: Rapid Reaction

What should fans be thinking about this year’s Big Ten Tournament?

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

With the conclusion of the Big Ten’s regular season on Sunday evening, fans finally got their first look at the 2018 Big Ten Tournament bracket. It’s an interesting slate of games that should feature a plethora of exciting matchups.

Let’s take a quick look and the bracket and dive right in.

Thoughts:

1. The top half of the bracket is ridiculous.

There are plenty of things to take away from the Big Ten Tournament bracket reveal on Sunday night, but nothing stood out to me more than what the top half of the bracket looks like. It’s one that looks immensely tougher than the bottom.

If you don’t believe me, just take a look at some of the details. The advanced stats show things to be relatively even, but I think the momentum is all on the top side. Here’s just a few facts about the teams in the top half:

  • No. 1 Michigan State: Won 12 straight games.
  • No. 4 Nebraska: Won eight of last nine games.
  • No. 5 Michigan: Won seven of last eight games.
  • No. 8 Maryland: Won two of last three games.
  • No. 9 Wisconsin: Won four of last six games.

On its face, that’s a pretty loaded group. Michigan State hasn’t lost since January 19th and there are at least four other teams who seem to have a little momentum. Add in that some of the above losses came to other teams on the list and this looks even more significant. For instance, Wisconsin's only losses since February 4th came to Michigan and Michigan State. Both of those teams are also in the top half of the bracket.

And while the advanced stats show things to be relatively balanced, the “momentum” I described above can be seen as well. In fact, when you look at just how teams have played since January 26th, the most efficient teams in the Big Ten are Michigan and Wisconsin. Both the Wolverines and Badgers are in the top 20 nationally.

There’s no telling how things will unfold, but things look remarkably difficult on paper. Expect some absolute battles in that half of the bracket.

2. Rivalries, anyone?

We always get plenty of fun games in the Big Ten Tournament, but fans have rarely gotten to enjoy marquee rivalry games in the event. While these matchups have happened before, they have not happened with much regularity. The last Big Ten Tournament with multiple rivalry games was probably 2014, but that could change very shortly.

Not only does it look like Indiana and Purdue could be facing off on Friday, but Michigan and Michigan State are also poised to face off on Saturday as well. That would be great news for college basketball fans everywhere and welcome news considering that both of these matchups were only played once this season.

There might not be any rivalry games scheduled right now, but don’t sleep on the potential of two of the Big Ten’s best rivalry games playing out in New York City this weekend. If people are worried about a lack of attention on this year’s Big Ten Tournament, that’s a way to fix things.

3. The odds seem to favor Purdue.

Even though Michigan State is the one seed heading into this year’s Big Ten Tournament, the odds actually don’t favor the Spartans. A look at TRank reveals that the Boilermakers could be the team to beat in New York City:

Not only does Purdue have better odds of winning the Big Ten Tournament, the team also has better odds of getting to the semi-finals and the finals this week. The odds are relatively close, but that’s a pretty interesting development.

Obviously, this is a byproduct of that deep top half of the bracket, but Purdue will be the team to keep an eye on this week. Can the Boilermakers use a great Big Ten Tournament to launch themselves into the NCAA Tournament? We will see.