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3/2 Big Ten Tournament Preview: The big boys take the stage

In the third day of the Big Ten tournament, the top four seeds take the court at Madison Square Garden.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

This is where it starts getting fun folks. The Big Ten tournament enters its third day and the top four seeds begin their quest for glory. Again, we must raise the question of how the double bye factors into performance heading into today’s games. Extra rest can be both a blessing and a curse as we have recognized in essentially any sport. However, I am not too terribly worried about these top seeds. These are veteran teams that have been in this position before. Whether or not they win is another conversation though.

Here is a look inside today’s contests:

Game of the Day

#4 Nebraska Cornhuskers vs #5 Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 2:25 pm ET - BTN

The Wolverines were tested by Iowa yesterday. Michigan was down at halftime and ended up winning by only six points. Much of this has to do with how poorly the Wolverins shot from three-point range. After 40 minutes, the team shot a total of 16 percent from long range on 19 attempts. One has to assume that Michigan will not shoot that poorly from beyond the arc again, right?

There was not one specific player that stuck out for Michigan yesterday which is also worrisome. Moritz Wagner was limited to only 11 points on eight shot attempts, so he will need to pace the Wolverine offense if they hope to win. They will be up against a Nebraska team that is full of energy and momentum.

Having won their last two games of the regular season, the Huskers were able to move up to the fourth seed in the tournament. Their last two wins over Indiana and Penn State were both impressive. This is the sort of stage that is set for James Palmer Jr. and if he can get going, Nebraska may be tough to knock off. Given Michigan’s sub-par performance yesterday, I am more inclined to take the Huskers in this one.

  • Pick: Nebraska

The Rest

#1 Michigan State Spartans vs #9 Wisconsin Badgers

  • Time/TV: Noon ET - BTN

The Badgers were able to squeak by Maryland yesterday afternoon despite only scoring 59 points in that game. It was Brad Davison who paced Wisconsin yet again, scoring 13 points. Ethan Happ chipped in 14 as well and the Badgers won even though they shot just 16 percent from three-point range. Their 36 percent mark from the field does not look too palatable either.

Michigan State has two wins over Wisconsin already this season. However, the Badgers looked sharp and almost upset the Spartans back on February 25th. Davison scored 30 points despite injuring his shoulder. It is worth noting that Wisconsin was in their home gym for that game. A neutral floor may change the dynamic completely, in my mind.

  • Pick Against Spread: Wisconsin

#2 Ohio State Buckeyes vs #7 Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Time/TV: 6:30 pm ET - BTN

This is honestly the most intriguing match-up of all the games today. Penn State has the two regular season victories over the Buckeyes. Yet, Ohio State may be sharper and more focused given the rest they have had. One has to assume that the Buckeyes will also be hellbent on beating a team that has quite frankly, dominated them all season.

Tony Carr scored 25 points against Northwestern last night, but it took him 20 shot attempts to do it. I am not entirely sold on Penn State in this tournament yet. They lost their last three games of the regular season and they looked okay against a downright lackadaisical Northwestern team yesterday. Personally, I do not think they will score their third win over Ohio State this evening.

  • Pick: Ohio State

#3 Purdue Boilermakers vs #14 Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • Time/TV: 8:55 pm ET - BTN

Somehow, some way, Rutgers has continued to play the spoiler in this Big Ten tournament. They turned a fine performance against Indiana last night, one far better than their first round win over Minnesota. The one constant factor in those two victories has been the performance of Corey Sanders. He turned in another great game, scoring 28 points against the Hoosiers.

They will face their tallest task yet this evening as they take on Purdue to end day three. The Boilermakers are a far better team than both Indiana and Minnesota, so the Scarlet Knights will have a tougher time controlling this game. What would worry me is if Corey Sanders gets locked down by Carsen Edwards, does Rutgers have the supplementary pieces? Can Geo Baker do enough to beat a veteran team like Purdue? Probably not. I just think the Boilermakers are too seasoned to lose this game. They will have to weather the initial storm of Rutgers momentum as the game begins tonight though.

  • Pick: Purdue