The first full day of the Big Ten Tournament tips off today in what will be a fanless experience as the Big Ten closed the tourney to the public. It’s definitely going to be interesting to see teams play in an empty NBA arena.
- Time/TV: 12:00 PM ET (BTN)
It’s a good thing that Rutgers got a big win at Purdue to close the season because if they were still on the bubble heading into today they’d likely have problems. While the Scarlet Knights have had a surprising season this year, they’ve struggled away from New Jersey and Michigan has had no issue with them in two games this season (one in Ann Arbor, one in New York).
The first time these two teams played Michigan didn’t have Isaiah Livers but still found a way to win even though Rutgers had 26 (!) offensive rebounds and shot 83 field goals compared to Michigan’s 47. Of course 83 shots is irrelevant when you shoot 32.5% from the field and 25% from three. Rutgers did more of the same in their second outing where they shot 34.9% from the field and 16.7% from three.
The Scarlet Knights haven’t set the world on fire with their offense but guys like Ron Harper Jr. and Geo Baker have done enough, especially with a strong defense that has shut down opposing teams. Michigan has had modest offense success in both games against Rutgers and will now have Livers at their disposal. Considering Rutgers inability to figure out the Michigan defense and it could be tough sledding for the Scarlet Knights.
Look for Michigan to win a third time against Rutgers today.
#12 Minnesota Golden Gophers vs #5 Iowa Hawkeyes
- Time/TV: 2:25 PM ET (BTN) (25 minutes after Game 1)
After a slow first half the Gophers exploded in the second, scoring 30 points in less than 10 minutes after scoring 29 in the first half against Northwestern. Minnesota cruised down the stretch to an easy 74-57 win over Northwestern off of Daniel Oturu’s 24 points and an impressive 50% clip from three. Minnesota has now made 30 threes over the last two games and will look to continue their offensive explosion against an Iowa team that doesn’t exactly play defense.
That’s fun because Iowa’s defense has somehow held Minnesota to 55 and 52 points in their two games against the Gophers. In those two games the Gophers shot less than 37% from the field, hit around 25% of their threes and shot 50% from the line. If Minnesota wants to keep moving on in the tournament they’ll need to be the Minnesota team from the last two games and act like the Minnesota team that played Iowa twice this year never existed.
Of course it’s a possibility Minnesota could pull off the upset. The Gophers have lost time and time again in close games they should have won against tournament caliber teams. While they’re the 12 seed in the conference the Gophers could have easily been an NCAA Tournament team if they simply could close out games. Mix that with an Iowa team that has had their issues on defense and there’s always a chance Minnesota keeps up their recent momentum.
The Hawkeyes will once again rely on Luka Garza, who averaged 22.5 points and 9 rebounds in their two games versus Minnesota. The center has been a force inside and it should be entertaining to see him go up against Oturu once again. Iowa has a strong supporting cast of players around him that tend to not get the attention they deserve, with Joe Wieskamp and CJ Fredrick being two prime examples. Iowa will need a better offensive performance than they had against the Gophers earlier in the year but they have more than enough weapons to do so.
Minnesota will be playing their third game in five days and sooner or later their offensive success needs to regress back to the mean. The Gophers will do what they did all season long...play a good team close, put themselves into position for a big win and then fall down the stretch.
#10 Purdue Boilermakers vs #7 Ohio State Buckeyes
- Time/TV: 6:30 PM ET (BTN)
Purdue’s record isn’t pretty but they had a prime opportunity to push themselves towards the right side of the bubble with a win against Rutgers. It didn’t happen and now Purdue will need to make a run in the Big Ten Tournament if they want a chance to make the tourney. Luckily for Purdue they’ll have some opportunities as a win over Ohio State here would give them a chance to add another big win tomorrow against Michigan State.
Ohio State won four in a row before falling at a hot Michigan State. The Buckeyes have been playing much better as of late but the Spartans were able to slow down Kaleb Wesson and limit Ohio State from outside. Purdue will need to replicate that success on defense and attempt to make the Buckeyes beat them from outside. Purdue has the defense to do it but their inconsistencies on offense loom large.
If Purdue can figure out their offense for a full 40 minutes they’ll probably find a way to live on to fight another die. Unfortunately their inability to shoot the ball has been so problematic down the stretch it’s hard to call for them to do so tonight. They’ll hang around but look for Ohio State to move on.
Pick: Ohio State
#11 Indiana Hoosiers vs #6 Penn State Nittany Lions
- Time/TV: 8:55 PM ET (BTN) (25 minutes after Game 3)
The Hoosiers avoided a potentially costly upset against Nebraska and now will face Penn State in today’s last game. The two teams split the series, with both schools winning at home. For Penn State today will be a big game as they try to bounce back from a 1-5 run over their last six games. The Nittany Lions hit one of their lowest points this year when they lost to Northwestern by double digits to close the season.
Thankfully for Penn State they can’t get much worse than their last game when they shot 32.9% from the field and 27.8% from three. With Lamar Stevens, Myles Dread and Curtis Jones shooting 14 of 47 from the field it’s not a huge surprise they fell on the road. Penn State will try to regroup and get a better offensive performance from their starting five as they play an Indiana team that likely punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
Indiana has been wildly inconsistent at times this season and every time they seem to finally piece it together they end up losing. For awhile they looked like they might have problems against Nebraska before they pieced things together and today’s outing against Penn State will provide a much bigger challenge. Indiana hasn’t had great success in the Big Ten Tournament and with the Hoosiers likely solidifying their postseason status it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see them come out flat against a Penn State team trying to avoid a freefall into the NCAA Tournament.
Lamar Stevens and the Penn State backcourt should bounce back from a rough outing in Evanston and do enough to send Indiana home tonight.
Pick: Penn State