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Big Ten Tournament Semi-Finals Preview: Two Top 10 Matchups

Preview all of Saturday’s Big Ten Tournament action.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten has enjoyed an incredible week in Indianapolis so far, with a plethora of exciting matchups and a few nail biters. And it’s all set up what could be a monster Saturday for the Big Ten Tournament with two top 10 showdowns. Michigan and Ohio State will battle in the early game and Illinois and Iowa will follow it up.

Let’s take a look at the schedule.

The Schedule:

-No. 1 Michigan Wolverines vs. No 5 Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Time/TV: 1:00PM ET (CBS)
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan by 4

Approximately three weeks ago, these two teams met in the only regular season meeting between the two. It was a truly epic matchup, with numerous lead changes, big shots, and some incredible performances. The game felt like a war. Michigan pulled out the game, but it was hard to criticize Ohio State too much. Both teams played well.

And now, those two will be meeting again. Ohio State has played each of the last two days, beating Minnesota on Thursday and Purdue on Friday while Michigan only played yesterday, topping Maryland after a bit of controversy. However, both sides enter the game playing inconsistently. Michigan is just 2-2 over its last four games and the Buckeyes are 2-4 over the team’s last six, including a loss to the Wolverines in late February. Expect both sides to enter this game looking to score a win to build some momentum for the Tourney.

The matchup looks pretty even on paper. Michigan is higher rated on the statistical sites, but only narrowly. And while the Wolverines seemingly have a better defense, Ohio State’s offense is truly elite, ranking fourth nationally on KenPom. The Buckeyes also have a dynamic set of playmakers in EJ Liddell and Duane Washington to make Michigan uncomfortable on Saturday afternoon.

Expect things to come down to the frontcourt. Hunter Dickinson has been fantastic for the Wolverines all season and was a key difference maker when the two teams met in February. If Ohio State is going to win, it’s going to need to slow down Dickinson. It will be quite a challenge. All eyes will be on Liddell and Kyle Young. Notably, Young is struggling through some injury concerns and there are some questions about if he’ll play on Saturday.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Ohio State

-No. 2 Illinois Fighting Illini vs. No 3 Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Time/TV: 3:30PM ET (CBS)
  • KenPom Spread: Illinois by 1

Since losing to Ohio State at home on January 16th, nobody has been playing better than Illinois. The team has been on an absolute tear, winning 12 of its last 13 games, including its last five games against top 15 KenPom teams. Over that period, Illinois has grown from an underachieving squad into a legitimate national title contender.

The Illini will hope to keep that incredible run going on Saturday against an Iowa team that’s also been trending up. The Hawkeyes haven’t won 12 of 13 games, but have won four in a row and eight of the team’s last nine games. The team’s much maligned defense has also improved, now up to 51st nationally on KenPom. Like Illinois, Iowa has fixed many of its issues and now looks like a legitimate threat to win it all.

So, we have an unstoppable force against an unmovable object.

Who wins?

Obviously, things look tight. The teams are basically dead even on KenPom and are both playing extraordinarily well. Illinois looks more balanced, with top 10 numbers on offense and defense, but Iowa has Luka Garza and a ferocious offense. Expect some incredible play making and things to come down to the final minutes. The role players will also have a huge say in who wins this. Players to watch here are Illinois’ Andre Curbelo and Iowa’s Keegan Murray. Both have been playing well recently and will need to show up on Saturday.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Illinois