The Big Ten Tournament continues into the second day with a few more marquee matchups scattered throughout the day. The biggest game, of course, being a huge bubble watch game between Indiana and Michigan tipping things off before noon today.
Let’s take a look at the upcoming action.
Game of the Day
Time/TV: 11:30 AM ET BTN
Line: Michigan -2.0
In the first game today is a huge bubble matchup between Michigan and Indiana.
As of right now the Wolverines are on the right side of bubble, thanks to wins over Michigan State and Ohio State to close the season. The Wolverines are somewhat firmly in, around the 10 or 11 seed in most brackets, but a loss to another bubble team in Indiana could make things more stressful. Even more so if there are any bids stolen throughout the week.
In a much more problematic position is an Indiana team that was hoping to make it to the postseason in Mike Woodson’s first season as coach. They probably should have been a postseason team, but after an absolute collapse at Ohio State, losing a must win home game to Rutgers and then failing to capitalize on an upset bid over Purdue, Indiana is on the wrong side of the bubble. They’ve fallen so far, blowing countless opportunities, that a win over Michigan and a loss on Friday will likely not be enough. If Indiana wants a realistic shot at the NCAA Tournament they’ll need to advance to at least the semifinals.
When these two teams played in Bloomington the Hoosiers got ran out of the gym, losing by 18 points. They failed to slow down Hunter Dickinson, something many teams have struggled with. The Hoosiers struggled all over the floor, shooting 39.3% from the field, 26.3% from three and only 69.2% from the line. That’s more or less been the story for Indiana, still struggling shooting the ball with an offense that underwhelms at the worst of times. While guys like Xavier Johnson have etched out a bigger role on offense, the team still occasionally leans a bit too heavily on Trayce Jackson-Davis.
Michigan has been playing better to close out the season and will now have head coach Juwan Howard back on the sideline. The one area they haven’t been able to figure out, however, is the ability to shoot from the perimeter. Luckily for Michigan they’re facing another offensively challenged team that won’t light up the scoreboard from deep. Indiana struggled heavily slowing down Dickinson last time they met so look for Michigan to do more of the same.
Even if you thought Indiana had the personnel to land a big win today, Indiana continues to come up short whenever they need a win. Today will be no different.
Time/TV: 2:00 PM ET BTN
In the first game of the Big Ten Tournament the Wildcats came from behind to knock off Nebraska by two points in a thriller. They have a quick turnaround as they tip off in the second game of the day against Iowa. These two teams faced off at the end of February, with Iowa winning by 21 .
The Wildcats have been playing solid on the defensive side of the ball as of late. Unfortunately, though, their offensive output hasn’t quite been there this season. Boo Buie and Pete Nance are solid offensively, but the Wildcats don’t have many prominent scorers past them and don’t shoot the ball particularly well from the perimeter. Northwestern somewhat makes up for that by limiting turnovers and playing solid defense, but they’ll need more against Iowa today.
Iowa got hot to close the season, going 8-1 before losing in the season finale by two points at Illinois. One of the biggest improvements has been a much better defensive output from Iowa, helping fix their biggest weakness. The Hawkeyes offense has been high flying all season, led by Keegan Murray, and has a laundry list of weapons that can score. Can Northwestern slow them down? It’s doesn’t seem likely.
Northwestern has the defense to hang around with Iowa for a little while, but they don’t have enough offense to land the upset. Iowa moves on to the quarterfinals.
Maryland Terrapins vs Michigan State Spartans
Time/TV: 6:30 PM ET BTN
Line: Michigan State -3.0
It’s weird to remember that Michigan State was 17-4 and 8-2 in conference play just over a month ago. Closing the season 3-7, Michigan State saved face with a win over Purdue at the end of February. They then went on to close the season with a win over Maryland, the same team they face tonight.
In their last matchup, Michigan State built a 20 point lead at home entering the break. The Terps crawled back into the game, cutting the deficit down to three in the second half. Michigan State committed 14 turnovers, a major issue throughout the season for the Spartans. Maryland, however, shot 39.3% from the field and only 27.6% from three.
Shooting has been an issue for Maryland all season. Fatts Russell and Eric Ayala can score in the backcourt, but the Terps struggle from three and don’t have a huge presence inside. Their struggles on offense have caused issues all year and if they want to knock off Michigan State for the first time in three tries they’ll likely need to force Michigan State to turn the ball over. The Spartans are a considerably better team when they don’t commit as many turnovers (obvious, I know), so if they can clean that up they’re a much more dangerous team. This was a team highly ranked throughout most of the season and they could return to form if they just cleaned up their unforced mistakes.
Look for the Spartans to do just enough to survive and advance.
Pick: Michigan State
Penn State Nittany Lions vs Ohio State Buckeyes
Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET BTN
Ohio State had a dreadful close to the season after it looked like they turned a corner and might land a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament. After an impressive comeback to knock off Indiana, the Buckeyes went on the road and beat Illinois. Sitting at 11-5 in the conference, Ohio State then proceeded to lose to Maryland and Nebraska. While they stopped the bleeding with a win over Michigan State, they blew a halftime lead over Michigan on their home floor.
Buckeye fans have to be impressed with the emergence of Malaki Branham down the stretch. Paired with E.J. Liddell, the Buckeyes have a formidable duo that should be anchoring a team that could have contended for a Big Ten title. Even more so with some solid role players in Kyle Young and Zed Key, as well as a solid three point shooter in Jamari Wheeler. Ohio State has plenty of options, but for whatever reason they find themselves losing winnable games and allowing most teams they face to hang around. To further complicate things, Young is already out for today’s game:
Ohio State's Kyle Young (non COVID illness) will not play in Thursday's Big Ten Tournament game, per Chris Holtmann.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 9, 2022
Young has missed the past few games.
Averages 8.2 PPG and 4.9 RPG.
Tonight the Buckeyes will face a Penn State team they beat twice this season, though they haven’t played the Nittany Lions since January. It’s an interesting matchup because it’s hard to get a good idea on what you’re going to get from Penn State on any given night. Some nights Penn State looks pretty good, like when they beat Iowa and Michigan State, or narrow losses at Wisconsin, Illinois and Rutgers by a combined eight points. On the other hand they’ve gotten absolutely walloped a few times, including a 23 point loss to Nebraska in their home finale.
A lot of that has to do with their offense, a slow bruiser that is averaging 64.7 points per game. Part of that is their slow pace, but it also stems from their inability to play to their full potential. Guys like Seth Lundy and Sam Sessoms can make plays, but they’re not consistent. Jalen Pickett has emerged but it’s more of the same, a guy that will have moments and games where they pop off but not at a consistent enough level to be a major threat from night to night. They play hard and are a solid defensive unit, but going up against a Ohio State team that scores plenty of points and one has to wonder how the Nittany Lions will find the points to compete.
The one major benefit for Penn State is Ohio State usually plays to the level of their opponent and has let plenty of overmatched teams hang around. It won’t be a huge surprise if Penn State is in this thing down to the end, but Ohio State has enough offensive firepower that they should get past the Nittany Lions.
Pick: Ohio State