On the second day of the NCAA Tournament five more Big Ten teams will play throughout the day. Let’s take a look at the upcoming action.
Game of the Day
#7 Michigan State Spartans vs #10 Davidson Wildcats
Time/TV: 9:40 PM ET CBS
Line: Michigan State -1.0
There are two games today that should have a decent chance of being competitive. The Ohio State and Loyola Chicago game that starts the day is one, this is the other. Davidson is a pretty trendy upset pick here and a lot of that stems from the fact that we really have no idea what Michigan State team we will get today, even if Tom Izzo has traditionally been money in March.
The Spartans rolled to a 17-4 start and were contending for a Big Ten title. They then finished the season 3-7, falling to the middle of the pack in both the Big Ten and the bubble. Michigan State saved face to close the season, knocking off Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament and hanging around Purdue in the semifinals. This Spartans team has the talent and has shown the ability to be a contender down the stretch, they’ve also shown massive dysfunction at times to the point where they could very well lose today and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise.
One of the main reasons Michigan State could easily lose today is their unfortunate relationship with turnovers. Committing more than 13 per game, Michigan State’s inability to take care of the ball has been a key reason for their issues in the middle of the season. If the Spartans continue to play loose with the ball, Davidson could be primed for a big win tonight.
Davidson managed to sneak into the field even though they lost in the A10 Tournament title game to Richmond. That worked out well for the conference, landing the Atlantic 10 a second bid. And of course Richmond ended up knocking out Iowa yesterday. Davidson went 15-3 in their conference and also landed an upset over Alabama earlier in the season. KenPom ranks the Wildcats as the 11th most efficient offense, but a defense just inside of the top 150. Davidson hits 38.6% from three, 75.7% from the line and limits turnovers to less than 10 per game.
Tonight will likely come down to if Michigan State can limit turnovers. If they do they win, easy as that. I think Michigan State will eventually lose a game in the tournament because of their turnover issues, but that won’t happen until later on in the tourney.
Pick: Michigan State
#7 Ohio State Buckeyes vs #10 Loyola Chicago Ramblers
Time/TV: 12:15 PM ET CBS
Ohio State has been an up and down team all season, ranging from a highly ranked Big Ten contender and dropping all the way to a middle of the pack at-large team that no one would bat an eye if they went home after today’s game. Part of that inconsistency can probably be linked to the fact that Ohio State plays to their opponents level, constantly contending (and at times winning) against some really good teams, only to struggle getting past considerably inferior opponents.
E.J. Liddell is a legit star and Malaki Branham has emerged as a playmaker this season. The Buckeyes have a handful of role players that pad out the roster, a considerable talent advantage and a highly efficient offense. For whatever reason, though, they just can’t seem to fully piece things together.
I said this earlier in the week about today’s game:
If Ohio State wants to avoid an upset on Friday they’ll need to a big day from star E.J. Liddell. They’ll also need Malaki Branham to continue to perform at a high level while they’ll need their role players to contribute. Ohio State’s defense isn’t particularly good, so if their offense isn’t rolling against a stout Loyola defense they’re going to have problems.
I think the end result will be somewhere in the middle. Ohio State has enough offensive firepower that they should get past Loyola Chicago in the opener, but don’t be surprised if the Ramblers knock off another Big Ten program.
Pick: Ohio State
#3 Purdue Boilermakers vs #14 Yale Bulldogs
Time/TV: 2:00 PM ET TBS
Line: Purdue -16.5
Purdue is the biggest favorite among Big Ten teams today as they face off against Yale this afternoon. It’s been mentioned on social media, but fans of Purdue are calling for this to be a “Zach Edey game.” Why? Well because no one on Yale that regularly starts measures in taller than 6’7”, so the Bulldogs will be at a considerable height disadvantage. With Edey and Trevion Williams inside, Purdue should be able to feed their bigs and take care of business.
Yale has a slew of guards that can score, led by Azar Swain, who is averaging almost 20 points per game. However, past Swain and Jalen Gabbidon, no one on the roster averages more than 7.3 points per game. Like Purdue, Yale struggles with turnovers. Unlike Purdue, Yale also struggles shooting from three and has an even worse defense. Purdue has had some consistency issues down the stretch, but their defense has been improving and they’re now set to face a Yale team that doesn’t really wow anywhere on the offensive side of the ball.
If Purdue wants to make a deep run in the tournament there are a number of areas they need to improve in. Regardless of their issues down the stretch, they drew a favorable matchup today and should be fine even if they aren’t fully rolling.
#4 Illinois Fighting Illini vs #13 Chattanooga Mocs
Time/TV: 6:50 PM ET TNT
Line: Illinois -8.0
Illinois snuck their way into a Big Ten title and then promptly lost to Indiana in their first game of the Big Ten Tournament. The Illini have looked good most of the season, but are occasionally prone to upsets. It’s actually been touched on by a number of people, but their offensive and defensive ratings are actually worse when Andre Curbelo is on the floor, with the Illini never quite piecing things together since his return to the lineup.
Luckily for the Illini they still have plenty of options on the court. Kofi Cockburn is massive and should have his way inside against the Mocs. Guards Alfonso Plummer and Jacob Grandison are solid from beyond the arc, while Trent Frazier is averaging 12.1 points and 4.1 assists per game. While the Illini are more efficient on offense when they move the ball around when Curbelo is off the court, their offense is still likely set to score at will against Chattanooga.
The Mocs have a solid offense, led by Malachi Smith’s 20.1 points per game. Smith has been fantastic most of the season but they’re still going to be overmatched against the Illini today. Illinois will feed Cockburn and get enough from their backcourt to move on.
#3 Wisconsin Badgers vs #14 Colgate Raiders
Time/TV: 9:50 PM ET TBS
Line: Wisconsin -7.5
In the second to last game of the night, Wisconsin will look to end a two game skid tonight when they face off against Colgate. ESPN’s resident Bracketologist Joe Lunardi is actually calling for the Raiders to land an upset tonight, though he appears to be in the minority.
Wisconsin hit a high note when they edged Purdue and won at least a share of the Big Ten title. They would have won it outright but they closed the season with an unlikely loss to Nebraska. They then followed that with a loss in their first game of the Big Ten Tournament against Michigan State. Johnny Davis, who led Wisconsin all season, was banged up against Nebraska and didn’t look much better against the Spartans, shooting 3 of 19 from the field.
If the Badgers want to make any sort of run they’ll need Johnny Davis to return to form. The Badgers have a number of solid players on the roster, including Brad Davison, but the offense isn’t there when Davis isn’t popping off. Even then they’ve allowed basically every team they’ve played to hang around, putting them in position for a potential upset to strike at any time.
Can Colgate land the upset? If there is one thing going for the Raiders it’s their close to the season, finishing 19-1 after a dreadful 4-10 start. They’re not a great defensive team and their best win was at Syracuse back in November. Colgate hits better than 40% from three, but they turn the ball over and don’t convert at the line.
If Johnny Davis can get back to the level he’s played at most of the season the Badgers will be fine in their opener.