One year after the Big Ten’s disastrous March performance, the conference stands to punch multiple tickets to the Sweet Sixteen. With No. 11 Michigan upsetting No. 3 Tennessee on Saturday, the conference now has the chance to take a stronghold over the tournament. Five out of the seven Sunday games feature Big Ten teams; let’s take a look at the action.
Game of the Day:
-No. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 2 Villanova Wildcats
- Time/TV: 2:40 PM ET (CBS)
- Spread: Villanova -5.5
Ohio State enters the second round off an impressive 54-41 win over 10-seed Loyola-Chicago. The extra rest following the end-of-season gauntlet in which the Buckeyes had less than five days’ rest dating back to February 6th. Forwards Kyle Young and Zed Key returned to the lineup, and the tandem of Malaki Branham and EJ Liddell continued to produce on both ends of the court.
The Buckeyes have a tough matchup against a red-hot Villanova team, who hasn’t lost since February 22nd, and won the Big East tournament. This isn’t the most talented Villanova team Jay Wright has coached, but they are disciplined defensively and have one of the best closers in the nation in Colin Gillespie. I think Ohio State has a great shot of pulling the upset, but ultimately I trust Villanova to take care of business.
- Pick: Villanova by 2
-No. 4 Illinois Fighting Illini vs. No. 5 Houston Cougars
- Time/TV: 12:10 PM ET (CBS)
- Spread: Houston -4.5
Illinois escaped an upset bid by No. 13 Chattanooga by the skin of their teeth. The Big Ten regular-season champions have been susceptible to all sorts of scares over the last half of the season, and frankly I think this is a terrible matchup for them. Houston is well-coached, long, athletic, and has more than enough size to frustrate Kofi Cockburn. The Cougars rank 18th in the NCAA in steal percentage, and against the Illini’s turnover susceptibility, I think there’s a good chance this ends in a blowout.
- Pick: Houston by 16
-No. 7 Michigan State Spartans vs. No. 2 Duke Blue Devils
- Time/TV: 5:15 PM ET (CBS)
- Spread: Duke -6.5
Michigan State enters Sunday’s game on a bit of a roll. While the Spartans did get bounced by Purdue in the Big Ten tournament, they played a competitive game and knocked off Maryland and Wisconsin along the way. It’s been an offense by committee for MSU, but Joey Hauser was the latest beneficiary in its 74-73 win over No. 10 Davidson on Friday. Hauser racked up 27 points, 8 rebounds, and a 185 offensive rating, per KenPom.
The Spartans hope to play spoiler in Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s retirement farewell tour and bounce Duke before reaching the Sweet Sixteen. And I think they have a solid shot at doing so. While MSU won’t make any offensive headlines, they are certain to scheme an effective game plan to slow down a talented Duke roster. Duke’s offensive scheme is uninspired, and its defense is vulnerable. It may be the Duke hater and wishful thinker in me speaking, but give me the Spartans in a slug fest.
- Pick: Michigan State by 3
-No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers vs. No. 11 Iowa State Cyclones
- Time/TV: 6:10 PM ET (TNT)
- Spread: Wisconsin -4.5
Wisconsin survived a scare vs. No. 14 Colgate on Friday, and moves on to play an Iowa State team that struggles to score and stumbled into the tournament. The Cyclones beat No. 6 LSU, who had just fired their head coach, and I think Wisconsin handles them fairly easily.
- Pick: Wisconsin by 10
-No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers vs. No. 6 Texas Longhorns
- Time/TV: 8:40 PM ET (TNT)
- Spread: Purdue -3.5
Purdue holds in its hands a golden opportunity. The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in its region have both been eliminated, and if it gets by Texas, they’ll play No. 15-seed St. Peter’s in the Sweet Sixteen. The Boilermakers have NEVER made the Final Four, and if they don’t take advantage of this easy draw, fans are sure to be frustrated.
I think and hope Purdue gets this win, but Texas is a tough matchup. Texas plays tough defense and forces turnovers, and picked up an impressive 81-73 win over ACC Tournament champion Virginia Tech in the first round.
- Pick: Purdue by 2