And then there were four.
The Big Ten Tournament has certainly delivered with low seeds having their time in the spotlight as the top two advance all the same. Now just four teams stand to seek the title in the semifinals on Saturday.
Let’s talk Big Ten Hoops:
Time/TV: Noon CT, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
KenPom Spread: Purdue by 6
First of all, where on Earth was this Ohio State team throughout the regular season.
The Buckeyes were the Big Ten’s club in crisis this season with a daunting losing streak, fans questioning head coach Chris Holtmann’s future (to say the very least) and no clear way up with a tournament bid seeming like pie in the sky.
And yet, here they are. Ohio State felled a lackluster Wisconsin team, a firepower-laden Iowa club and stalwart Michigan State to get to the semifinals. More impressive is that Friday’s victory over the Spartans came without star freshman Brice Sensabaugh and forward Zed Key, who underwent surgery and has been absent for the Buckeyes’ tournament run.
They’ll face their toughest test yet on Saturday, against No. 1-seed Purdue.
This is the same Purdue team that comfortably won the league in the regular season and the double bye that comes with it. Though the Boilermakers faced some trouble against the Rutgers’ Scarlet Knights, with the latter falling short late and the former making enough smart plays to cement their win.
No team has an answer for conference Player of the Year Zach Edey, but the Boilermakers were lifted past Rutgers thanks in large part to the supporting cast around them. If the Buckeyes’ typically leaky defense can find a way to corral them, they’ll have a chance.
Playing so many games in so many days will wear on them, and I think Purdue takes this one with ease.
- Pick: Purdue
No. 3 Indiana Hoosiers vs. No. 10 Penn State Nittany Lions
- Time/TV: 25 minutes after Game One (CBS)
- KenPom Spread: Indiana by 3
Much like rival Purdue, Indiana took care of business against its lower-seeded opponent in the quarterfinals on Friday, winning 70-60 over Maryland.
Historically, Indiana hasn’t performed all that well in the conference Tournament. Mike Woodson, in his second year coaching the Hoosiers, surpassed his predecessor in Big Ten Tournament wins after a single season in 2022.
Indiana is led by star forward Trayce Jackson-Davis. When he isn’t getting the ball to the rim with his deep bag, he’s making passes around the court and creating for his teammates. He and Big Ten Freshman of the Year Jalen Hood-Schifino have formed a dominant duo for the Hoosiers.
Penn State, meanwhile, is on a tear as one of the most unique teams in the conference. The Nittany Lions emphasis on perimeter shooting, to the point where they don’t go for offensive rebounds, has all but locked up a tournament bid without a run.
Penn State has had to play in two games, silencing the home state crowds of Illinois and Northwestern in the process. They’re red hot exactly when they need to be and present a significant challenge for the Hoosiers.
I think they’ll keep that streak up with a narrow win over the Hoosiers to punch their ticket to the semifinals.
- Pick: Penn State