Big Ten Tournament Predictions

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Big Ten Tournament Predictions – March 10

As mediocre as the Big Ten has looked this season (and a major reason why it looks so mediocre is because expectations were sky-high in October) that big muddled middle mush should make for an exciting conference tournament. There really is very little difference between seeds 4-7.

The league is indicative of college basketball at large this season. When the brackets are set, you won’t see a big difference between seedings 1-3 in all four regionals. You call it parity now; but it will result in a very exciting tournament later. – both in Indianapolis this week, and around the nation the following week.

First Round (Thursday)

#8 Northwestern Wildcats 64, #9 Minnesota Golden Gophers 61
Expect this to be a very emotional and chippy game, as these two teams got physical with each other early and often in their meeting a week ago. It was senior night in Evanston, and the only Northwestern senior of note, Michael “Juice” Thompson, struggled mightily with his shot, but got it going late, and the Cats prevailed by double digits. Hard to predict the Gophers to beat anybody without point guard Al Nolen. They’ve been a trainwreck since he went down.

#7 Michigan State Spartans 81, #10 Iowa Hawkeyes 69
Only one team from last year’s Final Four looks to be in serious danger of missing this year’s NCAA Tournament. That college basketball team was also the national runner-up in 2009, and ranked No. 2 in preseason polls this year. Yet here they are, Michigan State, playing on the first day of their conference tournament. A win over Iowa does little to help their RPI; that is a no-win situation honestly. Well, they have to win to stay alive for a bid.

#6 Talor Battle 31, Rest of Penn State 44, #11 Indiana Hoosiers 61
This is by far the best/most interesting first day in Big Ten Tournament history. If Talor Battle gets 20 points (right at his season average) he’ll become the all-time scoring leader in Penn State history.

Quarterfinals (Friday)

#1 Ohio State Buckeyes 67, #8 Northwestern 43
Regardless of what the Buckeyes do here in Indianapolis, they are the big bracket’s overall No. 1 seed. When you have manhood credentials like that, your freshmen are allowed to rock out to a sissy song like Miley Cyrus’ Party in the U.S.A., which is truthfully their favorite song.

#5 Illinois Fighting Illini 77, #4 Michigan Wolverines 71
The Illini are probably OK for an at-large berth even without this win, but this will clinch it for them. The Wolverines should be OK too, as long as you don’t have a lot of bad teams in power conferences winning their conference tourneys. Illinois leads all time in Big Ten Tournament wins and winning percentage. They’re the only school to be seeded/win their way into the quarterfinals in every year of the tournament’s history.

#2 Purdue Boilermakers 79, #7 Michigan State Spartans 63
It’s not easy being green. Or at least it won’t be on Selection Sunday this year. This is an absolute nightmare matchup for them.

#3 Wisconsin Badgers 54, #6 Penn State Nittany Lions 39
Will Jordan Taylor go off for 39 again? Well, he’ll probably have about 17 or so in this game. Which is like 39 in a regular game. Thanks for coming, Penn State. Your mascot starts with the letters NIT for a reason.

Semi-Finals (Saturday)

Illini 83, Buckeyes 81 (2 OT)
No, I’m not drunk. I honestly think the Illini seniors will get that long-last sense of urgency style wake-up call here. And the Buckeyes have nothing to play for, so they’ll kind of phone this one in a bit. Besides, they need to get ready for the big boy bracket and right the wrongs of last year’s unexpected early exit. This game, in this exact slot, was by far the most entertaining game of last year’s conference tournament.

If you recall, Illinois had a nice lead on Ohio State, a team that had absolutely whipped them twice. And then they felt the need to start talking trash at Evan Turner, the man who swept all the National Player of the Year awards. (Catch me off-line, I’ll tell you which Illini players said what, and Turner’s response to them).

“Interesting strategy Cotton, let see if it pays off for them.” Yes, arrogantly talking smack to the best player in the country, after his team had already destroyed you twice. You gotta love stones like that. Even though it backfired.

Badgers 74, Boilers 56
I don’t know why Purdue is useless in Indianapolis. They just are. It’s 45 minutes away, and they always have a nice crowd and usually a nice seed, but the Boilermakers in Conseco is like going to Bleacher Report for intelligent insight. Just not going to happen.

Championship (Sunday)

Badgers 61, Illini 51
Both of these schools have won two conference tournaments. Bo Ryan beat the Illini both times (’04, ’08) when he got his. Here’s the trifecta.

Finally, I would like to take this time to point out the 2005 Big Ten tournament preview in the Chicago Tribune. When writer Neil Milbert picked the higher seed in EVERY SINGLE game of his Big Ten Tourney bracket. I truly wish I had the minutes of my life returned to me. What a waste it was reading that. And I hope that was just an error on the copy-editing end; not Milbert being extremely lazy and/or picking games like he’s 7 years old.

Tourney MOP – Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin

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