Big Ten Basketball Update & Power Rankings
Big Ten Basketball: Regular Season Review + Postseason Preview
Well, there you have it. Ohio State, Michigan State and Purdue share the Big Ten title in a three-way tie. After a fiercely competed season, the teams might feel a little aggrieved at finishing on such an inconclusive note, but in reality it was the fair result and they can now turn their attentions to the Big Ten tournament, where there will be only one winner.
Here we preview the action:
Michigan vs Iowa (winner plays Ohio State)
The Michigan Wolverines have disappointed mightily this season, slumping to a 14-16 overall record, they lost four of their last five, though their penultimate game was an impressive 83-55 thrashing of bubble team Minnesota. A highly talented group have endured a difficult season despite Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims both setting offensive career highs. It could be said that Iowa won the matchup of wooden spoon teams as they finished ahead of Indiana and Penn State, but this is a mediocre Hawkeyes team and a good season was never really on the cards.
Prediction : Michigan should have enough to win this; actually Michigan is still potentially a very dangerous team in the Big Ten tournament. Iowa can take encouragement from their last matchup against the Wolverines where they were only just edged out in overtime 80-78.
Winner plays Ohio State: Ohio State have played their best basketball in the last half of the Big Ten season and Evan Turner has been in strong form. There is no reason to think that the Buckeyes won’t dispatch whoever their opponent is and advance to the semi-finals.
Northwestern vs Indiana (winner plays Purdue)
This was a season of hope for Northwestern, but injuries and a couple of underachievers mean that they are still the only BCS conference team that hasn’t appeared in the NCAA tournament. Late season defeats to Penn State, Iowa and Indiana summed up a poor second half performance from a promising Wildcats team. Indiana is undoubtedly a team going through a re-building stage, but they are a young talented College basketball team The Hoosiers actually started their Big Ten campaign 3-3 before succumbing to a 11-game losing streak, a streak they snapped against Northwestern in the final game of the regular season with an 88-80 overtime victory.
Prediction: Northwestern has been playing poor basketball of late and Indiana is a more talented team than they’ve shown, don’t be surprised if home court advantage plays into Indiana’s hands and they are able to advance to the second round.
Winners plays Purdue : On paper neither team should be able to matchup to Purdue, but there is still a serious question mark over the Boilermakers performance without star player Robbie Hummel. They were able to close out the season with wins over Indiana and Penn State, but they could be a candidate for an upset and I actually particularly fancy the Hoosiers to do that. Either way, Purdue’s performance in this tournament will probably directly correlate to their seeding in the NCAA tournament.
Minnesota vs Penn State (winner plays Michigan State)
Penn State actually showed signs of improving at the end of the season; they won three of their last six with the three defeats coming against the top three in the Conference. They’ll also be encouraged by the fact that they have twice played the Gophers close this season. Minnesota is still just barely in the NCAA tournament picture after finishing their season by trouncing Iowa. This is an insignificant game to them in reality, where they just need to get through it to set up the opportunity to try and earn their place in a clash with Michigan State.
Prediction: Minnesota is a talented team that has been plagued by injuries this season, while the Nittany Lions have improved, I fully expect the Gophers to take this one quite easily.
Winner plays Michigan State: Minnesota has the talent, but despite all of the Spartans struggles this year, I still expect them to earn a place in the Big Ten semi-finals and condemn the Gophers to the NIT tournament.
Illinois vs Wisconsin
This is it for the Fighting Illini. Win and they are in, lose and they are out. Illinois finished the season by losing five of six including a crushing defeat at the hands of Wisconsin. The Badgers on the other hand won five of their last six; winning four of those by 13 points or more. So it should be an easy game to predict, right? Not so fast. Wisconsin has yet to record a significant victory on the road and playing an Illinois team fighting for their lives might just be a difficult challenge. Demetri McCamey does an admirable job running the Fighting Illini’s offense and I expect him to lead them to an upset and earn Illinois an NCAA bid.
Semi-Finals and Onwards:
The Big Ten has been fairly top heavy this season, so a semi-final field that matches Purdue against Michigan State; and Ohio State against Illinois or Wisconsin is the most realistic expectation, not that an upset can ever be ruled out.
Evan Turner is playing great basketball, and last week’s matchup has already shown that the Buckeyes should have the measure of Illinois in a potential clash. Ohio State just owns too much scoring for Illinois to control, but the Fighting Illini will be happy enough to simply avoid getting blown out to secure an NCAA tournament berth. Meanwhile, Michigan State would also be strong favourites to repeat their victory over a Purdue side missing Robbie Hummel. The Boilermakers are still a good team without Hummel, but he was undoubtedly their pulse and his loss seriously damages there season hopes.
An Ohio State and Michigan State final would be a mouth-watering contest after Ohio State claimed a late season victory over the Spartans on the road to usurp them at the top of the Conference. The Buckeyes do have issues though; a lack of depth will be a particular concern as they move through the rounds of the NCAA tournament. Don’t be surprised to see Tom Izzo’s Michigan State pick it up at the business end of the season either, this will be a crucial game for seeding and for me, the Spartans might just steal it.
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