You can always tell that it is Big Ten Tournament time when the calendar says February and you find yourself in New York City. *Insert screeching tire sound* Wait, what? Ready or not, the Big Ten tournament tips-off today at 5:30 PM ET at Madison Square Garden.
For Indiana, the objective seems clear — run the table — or wind up in the NIT. At 16-14 with some really bad losses and no real quality wins, anything short of winning the tournament won’t be enough to make the big dance. While Indiana’s first opponent, the winner of Rutgers and Minnesota, is about as ideal as could be hoped for, the remainder of the bracket is nightmarish.
Winning out would mean successfully navigating a likely Purdue – Ohio State – Michigan State gauntlet. Anything is possible but we’re guessing that it might be time to start exploring your NIT ticket options. Indiana vs. Notre Dame could be an intriguing first round rematch.
Below we take a shot at predicting each game of the Big Ten Tournament. No one has more to play for than Nebraska and Penn State at this point, but the big three at the top of the standings loom large for everyone else along with a red hot Michigan team.
Will the bracket follow the chalk, or will it be upset city in the Big Apple? Will anyone be there to witness it? Let’s take a look:
BIG TEN TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS
GAME 1: Illinois/Iowa — Illinois’ ball hawking defense against a big size advantage for Iowa. We like Iowa in this one, 78-70.
GAME 2: Rutgers/Minnesota — Before a raucous “home” crowd of 4,800, the Scarlet Knights run out to a big early lead but Nate Mason leads a late rally and the Gophers pull it out 72-69.
GAME 3: Wisconsin/Maryland — When you combine Wisconsin’s pace with a near empty Garden at noon, you can hear the subway trains roll by. Cowan and Huerter have enough on this day to lead the Terps to a 66-60 win.
GAME 4: Iowa/Michigan — As Michigan looks to roll to a repeat title, Iowa has other ideas and puts up a fight. Ultimately Michigan’s offense is too much, 92-85.
GAME 5: Northwestern/Penn State — We would have liked Penn State here with a healthy Mike Watkins. Without him it’s a tossup. Penn State gets hot late and pulls out a tight one, 77-74.
GAME 6: Minnesota/Indiana — Indiana swept the season series and makes it three in a row behind the re-emergence of Devonte Green who feels comfortable back close to home. Indiana 71-61.
GAME 7: Maryland/Michigan State — We’ve seen this story before. Michigan State falls behind by double figures early. But the bigger, stronger, faster Spartans find a way at the end, 81-77.
GAME 8: Michigan/Nebraska — This is a must win for a Nebraska team on the outside looking in to the NCAA tournament. Their defense comes up big and puts the Huskers into the weekend, 66-58.
GAME 9: Penn State/Ohio State — Penn State swept the season series and now can make one last push at the NCAA tournament with a three game sweep. The Buckeyes come out flat and never recover. The Lions win it 78-72.
GAME 10: Indiana/Purdue — Only the second ever meeting for these rivals in the tournament. No surprise, Indiana hangs around but has no answer for Haas. Purdue takes it 75-65.
SEMI-FINAL 1: Nebraska/Michigan State — It’s win and your in time for the Huskers. The Spartans are having none of it as they round into March form. Michigan State rolls, 85-67.
SEMI-FINAL 2: Penn State/Purdue — Mike Watkins makes a Willis Reed like return to play in the Garden. It inspires Penn State as they run out to a big lead, only to see the Boilers chip away. Tony Carr makes some tough shots down the stretch to secure the upset, 75-73.
CHAMPIONSHIP: Penn State/Michigan State — Penn State controls their own NCAA tournament destiny now. Michigan State controls the game from start to finish here though. The Spartans roll to the title, 82-70, and secure a 1 seed in the NCAA. Miles Bridges is the tournament MVP. For Penn State it is enough to make the tournament as a 12 seed while Nebraska gets left out.
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Main graphic credit – Big Ten