The Big Ten tournament kicks off Thursday afternoon. The Big Ten conference has been extremely volatile all season long. Its loaded with talent and difficult to predict a clear favorite
Michigan won the outright title before the end of the regular season, but they have been upset a number of times this year. Wisconsin has dropped a number of games and if Michigan State can get healthy they could win a national title.
For the state of Indiana, it represents a last ditch effort to get a team into the NCAA Tournament. The only way IU and Purdue can make the big dance is to win the tourney, thus gaining an automatic bid.
Both teams have had a rough season. The Hoosiers have a talented squad, but haven’t been consistent or made much progress throughout the year. The Boilermakers suffer from a maturity issue and don’t seem to want to follow coach Matt Painter’s game plans.
Purdue vs No. 24 Ohio State
The Boilers have a tough task in the first round of the tournament. Purdue didn’t appear to have a great squad before the season began, but to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten wasn’t expected.
The Buckeyes have been in and out of the Top 25 all season long. They have the second best defense in the country but have difficulty on offense.
It doesn’t help that Purdue has lost its last six games and OSU just knocked off then-No. 22 Michigan State. It would honestly be a shock if the Boilers pulled off the upset here. Coach Thad Matta’s teams always take their game to a new level and end up playing on Sunday.
Purdue lost both meetings with the Buckeyes this season. They opened up conference play with a nine point loss at home and then by 18 in Columbus. Its going to be tough for Purdue to score in this game, despite reaching 70+ points in four of its last six outings.
Painter hasn’t been pleased with this season, but thankfully its about to come to an end.
IU vs Illinois
The Hoosiers entered last week with a shot at an NCAA Tournament bid, but lost to a resurgent Nebraska and at Michigan.
Indiana split the series with Illinois this season. They lost in OT by three at Illinois, but came away with a 10 point win at home. They should have an advantage by playing in Indianapolis, which is basically an extended home game for IU.
Illinois is on a hot streak having won four of their last five games. The Illini’s last three games have been against ranked opponents, where they beat Michigan State and a slumping Iowa. They were dominated by 31-points in at Michigan, who is waiting for the winner of this match-up in round two.
Both teams are solid defensive teams who struggle at times on the other end of the court. This game will largely depend on which Hoosiers squad shows up. Will they move the ball on offense or let people stand around, waiting for something cool to happen?
Their run will also depend on the health of Noah Vonleh. He didn’t look to be 100-percent against Michigan and without him playing at a high level, this team will struggle to beat the Illini.
Despite that, I like the Hoosiers in this game. They have the ability to win a couple games and wreck some chaos in a conference that has thrived on it this season. The odds to win the whole thing are slim, but beating the Illini is definitely in the cards.
Game 1 – 8 Indiana vs 9 Illinois, Noon BTN
Game 2 – 5 Ohio State vs 12 Purdue, Following Game 1, BTN
Game 3 – 7 Minnesota vs 10 Penn State, 6:30PM ESPN2
Game 4 – 6 Iowa vs 11 Northwestern, Following Game 3 ESPN2
Game 5 – 1 Michigan vs Game 1 Winner, Noon ESPN
Game 6 – 4 Nebraska vs Game 2 Winner, Following Game 5 ESPN
Game 7 – 2 Wisconsin vs Game 3 Winner, 6:30PM BTN
Game 8 – 3 Michigan State vs Game 4 Winner, Following Game 7 BTN
Game 9 – Game 5 Winner vs Game 6 Winner, 1:40PM CBS
Game 10 – Game 7 Winner vs Game 8 Winner, Following Game 9 CBS
Game 11 – Game 9 Winner vs Game 10 Winner, 3:30PM CBS
We’ll keep you up to date on the tournament.