March 8, 2012
Iowa vs. Illinois
Iowa was the only team Illinois beat in their last 9 games of the season. After opening with 10 straight wins, Illinois hasn’t been able to find its rhythm. With all of that being said, I like Bruce Weber to get Illinois ready and pull off the win in the opener.
Indiana vs. Penn St.
Penn State lost both contests they played against the Hoosiers this season, including a 73-54 blowout at Indiana. With the Big Ten Tournament taking place in Indiana, this should be close to another home game for the Hoosiers, so I am going with them in game 2.
Northwestern vs. Minnesota
Minnesota is very similar to Illinois, starting 12-1 only to drop 6 of their last 7 games, including a road game at Northwestern. The two teams split their season series, each with a lopsided win at home. Just as I think Weber is the key for Illinois, I will go with Minnesota because of Tubby Smith.
Purdue vs. Nebraska
Nebraska has had a rough transition to Big Ten basketball, going 4-14 in the conference this season. They lost to Purdue in the only game they played head to head this season, and I don’t see this game being any different. I think Purdue runs away with this one early.
Michigan St. vs. Illinois
Michigan State only has 7 losses on the season, and one of those comes in their only contest with Illinois. The game ended 42-41, which is a far cry from the 71.9 points per game Michigan State averages. Losing their last two games of the season and having to split the regular season title, you have to imagine the Spartans will have a bad taste in their mouth going into this game and will take it out on Illinois.
Wisconsin vs. Indiana
In what I think will be the best game of the tournament to this point, Indiana will look to avenge their loss to the Badgers earlier this season. I can see this game going either way to be honest, but I am going with the Hoosiers again. Indiana will have a tough challenge against Wisconsin’s defense, but if they can shoot anywhere near their 49% FG percentage, they should be just fine.
Michigan vs. Minnesota
Michigan defeated Minnesota in a tight game on New Year’s Day, but I think it is safe to say both teams have grown a lot since then. Michigan will be riding a high after finding a way to get a share of the Big Ten regular season title, but Beilein will keep them grounded. While I expressed my faith in Tubby Smith earlier in this post, I think the Wolverines will be too talented for Minnesota to overcome.
Ohio St. vs. Purdue
Purdue would love to boost its Tournament resume with a big win over Ohio State, especially after almost beating them in an 87-84 loss earlier this season. In that game, Ohio State forced a mere 4 turnovers (they average 17.5 per game) and Sullinger and Craft were in foul trouble. I think the Buckeyes had what it took to win then, and they will win this contest as well.
Michigan St. vs. Indiana
On Dec. 28th, Michigan State beat Indiana by 15 points, only to lose to them by the same margin on Feb 28th. To me, this charts just how far Indiana has come as the season has gone on. With that being said, Tom Izzo and the Spartans know what it takes to win, especially in March. This game should be close, but I like the Spartans to make the Final.
Michigan vs. Ohio St.
Coming into a season with high expectations for the first time in a while, the Wolverines have met and exceeded those, in my opinion. A legitimate threat in the Tournament this year, they have proven they can hang with just about anyone this season, including the Buckeyes. After saying all that, these teams split the season series, and both teams could easily win this game. I do like the Buckeyes, and I think they will meet Michigan State in the championship.
Michigan St. vs. Ohio St.
A rematch of the regular season finale that cost the Spartans their outright championship, both teams will be excited to play the rubber match of a split season series. Look for this to be a very physical game, and while both teams can score at will, rebounding and defense will be stressed by both coaches. In the end, I think Michigan State will come out on top, trying to prove once and for all they were the Big Ten Champions.