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Big 10 Tourney Preview
by ASA - 03/10/2010
LOCKS (for the Big Dance)
1. Ohio State (24-7 overall – 16-15 ATS)
Ohio State was one of three teams to tie for the best record in the Big Ten (along with Purdue & Michigan State) and earned the one seed for the Big Ten tournament. Player of the year candidate Evan Turner (leads Big Ten in scoring and rebounding) was injured on December 5th and missed 6 games with broken vertebrae in his back. The Buckeyes went 3-3 without him, losing their first two Big Ten conference games.
They finished the season on a 13-2 run, losing only to Purdue and West Virginia in the final 15 games. They are in contention for a #1 seed in the Big Dance and winning the Big Ten tournament would enhance their chances.
Michigan and Iowa will be their first opponent and the Buckeyes were a combined 3-1 against both this season (only loss was during Turner’s absence). However, they were 0-4 ATS in those meetings.
2. Purdue (26-4 overall – 12-17-1 ATS)
Purdue started the season 14-0, endured a three game losing streak, and then proceeded to win another 10 games in a row and a share of the Big Ten title. They were sitting pretty at 24-3 when arguably their best player, Robbie Hummel, tore his ACL against Minnesota and was lost for the remainder of the season. The junior was averaging 15.7 PPG and 6.9 RPG and was led his team in free throw percentage, shooting 90.2%.
They will match-up with either Indiana or Northwestern in their first game of the tournament. They finished 2-1 SU & 0-3 ATS against those two, losing @Northwestern in January.
Like Ohio State, Purdue has a shot to garner a #1 seed in the Big Dance but they’ll likely need to win the tournament to achieve that. They have a swarming defense that allows just 40.4% shooting per game (2nd best in the Big Ten).
3. Michigan State (24-7 overall – 11-18 ATS)
Michigan State finished just 5-4 in their last 9 games, but is still one of the most dangerous teams when the calendar hits March. They are one of the most battle-tested teams in the conference and most of their players have the experience of playing in the Final Four and National Championship game last season.
They endured an injury to their point guard and reigning Big Ten player of the year Kalin Lucas. They lost three straight games during his absence but won four of the last five when he returned and the Spartans earned their share of the Big Ten regular season title.
MSU is the best rebounding team in the Big Ten with +8.7 boards per game. They were outrebounded in just four games this season and lost three of those games (Texas, Purdue, Ohio State). Their first match-up will be against the winner of Minnesota and Penn State and they were a combined 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS against both this season.
4. Wisconsin (23-7 overall – 17-11 ATS)
Wisconsin also endured an injury to one of their star players when Jon Leuer missed nine games with a wrist injury. They Badgers went 6-3 without their 6’10” forward and his 14.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG and team leading 52.4% field goals. They finished the season 4-1 and are a lock for the NCAA tournament but could be anywhere between a 3 and 6 seed, depending on their conference tournament performance.
Wisconsin will play the Illinois Illini in their first game of the tournament. The Badgers split the season series with the Illini, with the road team winning both meetings. They have arguably the toughest opening game of the top four teams in the Big Ten, considering Illinois is in “must-win” mode to have a shot of making the Big Dance.
The Badgers aren’t the flashiest team, but they know how to get the job done with fundamentals and defense. They have the 3rd best defense in the nation and #1 defense in the Big Ten (54.6 PPG allowed). They also boast the best scoring margin in the Big Ten at +9.6 PPG. They have the highest free throw percentage in the Big 10 and only turn the ball over 8.1 times per game (also tops in Big Ten).
IN THE MIX
5. Illinois (18-13 overall – 12-18 ATS)
Illinois looked destined to make the tournament when they boasted a 17-9 record just after handing Wisconsin their first home loss of the season. Since then, however, they’ve lost five of their last six games; losing by double digits on four of the five occasions. Illinois has made only 37.4% of their shots in that six game stretch and scored just 57.1 PPG (average 66.5 for the season). They’ll have to start making some shots if they want a chance to dance.
Illinois matches up with Wisconsin on Friday. They ended the Badgers home winning streak back on February 9th. Sconny got revenge in the regular season finale @Illinois.
The Illini lead the Big Ten in defensive field goal percentage. They are allowing just 39% this season. Offensively, they only make 42% (ranks 7th in the Big Ten). They are a dangerous team, but they are the Jekyll and Hyde of the Big Ten this season.
6. Minnesota (18-12 overall – 14-15 ATS)
Minnesota is a dangerous team right now. They have a lot of talent and size that underachieved all season long and is now in a last ditch effort to make the tournament. They’ve defeated Wisconsin and Illinois, and had a one-point loss against Purdue among their last 10 games. The Gophers have shown that they can compete with anyone, but they can also lose to anyone (losses to Indiana & Michigan).
They match up with Penn State in their first game of the tournament on Thursday. Minny defeated the Nittany Lions twice this season by 5 and 2 points (both ATS losses).
They are the best 3 point shooting team in the conference with a 40.5% per game average. Blake Hoffarber, most notably, is making 48% of his 3-point attempts this season and no range is too far for Hoffarber.
7. Northwestern (19-12 overall – 17-9 ATS)
Northwestern is hard to forecast. They started the season 10-1, with quality non-conference wins over Notre Dame, Stanford, and Iowa State. They competed all season long with Big Ten contenders but always seemed to come up short. Don’t be surprised to see this Wildcat team make a run in this Big Ten tournament.
They have the best scoring offense (68.7 PPG) in the Big Ten led by forward John Shurna (18.5 PPG). They are the 2nd best three point shooting team in the conference and they have the most 3-point attempts by far. To go along with their great offense, however; they also have the Big Ten’s 2nd worst defense (71.9 PPG allowed).
They face Indiana in their first match-up on Thursday after splitting the season series with the Hoosiers. If they advance, they will face the Boilermakers of Purdue and they already have a win against Purdue this season
8. Michigan (14-16 overall – 13-12 ATS)
Michigan is another team that had high aspirations coming into the season – and continued to underachieve all year long. They are almost in the same category as Minnesota but not to that extent.
The Wolverines have a great one-two punch with Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims. Harris and Sims combine to average 34.6 PPG and 13.6 RPG. The only problem is: they have very little support around them.
9. Iowa (10-21 overall – 11-19 ATS)
Iowa has just four conference wins this season (Indiana x2, Penn State, and Northwestern). They boast the conference’s worst scoring offense (57.9 PPG) and have the 2nd lowest field goal percentage (39.3%).
They will play Michigan in the 1st round of the tournament. In their last match-up Aaron Fuller scored a season high 30 points and Matt Gatens added 21 of his own but Iowa fell in overtime. They’ve lost six of their last seven to the Wolverines and are just 2-5 ATS in those games.
10. Indiana (10-20 overall – 12-17-1 ATS)
Indiana defeated Northwestern last Saturday in overtime to snap an 11-game losing streak that started on January 24th. They have the worst of two worlds in the Big Ten: They are last in field goal percentage (shooting 39.3%) and last in field goal percentage allowed (allow 47.3%). They also commit 15.2 turnovers per game in Big Ten play.
They get a chance to make it two in a row vs. Northwestern on Thursday in the 1st round of the tournament. They are just 1-3 in the last 4 against the Wildcats and are just 3-7 ATS in the past 10 meetings with Northwestern.
Before ending their losing streak, Indiana had lost eight straight games by double digit margins (average of -20.8 PPG). They lost their leading scorer Maurice Creek (16.4 PPG) in late December and have struggled to replace him and find a “go-to-guy.”
11. Penn State (11-19 overall – 14-13-1 ATS)
Penn State finished last in the Big Ten this season, winning just three conference games. However, they have been playing very well towards the end of the season and might be the best last place team in any major conference. They are certainly a team that shouldn’t be overlooked. They won all three of their conference games in the final six games and nearly pulled a couple of upsets to close out the regular season.
In their final four games, they had three narrow losses to the top three teams in the Big Ten. They lost to Ohio State by 8, Michigan State by 2 and Purdue by 4 points. If they beat Minnesota in the 1st round, they’ll get another shot to knock off Minnesota.
Penn State guard Talor Battle is one of the best players you’ve never heard of. The junior guard has carried the Nittany Lions on his back this season with his 18.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 4.2 APG. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Battle and Penn State upset Minnesota and play well against Michigan State this weekend.