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Big 10 Over/Unders in the Big Dance

   by ASA - 03/16/2010

Anybody who caught a glimpse of the Big Ten Tournament last weekend knows that the Big Ten style fits the Midwest mindset. This conference is to college basketball what the NFC North is to the NFL. It’s the black-and-blue conference and opposing teams will know when they just played a Big Ten team because they’ll feel it for weeks.

From top to bottom, every Big Ten team pounds on the opposition in putting a strong emphasis on defense. This style of play often leads to low-scoring games, which leads to a lot of under totals. The NCAA Tournament is no different. Big Ten programs have historically favored the under in the Big Dance, going 28-21 in the first round and 19-16 in the second round since 1998. Here’s a year-by-year look at Big Ten totals in the NCAA Tourney:

First Round Big Ten Over/Under Results
1998 3 overs 2 unders
1999 1 over 6 unders
2000 1 over 5 unders
2001 3 overs 4 unders
2002 3 overs 2 unders
2003 3 overs 2 unders
2004 1 over 2 unders
2005 2 overs 3 unders
2006 4 overs 2 unders
Total 21 overs 28 unders

Second Round Big Ten Over/Under Results
1998 3 overs 2 unders
1999 2 overs 3 unders
2000 4 overs 1 under
2001 2 overs 2 unders
2002 2 overs 2 unders
2003 0 overs 4 unders
2004 1 over 1 under
2005 1 over 2 unders
2006 1 over 2 unders
Total 16 overs 19 unders

Of the six Big Ten teams in the field this year, five are in the top 37 in the nation in scoring defense and three are in the top eight. Michigan State is fourth in the country, Illinois is sixth, Wisconsin is eighth, Ohio State is 20th, Indiana is 37th and Purdue is 53rd. Three of those teams allow less than 60 points per game and neither of the six allows more than 63 points per game.

The six Big Ten teams in the tourney combined to go 96-69-7 in the unders this season, with only Indiana posting more overs than unders. Illinois and Michigan State really favored the under with the Illini going 19-8-2 (69%) and the Spartans going 17-9-2 (64%).

Over the last six NCAA Tourneys – within the first two rounds – Big Ten programs have gone “under” the total in 13 of 19 games in which the total was 140 or more. The Indiana-Gonzaga posted total of 143 is the only opening round game featuring a Big Ten squad that falls within that scenario this year.

In tourney games featuring Big Ten squads over the same period, the over has gone 10-5 (67%) when Vegas posted a first- or second-round total of 130 or less. Based on that trend, we would consider the over in the Ohio State-Central Connecticut State (126) game, the Illinois-Virginia Tech (118) contest and the Michigan State-Marquette (124) matchup. The Golden Eagle-Spartan matchup will need additional thought with the relationship between head coaches Tom Crean and Tom Izzo creating an interesting storyline.

Vastly different playing styles will be on display in three opening round contests featuring Big Ten teams. Purdue’s defense goes into the tournament ranked 53rd in the country in scoring defense but drew a high-scoring Arizona team in the first round. The Wildcats are 20th in the nation in scoring offense and the Boilermakers have yet to play an offense the caliber of Arizona’s.

Wisconsin, which cracked 60 points just once in the last six games, faces off against a Corpus Christi that is 10th in the nation with nearly 80 points scored per game. Granted the Islanders have yet to play a defense even remotely comparable to Wisconsin’s, but it’s a potentially interesting matchup.

The Indiana-Gonzaga contest could also be potentially interesting. The Hoosiers are 37th in the nation in scoring defense but must contend with the Zags’ 15th-ranked scoring offense. Indiana surrendered 90 points in a second-round NCAA Tournament loss to Gonzaga last year. The Zags don’t have Adam Morrison this year but they boast a strong backcourt duo in Derek Raivio and Jeremy Pargo.

We have several great spots in our crosshairs lined up for this weekend and expect each of those situations to win big. Be sure to check this site throughout the week to see what we have in store. Have a great March.

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