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Big 10 Tourney Preview

   by ASA - 03/07/2012

Thursday, March 8 - Sunday, March 11 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Ind.)

(Check out the bracket here.)

The Big Ten tournament kicks off in Indianapolis on Thursday and concludes on Sunday afternoon. It’s a unique situation as the general expectation is that the higher seeds will have the easiest time advancing to the finals. However, previous years the Big Ten Tournament has shown us the exact opposite. The higher seeded teams have already locked up an NCAA Tournament berth with no need to win another game while two or three teams remain “on the bubble” and could use a win, or in some cases, absolutely need to win.

Looking back, the top seed has won the tournament in three of the past four seasons, but there’s been a handful of notable upsets and there’s no reason to expect that there won’t be any upsets in Indianapolis this weekend. The underdog is 13-6-1 ATS over the last two seasons and 23-17-1 since 2008.

• In 2011, 2nd seed Purdue and 3rd seed Wisconsin were both upset in their first game while 6th seed Penn State advanced to the Championship (where it lost to Ohio State).
• In 2010, 6th seeded Minnesota advanced to the Championship, where it also lost to 1st seed Ohio State.
• In 2009, it was 3rd seeded Purdue against 5th seeded Ohio State in the Championship game.
• In 2008, 10th seeded (!) Illinois advanced to the finals before losing to 1st seed Wisconsin.

Some trends since 2008:
• Indiana: 0-5 ATS
• Iowa: 0-4 straight up record
• Michigan: 4-2 ATS as an underdog
• Michigan State: 2-4 ATS as a favorite
• Northwestern: 4-1-1 ATS
• Ohio State: 2-4 ATS as a favorite, 3-1 as an underdog
• Purdue: 2-4-1 as a favorite
• Wisconsin: 2-4 ATS as a favorite


THE CONTENDERS


Ohio State Buckeyes
OSU was one of three co-Big Ten Champions, along with Michigan and Michigan State (the Buckeyes won a last-second game at Michigan State to force the three-way tie in the final game of the regular season). The Bucks didn’t inspire much confidence over the last month, however, as they lost three of the final seven games - after losing just three in the first 21 games. OSU is still in-play for a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament so we still expect a motivated Buckeyes squad in Indianapolis.

Michigan State Spartans
Sparty lost out on sole-possession of first place by losing its final two games of the season against Indiana and Ohio State. In the loss to Ohio State, MSU freshman Brendan Dawson tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. Dawson was a key contributor with 8.4 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game. Still, MSU has the likely Big Ten player of the year, Draymond Green, who is also one of the top senior leaders in all of College Basketball.

Michigan Wolverines:
The Wolverines seem likeliest to get upset here at the Big Ten tournament. They were surprise co-champions of the Big Ten and aren’t really playing for much here (no shot at a 1-seed). They found out that they were co-champions on Sunday night watching the Buckeyes beat the Spartans and there was a big celebration in the clubhouse. We wouldn’t be all that surprised to see a flat Michigan squad get upset by a highly motivated Northwestern team in the second round.

Wisconsin Badgers:
The Badgers ranked 2nd to last in the Big Ten in shooting percentage. But like most Wisconsin teams in the past, the Badgers are absolutely dominant on defense. Wisconsin ranks 1st nationally in points per game allowed, 1st in three point percentage defense, and 3rd in field goal percentage defense. However, the Badgers have been one-and-done the last three years in the Big Ten tournament, including last year’s ugly 33-36 loss to Penn State in the 2nd round.


FIRST ROUND MATCHUPS


Illinois (-2.5) vs. Iowa – Thursday, 10:30 AM CST (winner advances to play Michigan State)
Illinois was just 1-8 over its last nine games. Strangely enough, the only win was a 65-54 home victory over Iowa (the only meeting this season between these two. Iowa made 36.7 percent in that game and the 54 points was its second lowest point total of the season. Both squads would likely need to win the tournament in order to advance to the Big Dance.

Indiana (-13) vs. Penn State – Thursday, 12:55 PM CST (winner advances to play Wisconsin)
Indiana might be the darkhorse of this tournament. The Hoosiers just enjoyed their first winning regular season since 2007-2008 and closed the season winning four straight and seven of the last eight overall. And they’re playing closest to home so they’re sure to have the biggest fan draw. Penn State advanced to the Big Ten final a year ago, but the Nittany Lions have dropped nine of their last 11.

PSU is 0-2 against Indiana this season while Indiana lost its only meetings at Wisconsin (covered)

Northwestern (-2) vs. Minnesota – Thursday, 4:30 PM CST (winner advances to play Michigan)
Northwestern is the team that needs a win most in this tournament. Most experts have the Wildcats as either one of the last four in or last four out of the tournament is the selection was today. Northwestern split the season series with Minnesota, winning at home by 11 and losing at Minnesota by 23. The Gophers dropped six of seven games heading into the tournament.

Minnesota lost its only game against Michigan this season by five points (ATS win) while Northwestern lost both meetings against the Wolverines, both ending in overtime.

Purdue (-9.5) vs. Nebraska – Thursday, 6:55 PM CST (winner advances to play Ohio State)
The Boilers were on the bubble until a win at Michigan on February 25th solidified their position. Nebraska has lost eight of its last nine heading into its first conference tournament as a member of the Big Ten. Purdue won the only meeting this season by 18 points at home.

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