One of the best conference tournaments in the land tips off today. Let's take a quick review and preview of the Big Ten.
Best call(s): I got the top three correct albeit in a slightly different order; same story with the second tier (#4 - #8). Nailing Northwestern at #9 is unfortunate because I truly did want to see the Cats in the field this year, but injuries and overall lack of talent held them back this year and the uber-competitive Big Ten. My preseason All-Conference squad was dead on except for a Uthoff-Trimble swap (though you could argue Trimble deserves to be on the first team as well).
Worst call(s): I picked the Wolverines #5. If LeVert had a healthy year, they might have been able to pull that off, but given the outstanding seasons turned in by Iowa and Purdue, they still might not have cracked the top 7. I had Iowa picked way too low; frankly it felt right at the time. Peter Jok emerged as one of the best players in the conference and Uthoff evolved into an All-American. I also thought Illinois and Minny would be just a little better than their finish this season. Watch out for the Gophers next year.
Who I want to win: I’d like to see Purdue or Iowa take the tourney crown. Six teams are mortal locks to make the field with Michigan and Ohio State comfortably on the bubble so an auto-bid isn’t that crucial to majority of schools. Purdue and Iowa were by far my favorite Big Ten teams to watch this season (add in Valentine’s Spartans to that list as well) with the Boilermakers’ unfair height advantage and Iowa’s exciting improved roster. I also wouldn’t mind seeing NW take it – hey it could probably, maybe happen.
Who I think will win: Michigan State. The Spartans, when fully healthy, are the best team in the league. Indiana played the softest schedule in the conference and I think their defense makes them vulnerable. Maryland has perhaps the best starting five in the league, but for some reason (MARK TURGEON), they are too inconsistent of a squad to rely on.
Chance to make a run: Any of the top six teams have a legit shot at taking the Big Ten Tourney crown and also making a run in the NCAA Tournament. Sparty is looking at a 1-seed if they win the tournament while Indiana and Maryland good grab as high as a 2. Iowa and Purdue will be thrown into the 4-seed to 6-seed range, while Wisconsin is most likely on the 6-seed to 7-seed path. I think Michigan and Ohio State both miss the cut.
How it plays out:
(12) Illinois defeats (13) Minnesota
(11) Nebraska defeats (14) Rutgers
(8) Michigan defeats (9) Northwestern
(5) Iowa defeats (12) Illinois
(7) Ohio State defeats (10) Penn State
(6) Wisconsin defeats (11) Nebraska
(1) Indiana defeats (8) Michigan
(4) Purdue defeats (5) Iowa
(2) Michigan State defeats (7) Ohio State
(6) Wisconsin defeats (3) Maryland
(4) Purdue defeats (1) Indiana
(2) Michigan State defeats (6) Wisconsin
(2) Michigan State defeats (4) Purdue