Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Big Ten Tournament Preview


Some will call it a choke by the Spartans. Michigan State needed to win only one of its final two games to win an outright Big Ten Championship, but the Spartans failed on both accounts, losing at Indiana and at home to Ohio State in an Elite Eight-type game.

Nevertheless, the Spartans surprised many - including their coach - in winning a Big Ten title. Ohio State, the preseason favorite and Michigan, predicted to finish second by both coaches and media in the preseason, also got shares of the crown.

For the Buckeyes, it is their third-straight title.

For the Wolverines, it is the school's first Big Ten Championship since 1986! That's right, folks. Zack Novak and Stu Douglass now have more Big Ten Championship rings than the entire Fab Five combined.

Those three teams are all "favorites" to win the 2012 Big Ten Tournament Championship, but don't count out Wisconsin and Indiana. The Hoosiers more so due to a rowdy Indianapolis fan base.




PREDICTIONS
With the way the bottom four teams have played as of late, I would expect some to put up a first-round fight but all to go home. That leaves some intriguing quarterfinal games:


1. Michigan State over 8. Iowa -- Both teams love to run and will score. The problem is, only MSU plays defense, as shown by a 95-61 victory over the Hawkeyes earlier this year.


7. Northwestern over 2. Michigan -- This isn't a knock on Michigan, it's more of a matchup thing coupled with desperation. The Wildcats know to feel somewhat safe, wins over Minnesota and Michigan are musts in the Big Ten Tournament. After taking Michigan to OT twice this season - both losses - look for the Wildcats to use the 3-pointer to win this one in regulation.


3. Ohio State over 6. Purdue -- This should be an exciting game. Purdue is playing its best ball right now while Ohio State seems to have righted the ship and kind of resembles that Final Four team we expected to see in the preseason. The Buckeyes win it with clutch plays down the stretch.


5. Indiana over 4. Wisconsin -- No team is playing better in the Big Ten right now than Indiana. The last six halves have been the Hoosiers' best all year. Wisconsin won't be able to keep pace on offense.


SEMIFINALS
1. Michigan State over 5. Indiana -- The best game of the tournament. Without a true home-court edge, Indiana will have to grind it out against a MSU team that will slow this game down. Expect it to be played in the low 60s -- a huge edge for the Spartans.


3. Ohio State over 7. Northwestern -- The road ends here for the Wildcats and the questions begin: Has Northwestern done enough to reach its first NCAA Tournament?

FINALS

1. Michigan State over 3. Ohio State -- Both regular-season games were highly entertaining but the Spartans now have a chip on their shoulder. Not only did the Buckeyes - thanks to William Buford's Jordanesque defacto buzzer beater - spoil MSU's senior day and outright Big Ten title hopes, but MSU lost freshman sensation Branden Dawson to a torn ACL in that game. He would have been guarding Buford in the second half and likely wouldn't have allowed OSU's senior to go off. Tom Izzo hasn't wanted to win a Big Ten Tournament this bad in a decade and my money is on him finding the right lineups to get it done. MSU wins its third Big Ten Tournament title and its first since 2000.

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