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BIG TEN CONFERENCE
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Record: 26-5, 14-4
Even though their title-clinching win at Michigan had a bit of luck to it, the Hoosiers were the only ones that deserved the Big 10 title. That win gave them a sweep over the state of Michigan and they split with Ohio State. This team is one of the most complete in the country, but they surprisingly lost more games at home this year than last.
Indiana has one of the most efficient offenses in the nation because anyone on their team can score at a given time. Even Will Sheehey off the bench puts in close to 10 points per game. They can stretch the floor with multiple three-point shooters and can go down low with Cody Zeller. Winning the Big 10 tourney won't be easy, but they should be a lock for at least the Elite Eight in the Big Dance.
Record: 23-7, 13-5
This is the team you have to watch out for. They have won five straight games including a road win at Indiana. Since their confusing 22-point loss at Wisconsin, they have suddenly picked it up. Aaron Craft has taken up a bigger role and come through in the most important of times. Deshaun Thomas hasn't scored more than 20 points during this streak even though he averages 19.7 PPG on the season. That just shows how much the rest of the team is helping out.
If their role players can continue to play well, this is going to be a tough team to beat. The Buckeyes already have a great defense and if their offense keeps rolling, they won't be losing to many.
Record: 24-7, 13-5
The Spartans kind of have things back under control after their three-game losing streak. It's kind of, only because they had trouble at home against Northwestern in their season finale. When everyone on this team plays to their ability, they are one of the best teams in the nation. When Keith Appling and Branden Dawson become ghosts on the offensive end, this team is still solid, but not great.
It's been said many times in the last few weeks, but Adreian Payne is an NBA-level player. He's going to be a problem for anyone to prepare for in the NCAA Tournament. If Appling can hit some of his shots and Dawson can get more involved, expect good things from Michigan State.
Record: 21-10, 12-6
Everything was going well for the Badgers until they forgot how to play basketball. They were riding a three-game winning streak with all wins by more than 20 points until just over a week ago when they lost at home to Purdue. They completely fell apart in the second half and haven't looked the same since. Their next game at Michigan State was ugly as they only scored 43 points. They needed a buzzer beater to win at Penn State in their last game.
If this poor play continues, Wisconsin could easily be one-and-down in the Big 10 tourney because they'll likely face Michigan in their first game. Without a great offense, this is a team that relies on its slow-down pace and defense. If they lose to the Wolverines, Wisconsin could end up being a popular upset pick in the 5/12 matchup.
Record: 25-6, 12-6
It was a long time ago that Michigan was 16-0 and destroying opponents every night. That team is long gone as they haven't really had an easy game since January. It's understandable to lose to good teams like Indiana, but they recently lost at Penn State and had trouble with them at home and almost lost at Purdue. The Wolverines have a great offense led by Trey Burke, but the problem for them lies in the frontcourt.
Their big guys have their moments, but it's really hard to trust any of them. Jordan Morgan could've had a game-winning tip-in against Indiana in their last game, but he failed to capitalize. If those guys can step up on the defensive end and Tim Hardaway Jr. can play to his potential, Michigan can be a top team. Those are two things that haven't really happened consistently this season.
Record: 20-11, 9-9
The Hawkeyes are currently in the first four out and even if they win their first game against Northwestern, will likely need to beat the Spartans in the next round to advance to the Tourney. Their only loss in the past four games was at Indiana, so you can tell they are pushing.
Iowa almost beat Michigan State in their only matchup this year, but came up short at home by three points. It should be noted that their leading scorer, Roy Devyn Marble, did not play in that game. He might be that extra spark the Hawkeyes need to make a run in the conference tournament.
Record: 21-11, 8-10
The next two teams have the same conference record as Purdue, yet sit as eight or nine seeds in the big tournament. That's what happens when you win big out-of-conference games. The first round game between the Illini and Minnesota is going to be a toss-up as they split the regular season. Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson are in their senior seasons, so don't expect either of them to step off the pedal.
Record: 20-11, 8-10
The Gophers are in the same exact position as the Illini, and the winner gets Indiana in the next round. Neither team is playing well at the moment, both losing two straight games. Minnesota has been arguably worse with their losses coming to Nebraska and Purdue.
If Minnesota can pull their offense together, they can beat a lot of teams (Indiana being example No. 1), but their offense remains largely inconsistent. Even with a top defense, it just doesn't matter when you can't score regularly.
Everyone knows Indiana probably has the best team from top to bottom, but that usually doesn't matter come tournament time. Who wants it more and who's playing the best? That title goes to Ohio State right now. They could be set up for a classic battle in the semifinals with Michigan State. In the sports books, the Hoosiers are slight favorites above the rest. They should win it, but the team that should win, usually doesn't.
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