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Big 10 Hoops Tournament
2nd Round Predictions and Preview
The Minnesota Golden Gophers saw their slim chances of making it to the Big Dance improve slightly on Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten Conference tournament. In the process, the 10th-seeded Golden Gophers (19-13, 7-12 Big Ten) may have burst the bubble of the seventh-seeded Northwestern Wildcats (18-13, 8-11), who are trying to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.
Minnesota rallied for a 75-67 overtime victory against Northwestern on Thursday and will now face the second-seeded Michigan Wolverines (23-8, 13-5) on Friday in the quarterfinals. The Golden Gophers were one of two underdogs to win their first game straight-up, as the eight-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes (16-15, 9-10) also pulled out a 64-62 victory against the ninth-seeded Illinois Fighting Illini (17-15, 6-13).
While both teams from the state of Illinois were knocked out of the tourney, the two schools from Indiana each registered wins and covered the spread in advancing to Friday’s quarterfinals. The fifth-seeded Indiana Hoosiers (25-7, 12-7) disposed of the 12th-seeded Penn State Nittany Lions (12-20, 4-15) in a 75-58 rout, and the sixth-seeded Purdue Boilermakers (21-11, 11-8) blew out the 11th-seeded Nebraska Cornhuskers (12-18, 4-15).
Here’s a breakdown of Friday’s quarterfinal matchups…
No. 1 Michigan State Spartans (24-7, 13-5) vs. No. 8 Iowa Hawkeyes
Analysis: The eighth-ranked Spartans (-11) have won eight of the last nine meetings with the Hawkeyes, but they have not all been easy games. Iowa is 3-2 against the spread in the past five meetings and managed to stay within seven points in three of the games. The Hawkeyes are 4-2 ATS in their last six games overall and have seen the total go UNDER in four straight. Michigan State has failed to cover three of its last four with the UNDER cashing three times during that stretch. Our score prediction - Michigan State 78 Iowa 59
No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers (23-8, 12-6) vs. No. 5 Indiana Hoosiers
Analysis: The 14th-ranked Badgers have dominated the series with Indiana recently, winning nine straight meetings dating back to 2008. They remain a terrible matchup for the 15th-ranked Hoosiers (-2), who are somehow favored but not nearly as sound defensively can do not play well when the tempo is slowed down. Indiana has averaged just 56 points per game during the skid vs. Wisconsin, which is more than 21 points below the team’s season average. However, the OVER is 6-1 in the last seven games for the Badgers overall. The one thing working in favor of the Hoosiers though is that Wisconsin has not earned a victory in the Big Ten tourney game since winning the title in 2008. Unfortunately for Indiana, the team also lost key reserve guard Verdell Jones III (7.8 points per game) to a season-ending knee injury on Thursday. Prediction - Indiana 60 Wisconsin 59
No. 2 Michigan Wolverines vs. No. 10 Minnesota Golden Gophers
Analysis: Two wins in a row following a six-game losing streak certainly will not get the Golden Gophers into the NCAA tournament. Three straight probably will not either since Minnesota was simply played too poorly during Big Ten play during the regular season. Michigan failed to cover the 6-point spread in a 61-56 home win over the Golden Gophers in the only meeting this year on January 1. The 10th-ranked Wolverines might be the hottest team overall in the conference though, winning six of seven both straight-up and ATS with the OVER cashing in three straight. Prediction - Michigan 61 Minnesota 58
No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes (25-6, 13-5) vs. No. 6 Purdue Boilermakers
Analysis: The Boilermakers are the sentimental favorites to win the Big Ten tournament in senior Robbie Hummel’s last run. They won it in 2009 over Ohio State 65-61 with Hummel earning Most Outstanding Player honors, but the seventh-ranked Buckeyes have won the last two tournament titles. Hummel missed each of the last two tournaments with season-ending knee injuries, so he would love nothing more than to beat Ohio State one more time before the end of his career. The Buckeyes beat Purdue 87-84 at home on February 7 in the only meeting between the teams this season. Ohio State has failed to cover three of the last four meetings though with the total going OVER in the last three. Prediction - Ohio State 71 Purdue 63
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