BIG TEN CONFERENCE
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Record: 25-6, 15-3
The Hoosiers have put together an impressive title campaign, winning the league by two Games when no one expected them to do so. The question is if they can bring that level of play to neutral sites. The good news for them is that this Tournament takes place in Indianapolis and they’ll probably have the majority of fans. But still, it won’t be the same as Assembly Hall.
Indiana won’t have an easy Game the entire way. They draw Michigan or Northwestern first and then Purdue or Iowa. The hardest challenge for the Hoosiers would probably be Purdue, mainly because the Boilermakers have a ton of size. Otherwise, if Indiana plays like it has been, they should be headed to the championship Game.
Record: 26-5, 13-5
Indiana is the top seed, but the Spartans are the team no one wants to face. Michigan State has won six straight and that winning streak was started with a 19-point beat down of Indiana. The Spartans are one of the best shooting teams in the country, but can also win in the paint. In addition, they have the possible Player of the Year in Denzel Valentine.
To make the championship, MSU may have to get through Ohio State for the third time and then face either Maryland or Wisconsin. With how the Spartans are playing, all of these Games are winnable. There’s a reason this team is favored to win the NCAA Tournament right now.
Record: 24-7, 12-6
The Terrapins have fallen off a lot in the last month after being what many considered the best team in the conference. Instead, they have lost Four of their last six Games with one of those being a 13-point home loss to Wisconsin. But having lost three straight on the road, will anyone be backing Maryland to win a Tournament on a neutral cOurt?
The Terps have a tough road and will likely have to go through two teams they already lost to this season in Wisconsin and Michigan State. Maryland has the talent to win, but they’ve also been inconsistent and it’ll require some heroics from Melo Trimble.
Record: 24-7, 12-6
The Boilermakers may be the scariest team in this Tournament because they can always turn to their size when the going gets tough. If they can get by Iowa in the first Game, a meeting with Indiana waits and that could serve as revenge.
If Purdue is hitting shots from the outside, they can beat anyone in the country. But if those shots aren’t falling, there’s no telling what will happen. At the least, they can compete with anyone.
Record: 21-9, 12-6
The Hawkeyes closed the season with a big road win at Michigan, but this is still a team that has lost five of its last seven. Once flying with confidence and looking unbeatable, they have fallen off a good amount. With a win over Purdue in the quarters, they’ll get back some of that confidence, but betting on the Hawkeyes to reach the championship Game past Indiana may be a little too optimistic.
Record: 20-11, 12-6
The Badgers have maybe had the most impressive Big Ten campaign after starting the non-Conference slate slowly and losing Bo Ryan in the process. They’ve managed to carve out a spot in the NCAA Tournament and will be a tough out in this Tourney.
Wisconsin already beat Maryland on the road and they could be in for a rematch in the quarterfinals. It’s hard to see the Badgers getting past both Maryland and Michigan State, though, but they’ve done more impressive things this year so it’s not out of the question.
Record: 19-12, 11-7
The Buckeyes need to win at least two Games in this Tournament to have a shot at the NCAA Tourney, there’s no way around it. That means beating Penn State and then Michigan State, a team they were swept by. It’s looking likely without Jae’Sean Tate.
Record: 20-11, 10-8
The Wolverines are going straight down having lost six of nine Games and ultimately put themselves on the bubble because of it. Without a win against Northwestern, they’ll likely miss out on March Madness. To guarantee a spot, they’ll need to take down Northwestern and then Indiana. It’s hard to trust this team right now.
OUtside of the above teams, it’s doubtful any other ones will pull off upsets or make deep Tournament runs. The bottom of the Conference is bad.
Michigan State is the 2-seed, but favored by a decent amount to win this Tournament. Unless Maryland or Iowa reach previous levels seen this season, the Big Ten will be decided between MSU, Indiana and Purdue. The Boilermakers could be a trendy/smart play.