Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What will happen in the Big Ten Tournament

I've been thinking about predicting the NCAA tournament on my blog this year, if only to give me something to write about. But then I remembered that the NCAA tournament has 68 teams, which means 67 games to pick, which is way too much to truly hold my attention. I'm lazy, after all. Plus, I usually suck at picking the NCAA tournament. Like, real bad.

Then I thought, why not pick the Big Ten tournament? People all around the country are saying the Big Ten is without question the best conference in the country this year, so the Big Ten tournament probably going to  determine the national champion anyway.[1] Plus, it has a chance to be more competitive as a whole than the NCAA tournament. So I'm gonna do that, and if I do well at picking the Big Ten tournament, maybe I'll move on to the big one.

First Round

(8) Illinois vs. (9) Minnesota
I've never cheered for a team that was more difficult to figure out than this year's Gophers. They've beaten Indiana, Michigan State, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Memphis, but they've lost to Northwestern, Nebraska, and Purdue. So I don't know. It seems like the explanation is simply home vs. away, as they were a completely different team in Williams Arena than they were on the road, but I don't think it's that simple. That explanation doesn't account for their absolute no-shows during some road games, and played like crap in some home games they won. But they also played well in the neutral-site games they've played, and every game they play from here on out is technically a neutral site game. I say technically because the Big Ten tournament is in Chicago, and the last I saw, Chicago is in Illinois. There's gonna be a lot[2] of orange in the stands for this first game, so it might count as a road game. I have faith in the Gophers, though. For all of Tubby's faults - most of which can be summed up by the word "offense" - his teams always seem to show up for the conference tournament. I think they will again. At least for one round. Gophers by 5.

(5) Michigan vs. (12) Penn State
Remember a few weeks back when the Michigan players all showed up to a pointless game in the middle of Pennsylvania, (most likely) smoked a bunch of high-caliber weed, and proceeded to lose to an atrocious Penn State team, thus costing themselves a top-five national ranking and a first-round bye in the conference tournament? I bet the Wolverines remember that all too well. Their last game against Penn State has almost certainly been playing on a loop on campus all week. And don't underestimate just how terrible Penn State actually was this year. Wolverines by 34.

(6) Iowa vs. (11) Northwestern
So Iowa finished sixth in the Big Ten, huh? Do we know how this happened? That makes even less sense than Michigan not earning a first-round bye. Meanwhile, Northwestern is kinda the host team here, since they're in a suburb of Chicago, but they're so bad in almost all sports that Chicago kinda clings to Notre Dame instead, even though Notre Dame is 100 miles from Chicago. And I've read all about how Northwestern has had a bunch of injuries this year, so that's too bad. At least they won't have to worry about missing their flight home. Hawkeyes by 16.

(7) Purdue vs. (10) Nebraska
After Nebraska beat the Gophers on March 6 in the final game in the Devaney Center, the fans stormed the court. It had to be the first time anybody had ever stormed the court against the Gophers, and it had to be the most ridiculous court-storming in a season full of ridiculous ones. It was embarrassing, although not as embarrassing as the Gophers losing to Nebraska. Did you know Nebraska is ranked 332nd in the nation in scoring offense? That's especially difficult since there are only 321 teams. Boilermakers by 14.

Second Round

(1) Indiana vs. (9) Minnesota  
At the risk of sounding like an absolute homer here, I don't think Indiana wants anything to do with the Gophers in this spot. The Gophers beat Indiana in Williams Arena, and if Trevor Mbakwe had beaten Cody Zeller to a rebound on a missed free throw, the Gophers would have had the ball with a chance to tie with a minute to play in Assembly Hall. Plus, the Gophers beat Indiana in Bloomington [3] last year. Why do the Gophers do well against Indiana? Probably because Indiana likes to run. The easiest way to beat the Gophers is slow it down; they'll get lethargic and bored on offense and quickly lose interest. Indiana won't slow it down, but they'll still win. It'll be closer than a lot of people expect, but Indiana will still win. Hoosiers by 5.

(4) Wisconsin vs. (5) Michigan
I don't hate a lot of Wisconsin college sports teams. I hated Bret Beliema and his spazzy, temper-tantrum throwing face, but before that, I didn't have much of a problem with the Badgers football team. But that is not the case with the basketball team. I hate Bo Ryan, and I hate his over-coaching, momentum-choking, snooze-inducing defensive borefest of a basketball team. Honestly, how does he get any talented recruits to Madison playing that bullshit style of basketball?[4] I hope Michigan wipes the floor with them in this game. Unfortunately, when the final score of every game you play is 48-45, it's really hard to get blown out. Stupid Badgers. Wolverines by 6. 

(3) Michigan State vs. (6) Iowa
Dude, it's Tom Izzo, and it's a single-elimination tournament. Bet against the Spartans at your own risk. Spartans by 9.

(2) Ohio State vs. (7) Purdue
I wanted to find a reason to pick Purdue, because for some reason I think I shouldn't trust Ohio State here this year, but the Buckeyes have won five straight, including wins over Michigan State and at Indiana. They're cruising, and Purdue is not. And really, would this year's Big Ten Final Four look right if Purdue was involved? Buckeyes by 13.


(1) Indiana vs. (5) Michigan
Michigan could have created a four-way tie for the Big Ten title if they had beaten Indiana in Ann Arbor in their final game of the season. Instead, they lost by a point, dropping all the way to the five seed. I think they have something to prove. Although they lost to Indiana twice during the season, they're gonna win the game that counts - unless they meet again in the NCAA tournament. Wolverines by 1.

(2) Ohio State vs. (3) Michigan State
Can you see why so many people are excited about the Big Ten tournament this year? Just look at all the huge matchups that are possible in just the next week. Incredible. I'm waxing poetic about how good the conference is because I just don't know who to pick in this game. I just look foward to watching it. Spartans by 2.


(3) Michigan State vs. (5) Michigan
There will be two simple things to know about this game. The first is that Michigan will be playing its fourth game in four days, again thanks to its loss to Penn State. The second is that Tom Izzo coaches Michigan State. I don't really like Izzo that much - I went to a Gophers-Spartans game once, and all he did was whine and stomp his feet like my three-year-old - but he is a hell of a coach. He'll be lifting the hardware at the end of the tournament. Michigan State by 9.

[1] This is probably not true.
[2] Or, as much as can be expected at a game starting at noon on a Thursday.
[3] Bloomington, Indiana, obviously, except that I live in Bloomington, Minnesota, so I wanted to avoid any possible confusion.
[4] This is, inadvertently the most damning statement about Tubby Smith's tenure at Minnesota that I could possibly make.

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