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2017 Big Ten Tournament Preview

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Here is how Purdue wins its second Big Ten tournament.

Big Ten Tournamnet: Ohio St. Buckeyes v Purdue Boilermakers Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Big Ten Tournament gets started today! Sure, you wouldn’t know it in West Lafayette. Our guys are sitting back with their feet up today, finishing up classes and practicing on campus. We can take our time getting to Washington, DC as the No. 1 seed and conference champ. Today is for the denizens at the bottom of the standings. They have the unenviable task of needing to win five games in five days to make it to the NCAA Tournament. That’s just not going to happen. Most likely, the four teams today will be long gone before Sunday’s title game.

The 12 seed could stick around awhile though. The last two years, since going to 14 teams, the 12 seed has managed to win twice and at least make it to the quarterfinals before losing (to Purdue both times, ironically). Two years ago Penn State beat Nebraska and Iowa before losing to Purdue by five. Last year Illinois blew our Minnesota and upset Iowa by two before losing to Purdue by 31.

Play gets started today at 4:30, so let’s look at the tournament as a whole:

Wednesday

12 Seed Nebraska (12-18, 6-12) vs. 13 Seed Penn State (14-17, 6-12) 4:30pm, ESPN2

This should be a surprisingly entertaining game. Nebraska beat Purdue and Maryland before losing to Wisconsin in overtime. Penn State took Purdue to overtime and also beat Maryland. These are both teams that were good, but inconsistent. Both of them also lost to Rutgers. I do think Penn State was better though. They had a ton of close losses. They lost to Michigan by three, Indiana by 3, Indiana in triple overtime, Purdue in overtime. Rutgers by 2, and Ohio State by 1. I think the Nittany Lions could be the 2018 breakout team, as they are a handful of possessions from being 12-6 instead of 6-12. My pick: Penn State

11 Seed Ohio State (17-14, 7-11) vs. 14 Seed Rutgers (14-17, 3-15) 7pm, BTN

Both of these teams had their own struggles in close games. Ohio State had three home losses by two points or less that, if you reverse them, probably has them as an NCAA tournament team. Rutgers was still bad this year, but they improved from “grossly, hilariously inept” to “bad, but they play hard”. They can at least play Big Ten teams within a couple of possessions and, if you’re not paying attention, ruin your season (hi, Illinois). Ohio State won the only regular season meeting between the two by 6 in Columbus, so a Rutgers win would not be a total surprise. My pick: Ohio State

Thursday

The Tournament really gets going tomorrow with four games over 12 hours. From this point forward I’ll preview each game including my picks to win from previous days.

8 Seed Michigan (20-11, 9-9) vs. 9 Seed Illinois (17-13, 8-10) Noon, BTN

This is the game for Purdue fans to watch as it decides our first opponent on Friday. It is hard to make a call here, too, because they split the season series. Illinois won by 16 in Champaign and Michigan won by 9 in Ann Arbor. Illinois still has the smallest chance at an at large bid because they have an RPI sitting at 58. The Rutgers loss should have ended them, especially since no team with a losing record in conference play ever deserves an at large bid, but the weak bubble has them alive. They probably need to beat Michigan and Purdue both to have a chance. Michigan is likely in, and they scare me more than Illinois. Michigan is a terrible matchup for Purdue, while the Boilers beat Illinois like they stole something the last two times we played them. An Illinois win might get them to the top 50, however, and give Purdue another top 50 RPI win. My Pick: Michigan

5 Seed Michigan State (18-13, 10-8) vs. 13 Seed Penn State (15-17, 6-12) 2:30pm, BTN

Can Penn State make a run to Friday from Wednesday for the second time in three years? They did beat a more healthy Michigan State team by 9 back in January. A Michigan State loss puts the Spartans in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament, as it would mean a three game losing streak after it looked like they were turning things around. It could also be costly to Purdue. Michigan State is sitting at 49 in the RPI, and a loss almost certainly drops them under 50 and costs us two top 50 wins. My Pick: Michigan State

7 Seed Iowa (18-13, 10-8) vs. 10 Seed Indiana (17-14, 7-11) 6:30pm, ESPN2

This one is very, very interesting. The two teams played a charged overtime game just a few days ago and the Hawkeyes have taken the mantle of “hottest team in the conference” with a four game winning streak. They even have a shot at the NCAA tournament now, as explained by Black Heart Gold Pants. If there is one team that could get hot and make it to Sunday, it is Iowa. They have done it before. Meanwhile, Indiana actually showed signs of life in beating Ohio State last weekend. They still almost blew it. The winner of this game keeps faint bubble hopes alive, while the loser is done. My Pick: Iowa

6 Seed Northwestern (21-10, 10-8) vs. 11 Seed Ohio State (18-14, 7-11) 9pm, ESPN2

Like a recovering alcoholic checking into a hotel and seeing the minibar, this is a test for Northwestern. They are probably in the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens. A win in DC makes it a guarantee. That last threshold can still be crossed and Ohio State has just not been a good team all year. The Wildcats have all the advantages of playing a tired team. As Purdue fans, we want them to win a game or two as well. they are at 54 in the RPI, so getting them into the top 50 gives us two more top 50 wins. My Pick: Northwestern

Friday

1 Seed Purdue (25-6, 14-4) vs. 8 Seed Michigan (21-11, 9-9) Noon, ESPN

Last season Purdue opened Big Ten Tournament play against a team that shot well and beat the Boilers in a road loss. Purdue blew out Illinois by 31 after losing badly in Champaign. I don’t expect a blowout here by any means. For one, this year’s Michigan is far better than last year’s Illinois. They aren’t a good matchup for Purdue at all, and we saw last year what Michigan can do to No. 1 seeds in the Big Ten Tournament. I do think coach painter figured a few things out from that first meeting. He had some things working in the last 10 minutes and Purdue made a game of it. I think the game film and the fact Michigan has to play an extra game to get to us will pay off with tired shooters. My Pick: Purdue

4 Seed Minnesota (23-8, 11-7) vs. 5 Seed Michigan State (19-13, 10-8) 2:30pm, ESPN

If Purdue gets past Michigan we have some definite interest here for our semifinal game. Minnesota was red hot before Wisconsin remembered it is supposed to be good. That said, Michigan State swept Minnesota in the regular season. Minnesota is a terrible matchup for Purdue, but Purdue is an even worse matchup for Michigan State. Let’s hope Michigan State’s dominance of Minnesota (1 point overtime win in Minneapolis, 18 point win in East Lansing) carries over. My Pick: Michigan State

2 Seed Wisconsin (23-8, 12-6) vs. 7 Seed Iowa (19-13, 10-8) 6:30pm, BTN

Which Wisconsin team will show up? The one that convincingly beat Minnesota on Sunday or the one that has generally looked awful for a month? If Iowa is going to play its way into the tourney it needs to win this game. Two wins over Wisconsin might even get their RPI into the top 50 (currently at 72) and it would then give Purdue yet another top 50 win. In general, Iowa has played a lot better over the last month and the Hawkeyes did win in Madison just last week. I think they can do it again. My Pick: Iowa

3 Seed Maryland (24-7, 12-6) vs. 6 Seed Northwestern (22-10, 10-8) 9pm, BTN

Melo Trimble absolutely torched Northwestern in Evanston a few weeks ago. The Terrapins threw away a conference title with five losses in seven games from February 4th through February 25th, but they recovered to win the last two games and earn that double bye close to home. The home crowd and recent dominance of Northwestern should carry the day for the Terps. My Pick: Maryland

Saturday

1 Seed Purdue (26-6, 14-4) vs. 5 Seed Michigan State (20-13, 10-8) 1pm, CBS

The rematch from last year’s championship game should go different this time around. Michigan State proved it does not have a favorable matchup with Purdue even before Eron Harris went down with a season-ending injury. The Boilers comfortably won both games and just beat them up with Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas inside. A shorthanded Michigan state, playing its third game in three days, falls to Purdue. My Pick: Purdue

7 Seed Iowa (20-13, 10-8) vs. 3 Seed Maryland (25-7, 12-6) 3:30pm, CBS

If Iowa makes it to Saturday are they in the NCAAs? Do they need to make it to Sunday? They proved on February 25th they are not afraid to play Maryland at home. They blew out the Terps in their own building. Playing with that confidence, and knowing that a surprising NCAA bid is on the line, I can see them springing another upset. My Pick: Iowa

Sunday

1 Seed Purdue (27-6, 14-4) vs. 7 Seed Iowa (21-13, 10-8) 3pm, CBS

Iowa is the only team to have ever won four games in four days to win the Big Ten Tournament. They did it in 2001 as the 6 seed, beating Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, and Indiana to steal the autobid. If they get to Sunday again I don’t think they will need the autobid. They will have 21 wins, 13 against Big Ten teams, and by beating Wisconsin and Maryland their RPI will soar into the top 50. Purdue gets a rematch against one of the teams that beat it, but this time Bo Boroski is not there to think Ryan Cline suddenly got a very deep tan. Purdue pulls away late as Iowa tires, but knows it is safe in the tournament. My Pick: Purdue