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2020 Big Ten Tournament Preview

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Get ready for five great days in Indy.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Michigan vs Michigan State David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve waited all year for this. At one point this season it was possible that 12 teams from the Big Ten would get into the NCAA Tournament. That was going to make for a free-for-all here in Indianapolis. Now that the regular season is done it should still be an excellent event. We had a three-way tie for the title (and with about a week left it could have been a six-way tie), nine teams are guaranteed to be in the field. A 10th, Indiana, is very close depending on what they do this week, and even Purdue as the 11th team is not totally dead (though the Boilers need to make a run).

It still should be a fun free-for-all, so let me try to pick it:

Wednesday

Minnesota (14-16, 8-12) vs. Northwestern (8-22, 3-17) 6pm, BTN

This is perhaps the most superfluous game of the tournament. The Gophers need to make it to Saturday just to ensure they finish at .500 on the season. They have fallen off with three narrow losses to Maryland, Wisconsin, and Indiana down the stretch. They did beat the Wildcats twice, however: by 9 in Minneapolis and by 26 in Evanston. The Pick: Minnesota

Indiana (19-12, 9-11) vs. Nebraska (7-24, 2-18) 9:30pm, BTN

In a perfect world Indiana would already be out of the tourney because no team with a losing conference record deserves an at large bid. This isn’t a perfect world, however. Many projection have Indiana in Dayton right now teetering out of the tourney. They won’t secure a bid with a third win this season over Lowly Nebraska, but they can certainly lose it. The Cornhuskers have lost 16 in a row and will be without the suspended Cam Mack. They are so desperate for players that two football players have signed up to play. That’s unfortunate, because it would have been nice to get players that from a sport where Nebraska can beat Indiana. It would greatly benefit Purdue to have Nebraska win, but again, this is the real world. The Pick: Indiana

Friday

Michigan (19-12, 10-10) vs. Rutgers (20-11, 11-9) Noon, BTN

The tournament gets underway in earnest at noon on Thursday with the real games. Michigan won in Piscataway by 6 and in Ann Arbor by 8, but the Scarlet Knights may have broken their road woes in West Lafayette. Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. were stone cold killers in that game. They hit big shot after big shot and pulled Rutgers into the NCAAs. Michigan was the only team to win at Rutgers this year, so I think they have a slight edge. The Pick: Michigan

Iowa (20-11, 11-9) vs. Minnesota (15-16, 8-12) 2:30pm, BTN

Iowa has the Player of the Year in Luka Garza, but they are averse to playing defense. They did sweep Minnesota 72-52 in Iowa City and 58-55 in Minneapolis, as the Gophers had yet another close loss this season to them. Iowa did not finish the regular season strong though. Given a chance to win a share of the Big Ten they lost to Purdue and Illinois. Garza vs. Daniel Oturu is going to be good, but Minnesota still has Little Pitino. The Pick: Iowa

Ohio State (21-10, 11-9) vs. Purdue (16-15, 9-11) 6:30pm, BTN

I realize that my “losing record” caveat above would affect Purdue, but does this team really deserve a bid at this point? The reality is that despite 15 losses and inconsistent play, the Boilers still have a chance. With a NET of 33 a pair of wins in Indianapolis gets us to 18-16 (assuming a semifinal loss), with a top 30 NET, 6-8 Quad 1 wins, and teams have gotten in before at two games over .500. First Purdue has to beat an Ohio State team that has played well late in the season. The Buckeyes won 68-52 in Columbus in one of Purdue’s worst games of the year.

It really is quite simple: Purdue has to find a way to shoot better. It has proven it can have great games multiples times (Iowa, Michigan State, Virginia, Wisconsin). It has proven it can rebound well. It has proven it can play nasty defense. It has proven hat when all nine rotation guys are contributing to the box score with each scoring 4-9 points it is at its best. Consistency has been the issue all season. Going 2-4 in the last six and 1-3 at home in that stretch does not inspire me with confidence. Indianapolis is our Waterloo, and I just do not believe in this team anymore. The Pick: Ohio State

Indiana (20-12, 9-11) vs. Penn State (21-10, 11-9) 9pm, BTN

Indiana lucked out with Penn State falling to the 6 seed. The Nittany Lions have lost five of six and the last was an embarrassing defeat to Northwestern. One of those losses was an 8-point loss to Indiana in Bloomington, but the Nittany Lions won by 15 at home. The ultimate exclamation point of failure on this lost season for Purdue would be a loss to Ohio State in the first Big Ten Tournament game followed by Indiana securing its bid in an event where it always struggles. The Pick: Indiana

Friday

Wisconsin (21-10, 14-6) vs. Michigan (20-12, 10-10) Noon, BTN

The Badgers certainly did not look like a Big Ten champion early on. Losses to St. Mary’s, Richmond, and New Mexico in the non-conference did not help, but they survived a cannibalistic Big Ten and won just enough. They won by 7 at Michigan when it mattered late in the season and the extra day off should help them. The have also won eight in a row coming in. The Pick: Wisconsin

Illinois (21-10, 13-7) vs. Iowa (21-11, 11-9) 2:30pm, BTN

These two played a dandy of a game on Sunday with Illinois winning by 2 at home. Iowa also won by 7 at home, so the split means this should be a good mid-afternoon treat. I do really like Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn though. They have been a large reason behind Illinois’ sudden ascendance. The Illini can be a lot of fun to watch with them. The Pick: Illinois

Michigan State (22-9, 14-6) vs. Ohio State (22-10, 11-9) 6:30pm, BTN

Even if Purdue does make this game the Spartans are a much different team than the one we blew out in January. The preseason No. 1 team has been playing like they deserved their lofty ranking of late, winning five in a row to get a share of the conference title. One of those wins was a convincing 80-69 win over Ohio State on Sunday. If they get Ohio State, that will give them a lot of confidence. If they get Purdue you know they want to reverse an embarrassing defeat. The Pick: Michigan State

Maryland (24-7, 14-6) vs. Indiana (20-12, 9-11) 9pm, BTN

The good news is that no team that has had to start on Wednesday has made it to Saturday in the Big Ten Tournament during the 14-team era. The bad news is that Indiana will already secure its bid by this point. The Terrapins won both regular season meetings, but needed a furious comeback in Bloomington to win by 1. The Hoosiers will have already played two games to this point and should have tired legs against a fresh Maryland team. The Pick: Maryland

Saturday

Wisconsin (22-10, 14-6) vs. Illinois (22-10, 13-7) 1pm, CBS

I am still not entirely sold on Wisconsin, but eight straight wins coming into the tournament is still great. Illinois won the only meeting by a point in Madison earlier this year, so this should be really good. I think they are the more athletic team, too. The Pick: Illinois

Michigan State (23-9, 14-6) vs. Maryland (25-7, 14-6) 3:30pm, CBS

These are the two best teams in my opinion and the two best poised to make a deep tournament run. They played twice with Maryland winning by 7 in College Park and Michigan State winning by 12 in East Lansing, so this one should be good. When in doubt, look at the coaches though. Izzo vs. Turgeon is no contest. The Pick: Michigan State

Sunday

Illinois (23-10, 13-7) vs. Michigan State (24-9, 14-6) 3:30pm, CBS

Michigan State won both regular season games with Illinois, but only won by 1 in Champaign. That aside, this is a team rounding into form at the right time like most Izzo teams do. The Spartans have won three straight Big Ten Tournaments held in Indianapolis (2012, 2014, and 2016). They really like playing at the Fieldhouse. The Pick: Michigan State