Just as Jed has done for the lower half of the Big Ten Tournament, I am previewing the top half games that have set matches at the moment. To see Jed’s lower half analysis, see here.
Wednesday, March 8th | Game 1: #13 Ohio State vs. #12 Wisconsin
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Both of these programs have been among the top in previous seasons, and both have stumbled hard this year. Ohio State was ranked and nearly took down Purdue in Columbus back in early January. Something broke as the Buckeyes would go on to lose 13 of its next 14 games, including 9 straight. A lot of the struggle could be due to the injury of big man, Zed Key, but Chris Holtmann’s squad has more than enough talent to get past one injury. As for Wisconsin, the struggle has usually been to score the ball. As a team, the Badgers average 65 points per game, but no player averages more than 12.2. If one guy has an off-night, the Badgers usually are in a hole. This has led to a lot of close, low-scoring affairs that Wisconsin has dropped, leading to a 9-11 conference record. In this matchup, I think Ohio State comes out less than interested, as it will be time to go home and regroup for next season. Wisconsin is currently on the bubble and fighting for its tourney chances, so give me the Badgers in this one.
Ohio State: 66
Thursday, March 9th | Game 3: #9 Rutgers vs. #8 Michigan
This game really has a “loser gets bounced” feel as both Michigan and Rutgers are squarely on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. Both teams have underperformed this season, as expectations were high for both. Michigan has really struggled against top tier teams this season, only beating Northwestern and Michigan State at home. Considering the talent the Wolverines have, this season has been somewhat disappointing. As for Rutgers, the season was off to a nice start, as the Scarlet Knights raced to a 13-5 start with a win over #1 Purdue on the road. Then Rutgers tripped, finishing the season 18-13 while losing 6 of their last 8 games. Both of these teams are desperate for a victory, with Michigan needing at least two BTT wins to get into the dance. In their only matchup this season, Michigan took down Rutgers in Piscataway, 58-45, but I think Rutgers gets revenge in this one. This just seems to be an off-year for Michigan and Rutgers seems due for a big performance.