Early Round Exits:
- Illinois: The Illini have had the brutal task of finishing with four games in eight days to close out the regular season. They are now going to play again now on just two days rest. Brad Underwood's crew only goes 8 deep. I think they can certainly beat Iowa and maybe hang with Michigan, but my thought is they will be gone on day one.
- Minnesota: This is somewhat of a gut feeling I have, but I think the Gophers are ready to put this nightmarish season to bed. Also, Rutgers is the only local team in this tournament and should be motivated to play close to home at MSG.
Day 2 Exits:
- Maryalnd: The Terps have a young but talented roster that just wasn't ready to step up and have a tournament caliber season. I think they have a decent shot to get past the Badgers, but recent play tells me Wisconsin is in great position to end Maryland's season. Good chance at an NIT bid for the Terps.
- Iowa: Hawkeyes won't go home empty handed from NYC, they will have a nice two day trip. However, running into Michigan is not a good draw for the Iowa/Illinois winner.
- Northwestern: Chris Collins' Wildcats have been through a lot this year. Untimely injuries, some blown leads (see Michigan State last week), and overall simply didn't meet expectations. The opening matchup against Penn State looks fairly even on paper and both teams come in cold. I will go with the metrics on this pick and take Penn State to end Northwestern's season in a close one.
- Rutgers: The cinderella story ends before it really begins. I can't pick Rutgers to beat the Hoosiers after just losing to them by 22 earlier this month. Steve Pikiell's program is slowly improving and help is on the way, unfortunately the Scarlet Knights aren't equipped to capitalize on the localized Big Ten Tournament this year.
Gone in the Quarters:
- Wisconsin: They come in playing much better basketball, and a Day 1 win should get the blood flowing for the Badgers. I expect them to come at Michigan State hard in an early Noon tipoff setting. This realy gives them a shot at the upset. But much like the Spartans have done down the stretch, I predict Michigan State gets another come from behind win and ends Wisconsin's season (not Postseason eligible).
- Nebraska: The bracketologist in me would appreciate a Quarterfinal loss by the Huskers. However, the Basketball fan in me would love to see this team make a run. James Palmer, Jr. is one of the best players in the league. I got witness his 34 point performance at Ohio State in person, excellent player. But, I like that Michigan comes into this game warm and doesn't have the pressure that the Huskers have, so I'll take the Huskers to lose early.
- Penn State: Fun opportunity here for the Nittany Lions to beat Ohio State for the 3rd time in the same season. Unfortunately I think they won't pull it off. The old tale is a it is hard to beat a team three times int the same season and it holds true here.
- Indiana: I think the Hoosiers are a sleeper team in this tournament and if they hadn't drawn Purdue, there is a good chance I would pick them further. Archie Miller's bunch should be poised for a great NIT run (if they want to).
Semifinal Send Offs:
- Michigan State: I am tempted to have them losing to Wisconsin, but this is a bit more realistic losing to a Michigan team that exposed them in East Lansing earlier this season. The Spartans were my preseason pick to win the NCAA's, so this is definitely not a hater pick. I just have been unimpressed with their quality of play lately and do not see them winning this tournament.
- Ohio State: Buckeyes have been an excellent story, and losing in the Semifinals to a real tough Purdue team doesn't diminish that at all. I expect this to be a great semifinal game, if you remember the Buckeyes beat the Boilers 64-63 in West Lafayette a few weeks back. Bates-Diop is POY in the Big Ten and will hit big shots but the Buckeyes fall just shy of making it to Sunday.
- Purdue defeats Michigan: Here we have another scenario where Purdue will be trying to beat Michigan for the 3rd time this season. The first two games were outstanding, with the Boilermakers winning both in the final minute. I think by Sunday, Michigan will be pretty tired and they only go eight deep. This will be their fourth game in four days and they will be feeling great about the upset over Sparty. But, I think Purdue will be too strong, deep, and fresh for Michigan to keep up.
Enjoy the games!