Big Ten Tournament 2012: Predicting the Entire Bracket

Geoff EstesCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2012

Big Ten Tournament 2012: Predicting the Entire Bracket

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    The Big Ten tournament tips off Thursday in Indianapolis.

    This may be the most competitive tournament in Big Ten history.  All of the top seeds have been vulnerable at times to almost all of the lower seeds.  There are a legitimate 10 teams who could knock off anybody in the field.  (Sorry Penn State and Nebraska).

    This slideshow will break down each game of the tournament with a brief game preview and a predicted winner.  Obviously, missing one game in the first round will throw off the prediction for the next round, but that is the risk we take in March. 

    While breaking down these games, I have listed the score of the previous meetings between the teams.  The home team for that game will be listed in italics.

    Get excited.  This should be an exceptional four days in Indy.

3/8: (8) Iowa vs. (9) Illinois

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    Previous Meeting: Illinois 65, Iowa 54

    Just a little over a week ago, the Illini snapped out of their funk against the Hawkeyes and beat them rather handily in Champaign.  That win came during a stretch in which the Illini lost nine of 10 games.

    The Illini still come in limping after losses to Michigan and Wisconsin to close out the season.

    The Hawkeyes are the opposite right now.  They come in hot after winning three of their last five.  Matt Gatens' confidence is soaring and senior point guard Bryce Cartwright finally looks healthy.

    All signs point to Iowa being favored in this game. 

    However, as an Iowa fan, I know better.

    The Illini are a terrible matchup for Iowa.  They shoot just well enough from outside to keep the Hawkeyes honest.  This will force the Iowa bigs to contend with Meyers Leonard on the inside, and they showed last week that they have trouble with that.

    I sure hope the Hawkeyes finally get Matt Gatens that Big Ten tournament win, but I am going the other way.

    Prediction: Illinois

3/8: (5) Indiana vs. (12) Penn State

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    Previous Meetings: Indiana 88, Penn State 82; Indiana 73, Penn State 54

    A rare sweep of the season series in the Big Ten this year belonged to Indiana over Penn State.

    There is no reason to think Indiana will have trouble beating Penn State for a third time.

    The Hoosiers will have a large crowd.  The crowd may not be as wild as they have been in Assembly Hall this season, but will still largely be wearing red.

    Indiana should dismantle Penn State and have time to save some legs for the following day against Wisconsin.

    Prediction: Indiana

3/8: (7) Northwestern vs. (10) Minnesota

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    Previous Meetings: Minnesota 75, Northwestern 52; Northwestern 64, Minnesota 53

    Poor Northwestern.  These guys deserve a NCAA bid, but I don't think they will get it. 

    The win in Iowa City last weekend was a giant step in the right direction, but I have a bad feeling that they will come out Thursday and have trouble with the Gophers.

    Minnesota killed Northwestern at home but lost to them in Evanston.  However, the loss to Northwestern came right in the middle of a six-game stretch against Wisconsin, Ohio State, Northwestern, Michigan State, Indiana and Wisconsin again (not a great stretch for the Gophers).

    Minnesota is pretty solid inside with Ralph Sampson III.  Rodney Williams has been an explosive scorer at times.

    I hope this doesn't happen to the Wildcat faithful, but I'm going with the upset.

    Prediction: Minnesota

3/8: (6) Purdue vs. (11) Nebraska

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    Previous Meeting: Purdue 83, Nebraska 65

    It was a rough first season in the Big Ten for Nebraska.

    They sure don't get a break in the Big Ten tournament.  Purdue comes in hungry, after a loss to in-state rival Indiana, on Robbie Hummel's last go-round.

    I would bet my life that Hummel comes out Thursday ready to win the whole thing.  He will leave everything on the floor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, as will the rest of the Boilermakers.

    Matt Painter's team learned their lesson about overlooking teams last year.  Nebraska won't be as fortunate.

    Prediction: Purdue

3/9: (1) Michigan State vs. (9) Illinois

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    Previous Meeting: Illinois 42, Michigan State 41

    These two teams met only once this season, and it was ugly.

    The Illini pulled off the upset, but Michigan State shot just 24 percent from the field.

    That will not happen again.

    I already went out on a limb and picked Bruce Weber to get one more win in his Illini career.  Two wins is one too many.

    Tom Izzo is a great tournament coach, and the Spartans, led by (likely) Big Ten Player of the Year Draymond Green, will be too much for Illinois.

    Prediction: Michigan State

3/9: (5) Indiana vs. (4) Wisconsin

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    Previous Meeting: Wisconsin 57, Indiana 50

    Wisconsin lost three straight games early in the Big Ten season and looked like they could be in trouble.  Since then, they have won 11 of 14 games with their only losses coming against Ohio State in Madison and at Iowa and Michigan State.

    They later avenged the loss to the Buckeyes.

    I already touched on Indiana's current good play.

    This has potential to be an absolutely great game.  In the end, I think Indiana's crowd and Cody Zeller's inside game push them over the top.

    Prediction: Indiana

3/9: (3) Michigan vs. (10) Minnesota

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    Previous Meeting: Michigan 61, Minnesota 56

    What a great year for the Michigan Wolverines and one of the most underrated coaches in college basketball, John Beilein.

    The Wolverines are a very dangerous team, led by seniors Zack Novak and Stu Douglass, and young, talented Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke.

    The Wolverines struggle with teams that can hit the three and have an inside game as well. Iowa had the blueprint for beating Michigan and executed it with threes and dunks.  Minnesota can do both of those things.

    But they can't do them well enough to beat Michigan.

    The Wolverines will have too much fire power for the Gophers in this one.

    Prediction: Michigan

3/9: (6) Purdue vs. (2) Ohio State

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    Previous Meeting: Ohio State 87, Purdue 84

    Purdue is going to be a very tough matchup for the Buckeyes in their first game of the weekend.  As evidenced by the score above, the Boilermakers can play with the Buckeyes.

    This is a game that Ohio State will have to win with their inside game (see Sullinger). 

    Purdue will bring the defensive intensity to hang with the Buckeyes, but it won't be enough to stop the more talented Ohio State bunch.

    Prediction: Ohio State

3/10: (1) Michigan State vs. (5) Indiana

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    Previous Meetings: Michigan State 80, Indiana 65, Indiana 70, Michigan State 55

    This season series couldn't be closer. Both teams won on their home court by 15 points.  Indiana comes in winners of seven of eight, and will have to be riding a two-game streak in the tournament to even get here.

    I think the Hoosiers will use the partisan crowd to ride some momentum to a half-time lead, but the Michigan State bigs will wear down Zeller throughout the game and pull away in the second half.

    Indiana is a team that nobody wants to play in the "Big Dance," but Michigan State will do here what Tom Izzo teams do best: survive and advance.

    Prediction: Michigan State

3/10: (2) Ohio State vs. (3) Michigan

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    Previous Meetings: Ohio State 64, Michigan 49; Michigan 56, Ohio State 51

    The classic football rivalry turned into quite a basketball rivalry this year.  It got to the point last week, where the Wolverines had to actually cheer for the Buckeyes to beat Michigan State so Michigan could grab a share of the Big Ten crown.

    I don't think those good feelings for the guys in red will carry over to Indy.

    Michigan should attempt to push the pace in this one to avoid a half-court game.  the Buckeyes clearly have the inside advantage.

    Michigan has the slashers to score on the Buckeyes, but not the defense to really stop them.  They did hold them to 51 points last month, but that was last month.

    I expect this to be a great, scrappy game with both teams hustling and diving all over the floor.  Aaron Craft and Zack Novak are guaranteed to rack up the floor burns in this one.

    I'd like to see the Wolverines take out the Buckeyes and continue their magical Big Ten season, but I don't think it happens.

    Prediction: Ohio State

3/11: (1) Michigan State vs. (2) Ohio State

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    Previous Meetings: Michigan State 58, Ohio State 48; Ohio State 72, Michigan State 70

    If you have been paying attention to the previous meetings from all the slides, you have noticed how difficult it was to win on the road in the Big Ten this year.

    This series is the exception.  Both teams won on the other's home court.

    Michigan State had the Big Ten title in their grasp last Sunday and gave it right back to Ohio State, who won on William Buford's huge game-winner.

    This sets up to be another classic for not only the Big Ten tournament title, but potentially for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

    Michigan State looked like the superior team last week for 30 minutes, but Ohio State found a way to win.  I think that continues.

    Ohio State walks away with the Big Ten title and a lot of momentum entering the "Big Dance."

    Prediction: Ohio State