Predicting the Outcome of Each 2013 Big Ten Tournament Game in Chicago
After a significantly eventful Big Ten regular season, it's time for the best conference in college basketball to determine the winner of the Big Ten Tournament.
The 2012-13 season provided wicked twists and turns with stellar prime-time finishes, major upsets and phenomenal buzzer-beaters. Through this entertaining process, Indiana came out on top with its remarkable comeback win against Michigan on Sunday.
It's always important to be the No. 1 seed in a conference tournament, but it's been especially true in the Big Ten Tournament. The No. 1 seed has won the tourney five of the last six years.
Will Indiana become the sixth team in the last seven years to continue that trend?
No. 8 Illinois vs. No. 9 Minnesota
The Big Ten tournament will kick off with two teams that can't afford another loss on their resumes.
Both Illinois and Minnesota have lost their last two games and finished the Big Ten season at 8-10. While the Fighting Illini and Gophers should make the NCAA tournament, the loser of this game shouldn't get too comfortable on Selection Sunday.
These are the two most unpredictable teams in the Big Ten. They've both defeated Indiana. They've both lost to Northwestern.
Oddly enough, the road team won each game in the regular-season series.
The key for Illinois will be the ability to get easy baskets. The Illini do a lot of their damage with their guards, and they can't afford to settle for an abundance of jump shots.
Illinois shot a combined 16-54 from 3-point range in its last two losses to Iowa and Ohio State. The Illini must get movement off the ball.
For the Gophers, they can't afford to just go through the motions early in the game. Minnesota only managed 21 points in the first half at Nebraska. The Gophers followed that up by trailing Purdue 30-9 at one point in West Lafayette.
Since Minnesota won in Champaign on January 9, the Gophers have lost every contest outside Minneapolis. Furthermore, they have lost their last four on the road by an average of 16.25 points.
The consistency of the Gophers is more questionable than that of the Illini. Illinois lost to a hungry Iowa team and an Ohio State squad that's arguably playing the best basketball in the conference. Minnesota losing to Nebraska and getting blown out by Purdue is hardly the momentum you want in March.
No. 5 Michigan vs. No. 12 Penn State
After a stunning collapse against Indiana, Michigan is left with a rugged path in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Wolverines split the regular-season series against Penn State, not to mention the Nittany Lions pressed Michigan for 40 minutes in Ann Arbor.
If Michigan wins, the Wolverines face Wisconsin, the team that stunned Michigan in overtime thanks to Ben Brust. Providing that Indiana doesn't stumble in the quarterfinals, the Hoosiers would then be Michigan's next opponent. Michigan was 0-2 against Indiana.
This Penn State team is dangerous and is playing more like a No. 8 seed. The Nittany Lions could have quit on the season and gave lackluster efforts down the stretch.
Instead, Penn State has been fighting. The Nittany Lions have shot over 43 percent in six of their last seven games and Jermaine Marshall is playing better than someone on the Honorable Mention Team (via BTN.com).
Michigan's defense has been struggling in the second half as of late. In three of their last four games (including the loss to Penn State), the Wolverines have given up an average of 43.7 points after halftime.
With how much running Michigan does in transition without a deep bench, the Wolverines could be getting fatigued. That also might explain why Michigan missed three out of four free-throws in the final minute against Indiana. Those were also the only foul-shot attempts the Wolverines had in the second half.
Combining Michigan's hangover from the Indiana game and that the Wolverines are still struggling on the glass, Penn State will shock Michigan a second-straight time.
Winner: Penn State
No. 7 Purdue vs. No. 10 Nebraska
Purdue has all of a sudden established itself as one of the most improved teams in the Big Ten. After only mustering 48 points at Iowa, the Boilermakers stormed into Madison and beat the Badgers by 13 points.
Then after a close loss to Michigan, Purdue exploded out of the gate against Minnesota and beat the Gophers by 16.
Meanwhile, Nebraska has played well in Lincoln, but the defense on the road has been awful. The Cornhuskers have lost their last five on the road by an average of 20 points per game and have given up over 70 points each time.
This will be an easy win for the Boilermakers. They have gone from a team that can only rebound and play defense, to one that is efficient offensively and receiving more support behind Terone Johnson. Purdue had 20 assists against Minnesota on Saturday and all five starters scored in double figures.
Nebraska usually finds a way to win by controlling tempo and frustrating the teams that want to play at a faster pace. Purdue generally doesn't like to run.
Purdue won 65-56 in the only meeting between the two teams this season in Lincoln. The Boilermakers will win by double digits in Chicago.
No. 6 Iowa vs. No. 11 Northwestern
The evening session on Thursday won't be too exciting for Big Ten fans.
Iowa needs a run in the Big Ten Tournament to go dancing. Northwestern is currently playing the worst basketball in the conference.
The Hawkeyes have won six of their last eight and head coach Fran McCaffery thinks Mike Gesell will be able to return from his foot injury this week (per Scott Dochterman of The Gazette). Gesell has missed the last four games.
Northwestern has lost its last eight games by an average of 16.4 points
Iowa dominated both games in the regular season, defeating Northwestern by a combined 34 points. The Hawkeyes also recorded 38 assists between the two games and shot 47 percent from the field.
History is also not on Northwestern's side. In the 15 years of the Big Ten Tournament, the 1998-99 Illinois team is the only No. 11 seed to beat a No. 6 seed.
Even though the game is in Northwestern's backyard, the Hawkeyes coast to an easy victory.
No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 8 Illinois
The Fighting Illini defeated the Hoosiers in their only regular-season meeting on a Tyler Griffey layup as time expired.
Illinois was able to get the job done on the defensive end. The Illini forced 14 turnovers and only allowed Indiana 14 free-throw attempts.
However, outside of that, Indiana played fairly well. The Hoosiers shot 50 percent from the field, 52.9 percent from 3-point range and made 92.9 percent of their free-throws. They also won the rebounding battle by six.
Indiana faced a brutal schedule to finish the regular season (at Michigan State, at Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio State and at Michigan). The Hoosiers will have four full days to rest and have the opportunity to put the dramatic win at Michigan behind them. This is also the first time Indiana has earned the No. 1 seed for the Big Ten Tournament.
As long as the Hoosiers do a better job containing Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson, Indiana will advance. They have more weapons, more methods of scoring and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament on their minds.
Cody Zeller has a big game inside and Victor Oladipo controls the perimeter.
No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Penn State
Wisconsin always seems to provide late-game heroics. The regular-season finale was no exception when Traevon Jackson drained the dagger buzzer-beater to beat Penn State on its Senior Day.
The Badgers defeated the Nittany Lions both times in the regular season, but only by a combined 12 points.
It's been a rough March for Wisconsin so far. Before the Badgers escaped State College, they lost their last two games by a combined 28 points and shot 10-51 from behind the arc.
For Penn State to win, it must protect the paint and force Wisconsin to take a bundle of 3-pointers. The Nittany Lions just need to watch the tape from their matchup in the 2011 Big Ten Tournament. Penn State defeated Wisconsin 36-33 in the lowest scoring game in tournament history (per BTN.com). The Badgers were 2-21 from 3-point range.
Wisconsin needs to pick it up on the glass. The Badgers haven't won the rebounding margin in the month of March and were out-rebounded by the Nittany Lions in both contests this season.
This game will be close, but Bo Ryan leads the Badgers to a victory.
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 7 Purdue
Finally, a game where both teams are playing their best basketball of the year.
Ohio State has particularly elevated its play since getting clobbered at Wisconsin. The Buckeyes have won five straight, including wins against Michigan State and at Indiana.
The Buckeyes won the only regular-season clash against the Boilermakers 74-64 on January 8 in West Lafayette. Although, these two programs are much improved two months later.
There are two factors that will decide the outcome. The first is Terone Johnson's overall performance against Aaron Craft. Johnson had 18 points in the first meeting, but took a season-high 21 shots.
The second will be which team wins the turnover battle. This is a game that should be played in the upper 50s or lower 60s, and possession efficiency will be crucial.
Even though Purdue's offense is coming alive, Ohio State is executing too well on both ends of the floor. During the Buckeyes' five-game winning streak, they are plus-28 in turnover margin and have gotten more production out of their bench.
In what will be one of the most physical battles of the Big Ten Tournament, Ohio State comes out with a close win.
Winner: Ohio State
No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 6 Iowa
This one will come down to the final minute.
Michigan State is the defending Big Ten Tournament champion and looking to sneak up on the nation to snatch a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
For Iowa, this is exactly the kind of opponent it needs to defeat to propel them to the dance.
While Michigan State defeated Iowa 62-59 in Iowa City on January 10, the Hawkeyes led for most of the game and were without their leading scorer Roy Devyn Marble (per Rick Brown of HawkCentral.com).
Iowa's defense is much improved since that contest and has had a lot more success against the bigger teams that don't like to push the tempo. Michigan State fits that category.
The Spartans need to get to the free-throw line to win this game. Michigan State had 21 attempts from the line in the first meeting with Iowa, and that's when Adreian Payne was still coming off the bench.
If Michigan State can do that while taking care of the basketball, the Spartans will be in solid position to make it to the semifinals.
However, considering that Gesell is likely to return and the Hawkeyes have won six of their last eight, Iowa will hold off Michigan State this time. The Hawkeyes force just enough turnovers and use their deep bench to advance.
No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 4 Wisconsin
Interestingly, this would be the second-straight opponent Indiana has faced that it hasn't beaten yet this season.
It was a typical way for Wisconsin to win. The Badgers didn't dominate any specific part of the game. They took care of the basketball and slowed the game down just enough to force the Hoosiers to take bad shots. Indiana wound up shooting 37 percent from the field.
Indiana must do a better job of getting out in transition against Wisconsin to create easier baskets. The Hoosiers also need to get more than two points out of their bench like they had against the Badgers in their first meeting.
Wisconsin needs to maintain a balanced scoring attack. Four different players scored in double figures for the Badgers in their win over the Hoosiers in January. Wisconsin must keep the ball moving in the half-court offense and not get too complacent on the perimeter.
Just like many games have gone this season in the Big Ten, this semifinal showdown will come down to the final shot. Cody Zeller will draw a foul with just a couple seconds remaining and convert on both free throws to give Indiana the lead. Then Ben Brust will get a shot off just inside half court, but Victor Oladipo alters the shot just enough to force a miss of the side of the rim.
The Hoosiers survive.
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 6 Iowa
The first meeting between Ohio State and Iowa was rather odd.
After an even first 10 minutes, the Buckeyes dominated the Hawkeyes until the 12:48 mark in the second half and built a 24-point lead.
Then Ohio State could only manage one field goal until there were 30 seconds left in the game, and the Hawkeyes came within four points of tying the game at one point. The Buckeyes won by nine.
Both teams are excellent at forcing turnovers and whoever makes the fewest mistakes will prevail in the semis.
The Hawkeyes have blocked 20 shots in their last two games and need to continue to protecting the paint. This includes keeping Aaron Craft out of the lane early in the shot clock.
While Craft focuses on Roy Devyn Marble, Ohio State's forwards can't allow the Hawkeyes another 19 offensive-rebound performance. Also, whether it's Deshaun Thomas or Sam Thompson, he can't allow Aaron White into the paint.
Even though Iowa will be playing its third game in three days, fatigue won't be an issue with its deep bench.
However, the experience of Ohio State will make the difference late in the game. The Buckeyes force a few key turnovers and Lenzelle Smith Jr. knocks down a few clutch shots down the stretch.
Winner: Ohio State
No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 2 Ohio State
The two teams split the regular-season series.
For Indiana, it's the same story: make Ohio State run and attack inside.
For Ohio State, do what you did last week: keep Indiana off the glass and force turnovers.
The marquee matchup is between Victor Oladipo and Aaron Craft. Cody Zeller and Deshaun Thomas will get a lot of the attention offensively. Christian Watford and Lenzelle Smith Jr. will step up and give each team a boost throughout the game.
However, in a championship game, there is usually one player that stands out above the rest. In this case, it's going to be Oladipo.
Even when it appears he's having a bad game, Oladipo is always doing something right. He doesn't just average 13.7 points and 6.2 rebounds a game, he does it shooting 61.4 percent from the floor and 46.4 percent from 3-point range.
Oladipo always takes on the challenge of guarding the opponents' best player on the perimeter. He's explosive, averages 2.2 steals a game and does the little things right when it counts. He's the best all-around player in the Big Ten.
The Indiana Hoosiers win the Big Ten Tournament, Victor Oladipo takes MVP honors and Indiana goes dancing as a No. 1 seed in March Madness.