With Minnesota and Illinois kicking off the 2013 Big Ten tournament with a nail-biter on Thursday, it's time to take a look at the final three games of the first round.
Penn State tips off the final three games against Michigan, Nebraska versus Purdue follows and Northwestern versus Iowa caps off the day.
Here's a look at how I see the rest of the first round going down (seeds in parentheses). The complete bracket can be found here.
Penn State (12) vs. Michigan (5)
Penn State is an interesting team in that it went 10-20 during the regular season, but won two of its last four games, including an 84-78 victory over Michigan on Feb. 27. The Nittany Lions also lost by just three points to Wisconsin.
In the win over Michigan, Penn State shot 47 percent while going 10-of-20 from downtown and 20-of-27 from the free-throw line. That, combined with Michigan's 15 turnovers, netted the Lions a victory.
The thing is, not only was Penn State's shooting that night uncharacteristic (the team ranks 329th in the country in field-goal percentage), Michigan's generally not a turnover-prone team. In fact, the Wolverines own the lowest turnover percentage in the country (14.2 percent of possessions), via TeamRankings.com.
Michigan has also won two of its last three games since that defeat (including a victory over Michigan State), with the sole loss being a 72-71 nail-biter against No. 3 Indiana.
Penn State may have surprised Michigan once, but I don't see the Lions doing it again.
Prediction: Michigan Advances
Nebraska (10) vs. Purdue (7)
It's not just that Purdue defeated Nebraska on Jan. 16, 65-56; it's that Purdue is simply a better team right now.
The Boilermakers have won three of their last five games since the blowout loss to Indiana on Feb. 16. That includes a victory over Wisconsin and a narrow five-point loss to Michigan.
Nebraska, on the other hand, hasn't beaten a ranked team all season and got blasted by Wisconsin and Iowa down the stretch.
In the loss to Purdue, the Cornhuskers shot 33 percent from the floor. They have shot 40.5 percent from the field this season, good for 299th in the nation. They have shot 39.7 percent in their last three games.
Nebraska also got outrebounded by Purdue in January. That's not surprising, given the Cornhuskers rank 285th in total rebounding rate this season, while the Boilermakers rank 37th (via TeamRankings.com).
Don't expect the outcome to be any different in the Big Ten tournament.
Prediction: Purdue Advances
Northwestern (11) vs. Iowa (6)
The first time Iowa and Northwestern faced off this season, the Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 70-50.
The second time they faced off, Iowa came away with a 71-57 victory.
In both cases, Northwestern shot terribly from the floor and got outrebounded.
The Wildcats have had trouble scoring all season. They rank 308th in points per game and 309th in field-goal percentage.
They are also a poor rebounding team. They rank 330th in the country in total rebounding rate (Iowa ranks 56th), via TeamRankings.com.
Sometimes the final box score doesn't tell the whole story. In both of these teams' matchups, it did.
Northwestern has also lost its last eight games while Iowa has won six of its last eight contests.
Prediction: Iowa Advances
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