Big Ten Tournament 2013: Predictions for Tournament and Championship Game MVP

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2013

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 16:  Deshaun Thomas #1 and Aaron Craft #4 of the Ohio State Buckeyes react after scoring against the Michigan State Spartans during a semifinal game of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at the United Center on March 16, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. Ohio State defeats Michigan State 61-58.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Ohio State Buckeyes and Wisconsin Badgers will play each other for the third time this season at the Big 10 tournament. This time, the stakes will be raised.

The winner earns the title of Big 10 champion and a serious boost on their resume heading into the final hours of selection Sunday. Given the history between these two teams, it's sure to be a highlight of the conference finals scheduled for the day.

Ohio State is now on a seven-game winning streak and playing as well as anyone in the country. However, that doesn't mean it can walk in and easily claim the championship in Chicago. The Wisconsin Badgers are the last team to beat the Buckeyes.

The Badgers evened the series with the Buckeyes for the season with a 71-49 blowout in Madison.

With the Buckeyes hungry for revenge and on a roll, things are about to get real in Chicago.

In a game like this, it's always important that key players step up. With Tournament and championship game MVP awards on the line, it's the perfect stage for stars to step up and have big games. Luckily for hoop fans there's plenty of star power between the two teams.

Here are the most likely candidates to take home MVP honors.

Ryan Evans, F, Wisconsin

Evans wasn't playing his best basketball heading into the tournament. He scored just two points in the Badgers' final regular season game against Penn State but he's opened up his game when it matters most.

He had 12 points, six rebounds and six assists in Wisconsin's win over Michigan and came back with the best performance of his entire season against the top-ranked Indiana Hoosiers.

Evans did a little bit of everything with 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four blocks. That's about as stuffed a stat sheet as you'll see in college basketball. Evans' versatility has been a huge reason that the Badgers have made it through their first two games.

If he goes off against the Buckeyes, then he'll be a lock to win the MVP award.

Aaron Craft, G, Ohio State

Craft has been a driving force for the Buckeyes this season. Not only does he provide their best scoring option in backcourt, he's turned up his skills as a distributor just in time for the tournament.

He's dished eight and nine rebounds in the team's first tournament games. He may not put up the most gaudy scoring totals all the time but his ability to set up good looks for the Buckeyes is a huge asset.

In addition to his skills as the team's point guard on offense, he's also a "crafty" defender. On the season, Craft averaged two steals per game. He recorded four against Indiana.

Forcing turnovers is an important ingredient for tournament success and Craft's ability to create opportunities off of his steals could land him the MVP award.

DeShaun Thomas, F, Ohio State

Craft may be the distributor and defensive wizard, but it's Thomas that shoulders the scoring load for the Buckeyes.

The athletic forward is averaging 19.7 points per game for the Buckeyes. He'll be the go-to guy anytime the Buckeyes are in need of a basket.

Whether it be his ability to beat his man off the dribble or spot up from beyond the arc, the Buckeyes will depend on Thomas to get things going when the offense stalls.

If he's able to put up 20 points against Wisconsin's excellent defense, then he'll be the easy pick for MVP.


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