The Big Ten Conference Tournament is set to begin today in Indianapolis, and if the season is any indication of how competitive the tournament is going to be among the teams in the Big Ten, this tournament will be among the best tournaments in the country.
Below is a break down of each of the games of the 2010-11 Big Ten Tournament.
Northwestern v. Minnesota
Season series: The Wildcats beat the Gophers 68-57 in Evanston to end the season last week. Minnesota won the first meeting 81-70 in Minneapolis.
Minnesota comes into the game with a five-game losing streak and about as flat as possible. After point guard Al Nolen was lost for the season, the Gophers have not been able to execute their half-court offense and have struggled greatly to deal with full-court pressure at the end of the game.
The Wildcats point guard Michael Thompson has had a terrific season and exceeded expectations in running the offense. Forward John Shurna has bounced back and begun to play well again after suffering a concussion in Minnesota in February.
Prediction - Northwestern wins a close battle at the end.
Michigan State v. Iowa
Season series: Iowa beat the Spartans in Iowa City 72-52; Spartans returned the favor in East Lansing 85-66.
Iowa comes into the game with a lot of momentum with their big upset win over Purdue, while Michigan State comes into the game trying to figure things out after shooting just 33 percent from the field in their loss to Michigan.
Of course, Michigan State’s victory over Iowa in East Lansing occurred just last week and Kalin Lucas is due for a big game.
Prediction – Michigan State’s experience makes the difference.
Penn State v. Indiana
Season series: Penn State beat Indiana 69-60 in Bloomington early in the Big Ten season.
Ordinarily you would think that Indiana would have some type of home court advantage but given that they have lost eight straight games to end the season it is hard to imagine an enthusiastic crowd going crazy for the Hoosiers.
Some Penn State fans believe that Jeff Brooks was snubbed when he was named to the All Big-Ten team. Brooks may have a chip on his shoulder and prove that he belonged on the All Big Ten team.
Prediction – Penn State should win, as its seniors Battle and Brooks are focused on getting to the NCAA Tournament.
Northwestern v. Ohio State
Season series: Ohio State survived Northwestern’s upset bid 58-57 in Evanston.
The circumstances were ideal for the Wildcats to upset Ohio State earlier in the year in that the Buckeyes were coming off tough games against two ranked opponents, Illinois and Purdue.
Northwestern, however, is not going to sneak up on Ohio State this time. A rested Ohio State team brimming with confidence is too much for the Wildcats.
Prediction – Ohio State in a decisive win.
Michigan State v. Purdue
Season series: Purdue beat Michigan State 86-76 in East Lansing and trounced the Spartans in West Lafayette 67-47.
Michigan State likely will come into this game with some confidence, knowing that the team that they just beat, Iowa, pulled off an upset over Purdue in the last week of the regular season.
The only problem is that Purdue is likely to come ready to play to prove that their loss against Iowa was an aberration. Purdue is also likely to feed off of the energy of the Indianapolis crowd, which will be looking for the Boilermakers to cut down the nets.
Prediction – Purdue wins and Spartans fans wonder if the streak of NCAA bids is going to come to an end.
Penn State v. Wisconsin
Season series: Penn State won the first game in Happy Valley 56-52; Wisconsin got its revenge in Madison 76-66.
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If you like point guard play, this is the game to watch, as Penn State’s Talor Battle locks horns with Wisconsin’s Taylor Jordan. Talor Battle likely has a chance to become the all-time leading scorer in Penn State history with a 20-point-plus performance.
This game is likely a harbinger for how far Wisconsin is likely to go in the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin’s support players have all but disappeared in the Badger’s last two games.
Jordan and Jon Leuer are fantastic players, but Wisconsin would get past the first round if they don’t get production from other members of the team.
Prediction – Penn State in an upset as Battle keeps his NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
Michigan v. Illinois
Season series: Michigan lost to the Illini in Champaign 54-52.
The winner of this game should feel secure about their chances to play in the NCAA Tournament; the loser on the other hand, will likely be wringing their hands on Sunday afternoon in front of the television.
Illinois will likely be thinking about last year when 19 wins was not good enough to get the Big Dance. Michigan with the media reminiscing about the Fab Five will likely be thinking about how great it would be to rekindle the tradition of being a mainstay in the NCAA Tournament.
Prediction – Michigan gets the nod because they are playing slightly better ball than the Illini over the past two weeks. This could be the first overtime game of the tournament.
Michigan v. Ohio State
Season series: Ohio State swept the series winning in Ann Arbor 68-64 and winning in Columbus 62-53.
Ohio State seems to be very focused as they won their last four games of the season in convincing fashion. The Buckeyes could be ready to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Prediction – Ohio State, but Michigan makes it a close game.
Penn State v. Purdue
Season series: The Boilermakers swept the series winning on the road 83-68 and at home 63-62.
The Nittany Lions have the heart to compete with Purdue but the toll of having to play an extra game in the Tournament will likely become apparent in the second half of this game.
Big Ten Player of the Year, JaJuan Johnson also will cause match-up problems for the Nittany Lions all day.
Prediction – Purdue, fans begin to wonder if the Boilermakers could snatch a No. 1 seed.
Ohio State v. Purdue
Season series: Ohio State won in Columbus 87-64 and Purdue held serve 76-63 in West Lafayette.
This will be the last time this season that the Buckeyes play on a “neutral” location against an opponent of the caliber of Purdue.
Ohio State was the best team in the Big Ten this season and will earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for simply getting to the Big Ten Tournament Championship game.
Purdue playing in front of their fans in Indianapolis is in a good position to redeem themselves for their loss in Iowa City during the last week in the season.
Prediction – Purdue in a slight upset over Ohio State which should give the basketball college world false hope before the NCAA tournament.