2013 Big Ten Tournament Predictions: Can Anyone Stop Indiana?

Jake WestrichSenior Writer IMarch 13, 2013

ANN ARBOR, MI - MARCH 10:  Cody Zeller #40 of the Indiana Hoosiers drives around Mitch McGary #4 of the Michigan Wolverines during the second half at Crisler Center on March 10, 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Indiana won the game 72-71.(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Big Ten conference has been called boring and outdated during football season, but when it comes to basketball they’re as exciting as SEC football games. Need proof? As of March 12th, in the strength of schedule rankings, seven of the top eight teams were in the Big Ten.

Heading into the final day of the regular season, Tom Crean’s Hoosiers just needed to win over No. 7 Michigan. If they faltered, Ohio State, Michigan State and the Wolverines would share the title with a win.

The Buckeyes started off the day taking Illinois to task at Value City Arena, 68-55. They were led by juniors Deshaun Thomas (19 points), Aaron Craft (14 points) and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (10 points). A 12-2 run to end the first half created a deficit too large for the Fighting Illini to overcome. Then, fans in Columbus were put in a difficult position. “Buckeye Nation” had to cheer for the Maize and Blue.

The raucous crowd in Ann Arbor looked for their boys to avenge a loss to Indiana in early-February and split the Big Ten trophy. The Wolverines had a five point lead with 52 seconds to play. The keepers of the Crisler Arena trophy case were starting to make room for the conference title, but Cody Zeller doesn’t like to share. The big man and Player of the Year nominee rattled off his own 6-0 run, while Michigan struggled to sink clutch free throws. Indiana claimed its first outright Big Ten title since 1993.

Big Ten Opening Round
Matchup Win % Avg. Score
8) Illinois Fighting Illini 21.6 62.9
vs. 9) Minnesota Gophers 78.4 71.1
5) Michigan Wolverines 85.4 69.9
vs. 12) Penn State Nittany Lions 14.6 58.7
7) Purdue Boilermakers 64.9 62.1
vs. 10) Nebraska Cornhuskers 35.1 58.6
6) Iowa Hawkeyes 86.6 66.2
vs. 11) Northwestern Wildcats 13.4 55.2

Home court advantage went out the window in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. The Wildcats, despite being 2-0 on neutral courts this year, were an underdog against Iowa and lost 86.6 percent of the time.

Illinois may have had the better seed in its game against Minnesota, but Tubby Smith’s team didn’t care. The Golden Gophers put up the highest average score on day one (71.1 points).

The closest game in round one went to the teams with sub-.500 records, No. 7 Purdue vs. No. 10 Nebraska. No big surprise that the lowest average winning margin (3.5 points) occurred in this matchup.

Big Ten Quarterfinals
Matchup Win % Avg. Score
1) Indiana Hoosiers 55.7 73.1
vs. 9) Minnesota Gophers 44.3 71.7
4) Wisconsin Badgers 50.9 67.6
vs. 5) Michigan Wolverines 49.1 66.6
2) Ohio State Buckeyes 76.2 66.9
vs. 7) Purdue Boilermakers 23.8 59.6
3) Michigan State Spartans 60.3 67.3
vs. 6) Iowa Hawkeyes 39.7 64.7

While all chalk advanced to the Final Four of the Big Ten Tournament, three of the teams won by an average of three points or less. The most dramatic game went to No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Michigan. During the regular season, the Wolverines beat nine different teams in the conference. The only teams they couldn’t beat: Indiana and Wisconsin. Throw in the fact that Michigan is 2-0 on neutral courts this year and one would think that would be enough for the win. However, the Badgers beat Michigan by three in overtime during the regular season and, according to our simulation engine, win by an average of one point in the Big Ten tourney.

Minnesota nearly upset top-seeded Indiana in the Elite Eight. The Hoosiers only beat the No. 9 seed 55.7 percent of the time, by an average of 1.4 points.

No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan State won their games at least 60 percent of the time.

Big Ten Semifinals
Matchup Win % Avg. Score
1) Indiana Hoosiers 72.3 71.3
vs. 4) Wisconsin Badgers 27.7 64.8
2) Ohio State Buckeyes 41.7 64.7
vs. 3) Michigan State Spartans 58.3 66.8

After the Spartans won their regular season finale, but failed to win a share of the conference title, Tom Izzo told the crowd on hand that Michigan State’s derrieres were “gonna show up this weekend” and they did. Even though Ohio State was perfect on neutral courts (2-0), the team was a subpar 4-6 against Top 25 squads. The WhatIfSports.com college basketball simulation engine predicts the men of East Lansing will defeat the team from Columbus (winning by an average of 2.1 points).

Who will play MSU? Well, that honor goes to No. 1 seed Indiana. While Wisconsin was the only team in the Big Ten not to lose to the Hoosiers in the regular season, they fell in the conference tournament. Our computers pick Indiana 72.3 percent of the time, by an average of 6.5 points.

Big Ten Championship Game
Matchup Win % Avg. Score
1) Indiana Hoosiers 60.9 73.3
vs. 3) Michigan State Spartans 39.1 70.4

No doubt the two regular season wins Indiana had over Michigan State gave the Hoosiers enough momentum to sweep the Spartans. Also, Michigan State went 5-5 in the regular season against Top 25 opponents, while IU finished 6-2. In the first meeting, Crean’s team won by five. In the second, they won by four. The average final score got even closer as the Bloomington bunch won by 2.9 points, 60.9 percent of the time.

Three of the last four times there was an outright Big Ten regular season champion, that team went on to win the conference tournament.

FYI: Last year, we accurately predicted that Michigan State would beat Ohio State in the 2012 Big Ten tournament.

WhatIfSports.com utilized its NCAA basketball simulation engine to present conference tournament previews and predictions for the Big East, Big Ten and Pac-12. We simulate each matchup 501 times to learn each team's win percentage and average score. Simulations are based on updated rosters and the statistical makeup of each team during the 2012-13 season.


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