Big Ten Ballin’: Mock B1G Tournament
WNUR’s Greg Mroz (@wizard_of_mroz) examines what would happen if the Big Ten Tournament started today.
If the season ended today, you would have an interesting hodgepodge of matchups to begin the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis. Michigan would be the number one seed for the second time in three years, while Michigan State would claim the number two seed. There are still two weeks left in the season, but with a few bubble teams possibly needing a run in the tournament to make themselves viable candidates for the big dance. Its all set for the taking, in this, Big Ten Ballin’s, mock Big Ten Tournament
Game 1: #8 Indiana vs #9 Purdue
This is a battle of Hoosier state teams, one which was gutted of four starters last year, the other which is struggling to rebuild. Despite the fact that Purdue beat Indiana by 18 earlier in the year, Purdue’s offense played abnormally well. On paper, based on pure talent alone, Purdue would seem to be the better team. But neither the brothers Johnson (Ronnie and Terone) nor AJ Hammons has stepped up. The Boilermakers are 5-9 in conference for a reason. Indiana’s combo of Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleh will prove too tough for Purdue
Game 2: #5 Ohio State vs #12 Penn State
Normally, you would say that this is a shoo-in for OSU, except for one problem. The Buckeyes lost, at home to these very same Nittany Lions in Columbus on January 29th. DJ Newbill and Tim Frazier can score, but Penn State as a whole has not defended well as a team, and that’s been a huge difference. The Buckeyes survive Penn State, on the back of Aaron Craft being able to distribute the basketball and wreaking havoc in the lane.
Winner: Ohio State
Game 3: #6 Nebraska vs #11 Illinois
Nebraska is 8-6 in the Big Ten, and 16-10 overall. They are fighting like heck to be able to get themselves in position to have a shot at the NCAA tournament. The back end of their conference schedule is weak, which includes a matchup against these Illinois Fighting Illini. Terran Pettaway has been a godsend, and Shavon Shields is showing everyone that he’s got some game too. Illinois has been horrendous all conference play long, and its because the offense has become as inept as any in the conference. John Groce needs Brandon Paul to make another buzzer beater in order to have a chance at winning this first round B1G tourney game.
Game 4: #7 Minnesota vs #10 Northwestern
The Gophers are another team on the bubble, but they stand at 6-9 in conference and have lost their past two games to Illinois and Ohio State. Two years ago Northwestern needed a first round win in the Big Ten tournament in Indy against Minnesota to basically secure a berth in the dance. They lost in OT. Minnesota has already played NU twice this year and split the series. With JerShon Cobb out with an apparent foot injury, an already limited Northwestern team will be even more limited. Minnesota is very athletic, and that will be the difference for the young Richard Pitino.
Game 5: #1 Michigan vs #8 Indiana
The Hoosiers beat Michigan in Bloomington earlier this year, and the Wolverines have been a very streaky team in the last 6 games. Each of Michigan’s three conference losses have been by double digit margins, with one of those being an 11 point loss to Indiana. Still, its hard to imagine an Indiana team that has had trouble running its offense beating a Michigan team that is scary good even without its best player, Mitch McGary. Despite there probably being an overwhelming amount of Hoosier fans, the Wolverines will squeak out the win.
Game 6: #4 Iowa vs #5 Ohio State
This could very well change, but each team has beaten each other once this year. Iowa is on a mission, and they may have the most complete team top to bottom in the entire conference. The Hawkeyes losses have been close for the most part, with Marble and White leading an effective scoring charge. I can see Ohio State winning this game, but I don’t think its likely. Hawkeyes will show why they are being so highly regarded.
Game 7: #2 Michigan State vs #6 Nebraska
One of the most impressive wins of the year was Nebraska’s 60-51 victory over Michigan State in East Lansing. Can that type of game happen again? Tim Miles has proven to be a very capable coach, but you cant bet against a team that has as much talent as Tom Izzo does. Harris and Appling find their groove, and Pettaway gets double teamed all night. I thought about the upset here, but its not realistic.
Winner: Michigan State
Game 8: #3 Wisconsin vs #7 Minnesota
Both teams split the series in the regular season, but Wisconsin, after faltering for a bit, has hit their stride again. Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky have proven to be a deadly pair that can play both inside and on the perimeter. This game will come down to coaching, because both teams are quick up and down the floor and have good shooters. Richard Pitino may be the son of a coaching legend, but Bo Ryan is a coaching legend, and he finds a way to shut down Andre Hollins.
Game 9: #1 Michigan vs #4 Iowa
Size matters? You bet it does. And that’s where Iowa has an advantage on Michigan. Basabe and White both average over 6 boards per game. Michigan
doesn’t have an active player with over 5 boards per game (McGary had 8,3 per game before his injury). Michigan is not a complete team, and Iowa’s loses have been the result of close games. The more talented team will win.
Game 10: #2 Michigan State vs #3 Wisconsin
This game is really a toss up, because both teams have shown the ability to be elite. Ultimately, I want to go with the team that has proven that they can control the glass, and that team is Michigan State. Kaminsky is a seven footer who plays smaller because of his lack of girth. Payne will take him to school.
Winner: Michigan State
Championship Game: #4 Iowa vs #2 Michigan State
The first time these teams met, Sparty won 71-69 in overtime in Iowa City. This game will be just as close. Very evenly matched teams, but what Michigan State has over Iowa is experience. These guys have all been here before, whereas Fran McCaffrey is experiencing something new with this run of success. This will be one for the ages, but the best game coach in the sport finds a way to win another title.
Winner: Michigan State