Thursday, March 10, 2005

Big Ten Conference Tournament Preview

The Big Ten was not a very successful conference this season. Other than Illinois (15-1) and Michigan State (13-3) , no team was overly impressive. Wisconsin finished third in the league at 11-5, with Minnesota and Indiana tied at 10-6. Iowa and Ohio State followed in the pecking order.
Illinois looked fairly invincible until their loss Sunday at Ohio State in what was probably their worst shooting game of the season. Dee Brown, Deron Williams, and Luther Head form the best perimeter trio in the country. Roger Powell is a versatile rebounding machine inside, while James Augustine is developing some low-post moves and can run the floor extremely well. Michigan State has excellent depth and a host of wing-type players that can shoot the three well. Alan Anderson is a tough match-up for anyone, while Maurice Ager, Shannon Brown, and Kelvin Torbert are solid scorers. Chris Hill is a great shooter, and Paul Davis is one of the best big men in the conference. Wisconsin looks very tough to beat at times, and very vulnerable at other instances. Mike Wilkinson and Alando Tucker are talented inside-outside threats that can carry the Badgers. The guards have to start hitting outside shots. Minnesota does not overwhelm their opponents, but they find ways to win. Vincent Grier is one of the top pure scorers in the Big Ten, and Jeff Hagen is an underrated center for the Golden Gophers. Indiana has come on strong near the end of the season and could run the table in the tournament. The Hoosiers are lead by the inside-outside duo of Bracey Wright and freshman DJ White. Indiana looks better with each game. Ohio State is banned from the NCAA Tournament, but could make some noise in the conference tournament. Terence Dials is a load to stop in the paint, and Tony Stockman is a gunner from long-range. Iowa needs a couple of wins to make the NCAA Tournament, after the loss of Pierre Pierce. Adam Haluska and Jeff Horner do the scoring from the perimeter, while post man Greg Brunner is the leading scorer for the Hawkeyes.
Prediction: Even with the loss to Ohio State, Illinois remains the best team in the conference, and possibly the nation. Michigan State could give them trouble in the final, as the Spartans are playing their best ball of the season. Indiana is a sleeper team to make a run in the tournament, although playing the Illini in the semi-finals could damper that enthusiasm. Overall, however, Illinois should win the Big Ten tournament and grab the automatic bid and a #1 seed.

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