Thursday, March 8, 2007

Big Ten Conference Tournament Preview

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The Big Ten was a two-team race from start to finish. Ohio State and Wisconsin dominated the headlines and the standings throughout the year, and the league came down to their head-to-head match-up in Columbus. OSU won on a last-second shot by Mike Conley, and is now in line for a #1 seed. Wisconsin finished two games back of the 15-1 Buckeyes, while Indiana was 10-6. Three teams were 9-7, and two others were 8-8.

Favorites: Ohio State was one of the best teams in the country all year, and only lost three games—at North Carolina, at Florida, and at Wisconsin. The Buckeyes are very young, but they have two of the best freshmen in the country in Mike Conley and Greg Oden. Conley is a terrific distributor and is very quick, while Oden has the potential to dominate in the paint. Another freshman, Daequan Cook, and Ron Lewis provide wing scoring, while Jamar Butler is a very good long-range shooter next to Conley. Ivan Harris provides a match-up problem with his ability to draw bigger defenders away from the goal due to his shooting prowess. Wisconsin has not looked the same late in the season as they did when they were peaking in January. They are still excellent defensively, but they have struggled defending dribble penetration, and are not executing on offense. Alando Tucker is still one of the best players in the country, and can score against any defender. Kammron Taylor is a good second option, and he can score driving to the basket, or shooting a jumper. Michael Flowers has to become more of a scorer with Brian Butch out. He can do everything for Wisconsin. Marcus Landry is an athletic rebounder and shot-blocker. The Badgers are deep and experienced.

Contenders: Indiana looked like the clear-cut third best team in the conference through much of January, but they struggled for a few games in the middle part of Big Ten play. However, they are playing well again and could make noise. D.J. White is one of the best post players in the conference, but needs to be more aggressive offensively. The Hoosiers have a deep and talented perimeter group. Roderick Wilmont can score in a variety of ways, while Earl Calloway and A.J. Ratliff are two more solid guards. Armon Bassett has contributed immediately as a freshman. Michigan State is the seventh seed, but they knocked off Wisconsin and Indiana in consecutive games two weeks ago, and nearly pulled off a road win in Madison this past weekend. Drew Neitzel is one of the most clutch players in college basketball, and is very competitive. Raymar Morgan is starting to develop into a dependable second option for Tom Izzo. Maurice Joseph and Travis Walton are also good perimeter players. The Spartans need consistent play down low. Illinois and Purdue both went 9-7, and could be fighting for the fifth bid out of the Big Ten. The Fighting Illini are led by their interior duo of Shaun Pruitt and Warren Carter. Pruitt is a big body down low that is tough to stop in the paint. Warren Carter can step outside and hit the mid-range jumper in addition to his post game. Brian Randle is a do-it-all type of player that can defend. Rich McBride is a good long-range shooter, and Chester Frazier is an underrated point guard. He gets after it on the defensive end and can distribute. Purdue has one of the best inside-outside combos in the conference. Carl Landry is an excellent post player. He can dominate the low block and carry the Boilermakers. David Teague is a good scorer and shooter that defends well on the other end. Gordon Watt is a versatile forward, while Chris Kramer is a hard-nosed guard.

Sleepers: Michigan will be out of the at-large picture without a run in the conference tournament. They had a chance to knock off Ohio State this weekend, but blew a late lead. The Wolverines are experienced and have a go-to guard in Dion Harris. He can make shots from deep as well as penetrate. Courtney Sims has potential down low, but hasn’t fulfilled it in his career. Brent Petway is an athletic freak who dunks and blocks everything in sight. Iowa seems to always play well in the Big Ten Tournament. They are the #4 seed, and have overachieved all year. Adam Haluska is one of the league’s best scorers, and forward Tyler Smith can do a variety of things at the forward spot as a freshman. Outside of those two, the offensive options are limited, but Tony Freeman is quick at the point, and the Hawkeyes have a slew of big bodies down low.

Prediction: Outside of Wisconsin and Ohio State, the Big Ten is a mess. Spots three through eight are separated by only two games, and most of them will be playing for their postseason life. In terms of the automatic bid, though, none of it will matter. Ohio State won the regular season title, and they will win the conference tournament, as well. As for their opponent, though, we won’t get to see a rubber match between the Buckeyes and Wisconsin. I think Indiana is going to knock off Wisconsin in the semi-finals. The Badgers simply don’t have enough offense without Brian Butch.

First Round
#8 Michigan 64, #9 Minnesota 51
#6 Illinois 62, #11 Penn State 53
#7 Michigan State 56, #10 Northwestern 48

#1 Ohio State 66, #8 Michigan 58
#5 Purdue 68, #4 Iowa 66
#3 Indiana 62, #6 Illinois 57
#2 Wisconsin 61, #7 Michigan State 56

#1 Ohio State 71, #5 Purdue 61
#3 Indiana 64, #2 Wisconsin 62

#1 Ohio State 70, #3 Indiana 64


  1. Now that Wisconsin won larger than you expected, do you still stand on Indiana beating Wisconsin? I think that Wisconsin just may beat Ohio State in the tournament and if they do meet in the final four, Ohio State will beat Wisconsin.

  2. I was very impressed today with Wisconsin. They played a lot better than they did last week--they might be getting used to life without Brian Butch.

    If Stiemsma and Landry give them 15 and 6 every night combined, they'll be fine.