An incredible regular season for the BIG-10 has come to a close and it couldn’t have ended in such dramatic fashion. The biggest and most interesting trend that stood out from other power conferences this season was the home-court advantage that stuck out in the beginning of the year. Teams like Maryland, Wisconsin, and Purdue held their ground against tough teams and proved that they were a force to be reckoned with as thousands of fans cheered them on. With 10 to 11 of the 14 teams in the BIG-10 being highly considered for the NCAA Tournament, this season has shown how powerful this conference really is against each other and other conferences as well. I do believe that the BIG-10 can make the loudest noise in the NCAA Tournament and a lot of these teams are hungry to prove their worth.
Cassius Winston, Michigan State
Anthony Cowan Jr., Maryland
Jalen Smith, Maryland
Lamar Stevens, Penn State
Luka Garza, Iowa
Zavier Simpson, Michigan
Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois
Geo Baker, Rutgers
Xavier Tillman, Michigan State
Daniel Oturu, Minnesota
Freshman of the Year – Kofi Cockburn, Illinois
Coach of the Year – Greg Gard, Wisconsin
Defensive Player of the Year – Jalen Smith, Maryland
Player of the Year – Luka Garza, Iowa
First Round – Wednesday, March 11
Northwestern vs. Minnesota – 6:00 PM – BTN
As much as I would like Northwestern to win this game to start this tournament with a bang, I can’t see Northwestern getting past Daniel Oturu and the Golden Gophers. His presence inside is simply going to be too much for a team who has struggled all season. I expect this game to be quick and easy for Minnesota and for them to hold a steady lead from the tipoff.
Prediction: Minnesota: 76 Northwestern: 62
Nebraska vs. Indiana – 8:30 PM – BTN
Similarly to the previous game, this should be a gimme for the Hoosiers. Again, not the best season for Indiana, however, Nebraska has struggled much more than Indiana has. Expect Indiana to dominate inside and outside and I am sure that Nebraska’s 0-12 away record doesn’t fare well against a neutral court in Indianapolis. As one-sided as this matchup might sound, I expect it to be close and for Nebraska to give Indiana a run for their money.
Prediction: Indiana: 70 Nebraska: 65
Second Round – Thursday, March 12
Rutgers vs. Michigan – 12:00 PM – BTN
This is the game in this round that I am most excited for as a great matchup between Geo Baker and Xavier Simpson unfolds. Rutgers has struggled on away/neutral courts and Michigan has always performed well during the BIG-10 Tournament so this doesn’t seem that viable for Rutgers to win. However, I believe that this is their best team in a while and they are going to use the momentum that they’ve carried from the RAC in the regular season to defeat Michigan.
Prediction: Rutgers: 63 Michigan: 61
Iowa vs. Minnesota – 2:30 PM – BTN
A battle between two big men in Garza and Oturu will certainly be the focus of this game and their performances will most certainly determine the outcome of this game. If Garza can hit his threes, Iowa wins in a landslide. If not, it becomes a much closer game and Iowa will have to rely on the performances of Wieskamp and McCaffery to win.
Prediction: Iowa: 70 Minnesota: 61
Ohio State vs. Purdue – 6:30 PM – BTN
This year, both of these teams have been very streaky as we all thought Ohio State was the #1 team in the country at one point but falling off extremely hard after that. Purdue has defeated some very great teams at home and has shown they can play with grit. For those reasons, I believe Ohio State’s luck is still out and Purdue will shoot extremely well against Ohio State on Thursday. This will be an offensive battle that I believe will go down to the last shot.
Prediction: Purdue: 86 Ohio State: 83 (OT)
Penn State vs. Indiana – 9:00 PM – BTN
Penn State recently lost to Indiana in a disappointing game for the Nittany Lions and although they have struggled losing 6 of their last 7, I do think they turn it up and smash the Hoosiers in this revenge game. This is the first time in a while that Penn State has been considered as a ‘basketball school’ and I do believe that they have the ability to change momentum of how their season has been recently going. Expect Lamar Stevens to pop off this game and score for 25+.
Prediction: Penn State: 75 Indiana: 69
Quarterfinals – Friday, March 13
Wisconsin vs. Rutgers – 12:30 PM – BTN
For some reason, I’m not buying into the Wisconsin hype train. I do respect and acknowledge the incredible momentum they are on with an 8 game win streak which has led to their #1 seed, however, 7 of these 8 wins are the bottom 7 of the BIG-10 standings which does say something. Assuming Rutgers handles Michigan, I believe they’ll be confident and ready enough to defeat Wisconsin. I feel like the Badgers will underestimate Rutgers and go into this matchup hot-headed and end up committing a lot of turnovers.
Prediction: Rutgers: 62 Wisconsin: 55
Illinois vs. Iowa – 2:30 PM – BTN
A revenge game for Iowa as they recently lost to Illinois 78-76. I hope to see Garza continue his hot streak as of late and show freshman Kofi Cockburn some veteran moves inside the paint. This matchup was close before and I have no doubt that it’ll be close again. Expect a marginal victory for the Hawkeyes
Prediction: Iowa: 74 Illinois: 73
Michigan State vs. Purdue – 6:30 PM – BTN
The last time these two played, Michigan State got absolutely embarrassed with a score of 71-42. I’m sure Tom Izzo has no intention of only putting up 42 points and Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman are going to let the floodgates open. I believe the Spartans should run over the Boilermakers in dramatic fashion.
Prediction: Michigan State: 75 Purdue: 51
Maryland vs. Penn State – 9:00 PM – BTN
Penn State has struggled as of late, however, they had their first major win of the season at home against Maryland when they were ranked #4. I do believe that Penn State does have the keys to Maryland’s success and they should be able to stop Jalen Smith and Anthony Cowan Jr. as they will be limited as much as they can. If Lamar Stevens and freshman Seth Lundy can hit their shots along with guards Myreon Jones and Myles Dread, no team can stop them when they are blazing hot.
Prediction: Penn State 68 Maryland: 63
Semifinals – Saturday, March 14
Rutgers vs. Iowa – 1:00 PM – CBS
I think, after reaching the semifinals, that the Scarlet Knights have run out of luck. Facing Luka Garza and company is too much for Rutgers and I simply don’t see them winning this unless they end up shooting 70% from the field. Rutgers has no answer for Garza and I predict that he scores 35+ in this game. Expect a blowout in a game that will hopefully feature a sensational performance from Garza.
Prediction: Iowa: 79 Rutgers: 62
Michigan State vs. Penn State – 3:30 PM – CBS
These two played recently and the first half can show that Penn State could win the entire NCAA Tournament, however, they were dismantled strategically by Tom Izzo and company as they utilized Xavier Tillman to shut down Penn State at home. This game will be no different as I do think Penn State competes early in the beginning, however, their lack of strategic offense will be their biggest challenge as they go against Player of the Year Candidate Cassius Winston.
Prediction: Michigan State 69 Penn State: 62
Championship – Sunday, March 15
Iowa vs. Michigan State – 3:30 PM – CBS
In what is the most exciting game of the year, this game will show off two sensational players in Cassius Winston and Luka Garza and will definitely prove which individual can lead their team better. However, this game, in my opinion, will not be decided by these two players. Michigan State has the advantage as they do have the more complete teams with stronger wings and guards than Iowa and the matchup inside between Tillman and Garza will be interesting. I would love to see Iowa pull this through and leave Garza’s legacy at Iowa untainted, however, I think Tom Izzo is smart enough to find a plan to stop Garza whether that involves double-teaming or forcing him to take threes and hoping he doesn’t hit them. Whatever be the case, this game is going to go down to the wire and potentially be one of the greatest BIG-10 Championship games of all time.
Prediction: Michigan State: 81 Iowa: 77 (OT)