There is always a lot of controversy, commentary, and excitement that surrounds the Big Ten Tournament, and this year will be no different. Not only does the Big Ten currently have 5 ranked teams that will be in this weekend's tournament, but 3 of the teams also split the Big Ten Championship. Not only will the battle to "reclaim" the Big Ten Championship be an interesting storyline, but there are some teams fighting for a berth in the NCAA Tournament as well.
Teams like MSU, OSU, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana have been secured in the NCAA Tournament, but teams like Northwestern will be on "the bubble" this weekend. This is what makes the Big Ten Tournament so exciting. One weekend of basketball that will determine which teams go to the NCAA Tournament, have respectable seasons, and which teams decide to call themselves champions. Of course, Michigan, MSU, and OSU will all get their rings and banners, but MSU has already made it an objective to "reclaim" their title this weekend.
I think it's kind of funny that MSU somehow has to "reclaim" a championship that they've already been award, but whatever makes them happy is ok I guess. There are a lot of intriguing match-ups this weekend, but Michigan has been dealt a pretty tough route to a Big Ten Tournament Championship. Not only will they face the winner of the Minnesota vs. Northwestern game (NW is crucially fighting for a big win to secure its first ever tournament trip), but the following game would likely be against Ohio State or Purdue. Michigan has a combined 2-2 record against OSU and Purdue, so winning against those teams is no guarantee.
Of course, anything can happen in the Big Ten Tournament, but we all know OSU and Thad Matta's recent success in this tournament. Not only has Matta compiled a 14-4 record in the tournament, but OSU has also won the last two Big Ten Tournament Championships. As a result of this, I'm predicting OSU will beat Purdue to advance to the semi-finals. Along with this, I'm predicting MSU will defeat Iowa to go to the semi-finals and Indiana will upset Wisconsin to make the semi-finals.
I'm strongly inclined to believe that Northwestern will beat Minnesota and face-off against Michigan on Friday. Not only because they must beat the Golden Gophers to make the NCAA Tournament, but also because they're a lot better team. I really don't want to play the Wildcats again, especially after having to go to OT in both regular season match-ups, but Michigan should have a great shot at beating them. The big concern I have is that the Wildcats will come out red-hot against the Wolverines and be able to steal a win simply because they need it to make the NCAA Tournament.
However, I'm still leaning towards Michigan beating Northwestern to have another match-up with Ohio State. If this happens, it will mark the 3rd straight season that Michigan and OSU will face-off in the Big Ten Tournament (would make 9 total meetings in just 3 seasons). I'm not going to make a game prediction because I'd like to see how each teams play on Friday first, but I'd have to lean towards the Buckeyes because they seem to be playing a little better than when they had their rough stretch and have been dynamite in the Big Ten Tournament. Along with this, I'm going to predict MSU runs through Indiana in an effort to "reclaim" the title they already hold.
This would make the final match-up an MSU vs. OSU rematch of the Big Ten regular season finale. I'd like to pick Michigan to go further, but they really don't have a lot to play for in this tournament and have a tough draw, even though they are the #2 seed. However, I think they'll play well and lose a nail-bitter to the Buckeyes, although I'm not making my specific prediction for that game yet, just a general feeling for the tournament right now.
My Magic Pick Is...
OSU to win the Big Ten Tournament for a 3rd consecutive season with a solid win over the Spartans, Wolverines, and Boilermakers. However, I think they're going to fall early in the NCAA Tournament (saying that makes me feel better about this prediction).
Photo Credit: Big Ten