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2015 Big Ten Tournament Preview

MyMindOnSport’s Troy Jefferson previews and predicts the Big Ten Tournament, which begins on March 11th and concludes on March 15th.

Frontrunners

Wisconsin (16-2)

Frank Kaminsky and the Badgers are the favorites to win the Big Ten Tournament. Bo Ryan’s gritty style will make for a tough out but a team with impact bigs like Purdue and UMD could give them trouble.

UMD (14-4)

Maryland has a trio of players: Jake Layman, Melo Trimble and Dez Wells that can go out and score 20 plus on any night. This balance gives Maryland an edge. However, a potential weakness is defending wing players see the performances Illinois’ Malcolm Hill and Nebraska’s Shavon Shields had against the Terps.

Sleepers

MSU (12-6)

It’s March, which means it’s Tom Izzo’s time of the year. MSU doesn’t have the talent it’s had in past seasons but they do play with that same Spartan toughness. The Spartans will go as far as Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice and Branden Dawson take them. MSU could be scary if their bigs Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman play like they did against Purdue last week.

Purdue (12-6)

Size matters and the Boilermakers have a pair of seven footers, who can give opposing teams fits. Center’s A.J. Hammons (11 points/ 6 rebounds per game) and Isaac Haas (7 points/ 4 rebounds per game) can wear down the opposition on both ends. Purdue will also lean on guard Jon Octeus, who can do a little bit of everything (9 points/4 rebounds/2 assists per game).

Indiana (9-9)

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Indiana is as jekyll and hyde as they come, hence their .500 record. The Big Ten is about rebounding and defense, if the Hoosiers want to make a run at the championship these will be two areas they’ll have to improve. Northwestern would be a real tough matchup for Indiana in the second round. Since Tom Crean took over at Indiana,the Hoosiers are just 4-8 against the Wildcats.

Iowa (12-6) 

Iowa checks all of the boxes: hot (six game win streak), strong guard play, deep and has a player who can put the team on his back in Aaron White.

Longshots

Ohio State (11-7)

I think Ohio State is overrated, the talent is there but the signature wins are not. The Buckeyes are a prime candidate to get upset early on.

Minnesota (6-12)

The bracket could not have shaped up any better for 11th seeded Minnesota, who opens up against Rutgers and if they win will face Ohio State. The Buckeyes narrowly escaped Minneapolis with an overtime victory in early January. I wouldn’t count on DeAngelo Russell dropping 25 in the first half again or Ohio State shooting 50%.


Illinois (9-9)

When Illinois is on, they’re a really good team. Examples: win on January 7th against Maryland/ win in East Lansing on February 7th against Michigan State. I know Rayvonte Rice will be on his game but the Illini will need steady contribution from Kendrick Nunn, who has only scored in double figures twice in his last six games.

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No Chance

Michigan (8-10)

There will not be a deep run for John Beilein’s team this season. Without Caris Levert and any inside presence, Michigan will struggle against Illinois on Thursday.

Northwestern (6-12)

Northwestern has won five of their last seven and will open the tournament against Indiana, a team they’ve had success against in the past. I do think the future is bright with players like Bryant McIntosh but the Wildcats are still a year away from being any sort of legitimate threat.

Nebraska (5-13)

They haven’t won a game in a month and I don’t see much changing in the Big Ten tournament. Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway have to play lights out for the Cornhuskers to have a chance and that probably won’t be enough.

Penn State (4-14)

Not enough talent behind D.J. Newbill to truly compete.

Rutgers (2-16)

I won’t waste my time and explain why Rutgers doesn’t have a chance. Did you watch them play this year?

My prediction: UMD over Purdue

Not much separates the middle of the pack from the upper echelon in the Big Ten conference. UMD has the most balance and no glaring weaknesses, which is why I picked them to win the tournament. But don’t be surprised if you see upsets early and often. “Troy, what about Wisconsin?” … I’m not as high as others on Wisconsin, I think Purdue will beat them on a neutral court. I want you to go back and check out the matchup between Purdue and Wisconsin on January 7th, Wisconsin won 62-55 but were outshot and outrebounded by the Boilermakers. The Badgers needed 24 extra free throw attempts to secure the victory in Madison. I could most definitely see Purdue upsetting Wisconsin in the quarterfinals.

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