College Basketball Weekly SPECIAL: Big Ten Tournament Preview and Predictions


Nick Doherty, Columnist

Hello there! And welcome to another addition of College Basketball Weekly. Wow, it feels like the season has just started and it only feels like I have written two weekly editions… Well I might have:) Anyways, we are in the most wonderful time of the year. With the fans yelling and everyone telling you the Big Ten won’t win. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Now when I started writing CBW I thought that at least four of our Chicago-area teams would win, but… only two will probably make the tourney. So with that I’ve decided that we are going to focus HARD on the Big Ten going into the Big Ten Tourney and NCAA Tournament. So let’s get into it and dive right into the Big Ten! (Or mostly Northwestern and Illinois!)


What’s at stake?

Going into the Big Ten Tournament there is a lot at stake for quite a few teams. Right now according to ESPN’s Jeff Lunardi’s Bracketology there are 10 Big Ten teams that are in the tournament, and Michigan is right on the bubble of the dance as well. So by the end of Sunday there is a possibility of 11 TEAMS from the Big Ten going dancing (which could be interesting). So at the moment, there are four Big Ten teams that have the most at stake, which are: Wisconsin, Rutgers, Penn State, and as stated previously Michigan. I believe that for these four teams to make the tourney they need to do these things:



According to Bracketology, Rutgers is the safest team right now going into the tournament. But I do have to admit that Rutgers is in a very dangerous situation right now. Losing their last four games to end the season, including a buzzer beater loss to last ranked Minnesota. Rutgers is in a bad state currently and the only way to right the ship is to get some wins in the Big Ten Tournament. Their first game will be against Michigan, so if Rutgers can beat them it’s fair to say that they will end up in the dance.



Wisconsin, Wisconsin, oh Wisconsin, what to do with Wisconsin? To be honest I do disagree with Bracketology and how Wisconsin being put in the last four in. I just don’t know how this team will perform against the top teams in the Big Ten. When looking at their record, they have been able to beat the middle of the road teams throughout the season. Examples of this are wins against Iowa, Penn State, and Michigan. But what concerns me is when they play the top teams like Northwestern, Purdue, and Illinois they haven’t been able to beat them. I think it will be important to see how they play during the Big Ten Tournament, especially against Ohio State to see whether they are able to go dancing.


Penn State:

I am really interested to see how this team plays in March, because I really like this team. I am genuinely shocked with how Penn State doesn’t have over 20 wins this season. After coming off of two buzzer-beater wins against Northwestern and Maryland. And having to face an Illinois team that they killed TWICE already this season. I expect good things from this Penn State team going into the game on Thursday. I think two keys for them to win this game against Illinois will be hitting 3-pointers and offensive rebounds. That’s how they beat Illinois in the last two games and I think if they are able to achieve that again, then Penn State has a shot to make a run in both the Big Ten tourney and the big dance.



Michigan’s chances of getting into the tourney in my opinion are pretty slim to zero. The double OT loss to Illinois and the loss to Indiana pretty much dug their grave for this season. But according to Bracketology, Michigan is considered in the next four out so they still have a chance to make it. But, they have to have an almost perfect Big Ten tournament to be able to even have a chance of making the NCAA tourney. So first they will have to beat a Rutgers team that is also going to be battling for its life and if they win, they have to face Purdue who they already lost to this season. So I won’t count them out of the dance just yet, but they will end up having a lot to do before they earn their ticket to the dance.


My Biggest Questions:


Can any team in the Big Ten make it to the National Championship?

The last time a Big Ten team won a National Championship in the NCAA tourney was Michigan State in 2000. That’s not very good for the conference that keeps producing the most teams in the tourney year after year. So do I think a single team can make it this year to the final four and NCAA tourney? Maybe, but most likely no. The teams that have the best shot would probably be Purdue, Indiana, and illinois. Maybe northwestern or Michigan State but they have to play a lot better to prove that they can reach that level. Purdue is probably the best bet, but I think they have a lot of weaknesses that still need to be resolved. So let’s get through the Big Ten tournament first to see what seeding looks like for the entire Big Ten before answering this question in full.


Can Northwestern go on a run?

Alright let’s talk about the Chicago-area teams real quick. I am excited about this northwestern team and how far they will go. I remember at the start of the season when Northwestern started off hot and I truly questioned how they would do. And I will be honest when I say I was whole-heartedly wrong about this team, because they are one of the biggest surprises this year. But how far can they go? Can Northwestern sustain their success in the Big Ten and NCAA Tourney? In the Big Ten tourney they will either have to face Illinois or Penn State, two teams that have already beat them this season. So I think it will be a good insight to see how they will play in the rest of March from these games. 


Will Illinois put out the dumpster fire?

Right now the State Farm Center is on fire and Illinois can’t put it out. This team has been frustrating this season to say the least with every single time it seems like they have righted the ship, they sink. The reason that this team has struggled so much is because of the lack of leadership by the upperclassman in the program. It’s bad when you’re a freshman and sophomores are bigger leaders than the seniors. I think next season this team will be a top 10 team because of how good the leadership is from the young guys. But for now, for this Illinois team to have a big run in the tourney they will need to get actual leadership. I loved how they played against Purdue in the second half, you could see that the real leaders of this team took charge and played their hearts out. But the first half was an embarrassment for this program and this is what I am deeply scared about facing Penn State again. If we are able to fix it against Penn State, they have the potential to have a deep run in both tourneys.


Prediction Time:

Now that we have gone through all of my thoughts about this year’s Big Ten Tournament. It’s now time for what everyone has been waiting for… Prediction Time! (Here is the bracket!)


First Round: 

Ohio State 58,  WISCONSIN 65


Minnesota 61, NEBRASKA 74


Second Round:

RUTGERS 68, Michigan 67


Wisconsin 63, IOWA 68


PENN STATE 85, illinois 72


Nebraska 78, MARYLAND 86



Rutgers 65, PURDUE 73




PENN STATE 77, Northwestern 75


Maryland 74, INDIANA 80



Purdue 81, Michigan State 84


Penn State 73, INDIANA 84



Michigan State 86, INDIANA 91


I believe that INDIANA will end up winning the Big Ten Tourney over Michigan State, and after that game it will be time for the madness of March!