Michigan State's Derrick Nix, Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas, Michigan State's Draymond Green and Austin Thornton, and Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, from left, look for a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, March 4, 2012, in East Lansing, Mich. Ohio State won 72-70. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
At Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
No. 8 Iowa vs. No. 9 Illinois 10:30 a.m., BTN
No. 5 Indiana vs. No. 12 Penn State, 1 p.m., BTN
No. 7 Northwestern vs. No. 10 Minnesota, 4 p.m., ESPN2
No. 6 Purdue vs. No. 11 Nebraska, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2
Updated: April 10, 2012 11:29AM
This Big Ten Tournament, the first with 12 teams and with only four teams receiving a bye, could be the most unpredictable.
To wit, Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State all tied for the regular-season title with a 13-5 record. And there were three other ties in the standings.
“This is one of the better years we’ve had, and people think it’s wide-open because you had three teams that won a share of the Big Ten crown at 13-5, which nobody thought the winner of this league was going to have five losses — I don’t think there’s a person out there that believed the winner was going to have five losses,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “Now we have three teams, so it makes the people that were 12-6, 11-7, 10-8 feel that they were a lot closer to winning the Big Ten than maybe they thought they were going to be to start the season, or maybe some of those teams felt like they could be in the hunt for it.
“But I think it comes down to matchups, how do you match up against that team? Your frame of mind — you’ve got some guys on every team that want it to get over with. That might sound crazy, but they’re young people. It’s going to be the teams that go in there, and the guys playing five to 10 minutes, and the guys on the bench pulling for their teammates, they’re out there fighting, and they want to win. They really want to win, they don’t want it over with. And those teams really seem to advance in tournament-style play.”
So here’s one breakdown as play begins on Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse:
No. 1 seed Michigan St.
Record: 24-7, 13-5 Big Ten
Skinny: Lew Wallace graduate Branden Dawson’s torn ACL certainly is a blow to the Spartans. But they still have Draymond Green, and a significant amount of talent.
Osipoff’s odds: 4-1
No. 2 Michigan
Record: 23-8, 13-5
Skinny: The Wolverines were in a position to have to root for Ohio State in order to get a share of the title? Say it ain’t so. With playmakers such as Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., and Chesterton grad Zack Novak serving as the glue, the Wolverines will be a tough out.
Osipoff’s odds: 8-1
No. 3 Ohio State
Record: 25-6, 13-5
Skinny: Perhaps Jared Sullinger hasn’t been as dominant this season for the Buckeyes. But he’s obviously still a matchup nightmare. And if William Buford is hitting, look out.
Osipoff’s odds: 3-1
No. 4 Wisconsin
Record: 23-8, 12-6
Skinny: Ho-hum, another season, another top-four finish for the Badgers — that’s 11 in as many seasons under Bo Ryan. Don’t overlook Jordan Taylor and Co.
Osipoff’s odds: 8-1
No. 5 Indiana
Record: 27-7, 11-7
Skinny: Quite simply, Cody Zeller has made every player on the Hoosiers better. And any number of those players have improved on their own. This group has a legitimate chance.
Osipoff’s odds: 6-1
No. 6 Purdue
Record: 20-11, 10-8
Skinny: If the Boilermakers are making perimeter shots, they’re dangerous. If not — without a low-post presence — not so much. Pretty simple, right?
Osipoff’s odds: 12-1
No. 7 Northwestern
Record: 18-12, 8-10
Skinny: That excruciatingly elusive NCAA Tournament bid appears to be in reach for John Shurna and the Wildcats. They can’t afford a loss to Minnesota. And a win against Michigan would all but seal the deal.
Osipoff’s odds: 20-1
No. 8 Iowa
Record: 16-15, 8-10
Skinny: The Hawkeyes seem to be on the upswing under Fran McCaffery. Relatively quietly, Matt Gatens has had a really nice career, and a really, really nice season.
Osipoff’s odds: 75-1
No. 9 Illinois
Record: 17-14, 6-12
Skinny: Seriously, don’t the Illini have too much talent to have this poor of a record? It’s hard to imagine they’ll figure it out at this stage. Unfortunately, it seems Bruce Weber has virtually no chance to return next season.
Osipoff’s odds: 75-1
No. 10 Minnesota
Record: 18-13, 6-12
Skinny: Not to talk about the past too much, but Trevor Mbakwe’s knee injury pretty much ruined the Gophers’ season. They seemed to be hanging in there for a while after an 0-4 conference start, but wins against Nebraska sandwiched six straight losses (albeit against some of the top teams).
Osipoff’s odds: 150-1
No. 11 Nebraska
Record: 12-17, 4-14
Skinny: If the Cornhuskers’ guard-heavy lineup gets hot, an upset isn’t totally, completely outside the realm of possibility. But their first stay in this event figures to be a short one.
Osipoff’s odds: 350-1
No. 12 Penn State
Record: 12-19, 4-14
Skinny: Tim Frazier is a heck of a player. But he can carry the Nittany Lions only so far.
Osipoff’s odds: 325-1