OSIPOFF: Picking tourney winner from loaded Big Ten not easy
By Michael Osipoff 648-3137 or firstname.lastname@example.org March 13, 2013 7:10PM
Indiana guard Victor Oladipo (4) drives to the basket while pursued by Michigan forward Jordan Morgan (52) and guard Spike Albrecht (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, March 10, 2013, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Updated: April 16, 2013 3:44PM
With the number of elite teams, and several in the middle of the pack (and even lower) playing well late in the season, a handful (or more) have the wherewithal to win the Big Ten Tournament. The event seems even more wide-open than usual (do we always say that? Anyway …).
Along those lines, this tournament — sold out as it’s played at the United Center for the first time since 2007 — also seems to be one of the more highly anticipated in recent memory. There figures to be plenty of drama.
Here’s one stab at how the tournament could unfold:
No. 1 Indiana
(26-5, 14-4 Big Ten)
The Skinny: The Hoosiers secured their first outright regular-season title since 1993, and remain among the legitimate national title contenders. When they’re clicking, they’re tough to contain.
Osipoff’s odds-on outcome: Indiana navigates a dangerous path to add its first tournament title, amid some sort of controversy.
No. 2 Ohio State (23-7, 13-5)
The Skinny: The Buckeyes, the hottest team in the conference, have won five straight games, a streak that includes wins at Indiana and against Michigan State. Deshaun Thomas certainly is a player who can carry a team for three games.
Osipoff’s odds-on outcome: Amazingly, Ohio State has appeared in four consecutive championship games and six in the last seven seasons (with three titles, including back-to-back in 2010 and ’11), but uncharacteristically bows out in the semifinals.
No. 3 Michigan State (24-7, 13-5)
The Skinny: The Spartans have excellent balance, another team capable of making a national title run. And never count out Tom Izzo in March, though, oddly, their conference tournament title last season came in their first championship game appearance since 2000’s title.
Osipoff’s odds-on outcome: Michigan State reaches the title game for the second straight season, but falls just short this time.
No. 4 Wisconsin (21-10, 12-6)
The Skinny: Just another season for Bo Ryan and the Badgers, who have finished no worse than tied for fourth place in any of his 12 seasons. Regardless of preseason forecasts, they just win.
Osipoff’s odds-on outcome: Wisconsin narrowly loses its opening game, unable to recreate its overtime magic against Michigan from the regular season.
No. 5 Michigan (25-6, 12-6)
The Skinny: The fact that one shot falling off the rim meant the Wolverines didn’t even get a first-round bye speaks to the craziness that was this regular season. Still, they have the goods to be another national title contender among conference teams.
Osipoff’s odds-on outcome: Michigan loses a classic to Indiana in the semifinals — though it wouldn’t be a surprise if this team won the tournament, either.
No. 6 Iowa (20-11, 9-9)
The Skinny: Can the Hawkeyes make it eight NCAA Tournament teams out of the conference? They probably need more than a first-round win against Northwestern, which would do essentially nothing for their profile.
Osipoff’s odds-on outcome: Iowa can’t knock off Michigan State in the second round, and sweats out Selection Sunday.
No. 7 Purdue (15-16, 8-10)
The Skinny: The Boilermakers seemed to finally figure out some things over the lasts several weeks. But while it bodes well for their future, it’s a case of too little too late for their present.
Osipoff’s odds-on outcome: Purdue gets past Nebraska, and comes close to upsetting Ohio State, but doesn’t quite pull it off.
No. 8 Illinois (21-11, 8-10)
The Skinny: With the strength of several of their wins, including early in the season, the Illini should feel pretty good about their NCAA Tournament situation. But one more win sure would help them.
Osipoff’s odds-on outcome: Illinois survives the 8-9 game, then exits against Indiana.
No. 9 Minnesota (20-11, 8-10)
The Skinny: The Gophers have been rather erratic, including ending the regular season with back-to-back road losses to Nebraska and Purdue, and have been a different team at home. Which team will show up on a neutral court?
Osipoff’s odds-on outcome: Minnesota loses in the first round, making for a bit of an uncomfortable Selection Sunday.
No. 10 Nebraska (14-17, 5-13)
The Skinny: Tim Miles seems to have the Cornhuskers moving in the right direction. But they’re not there yet.
Osipoff’s odds-on outcome: Nebraska definitely has a chance against Purdue, but doesn’t get out of the first round.
No. 11 Northwestern (13-18, 4-14)
The Skinny: The Wildcats have lost eight straight games (and 10 of 11), with their season marred by injuries. The circumstances might mitigate, but Bill Carmody’s job status could be in question.
Osipoff’s odds-on outcome: After a loss on Thursday, Northwestern fully turns it attention to bigger-picture issues.
No. 12 Penn State (10-20, 2-16)
The Skinny: Credit Patrick Chambers and the Nittany Lions for not quitting. Their last four games included shocking Michigan, winning at Northwestern, and losing a buzzer-beater to Wisconsin.
Osipoff’s odds-on outcome: It’s slim and none that Penn State trips up Michigan again.