Big Ten Tournament 2020: Bracket Predictions Before Final Regular-Season Games

Big Ten Tournament 2020: Bracket Predictions Before Final Regular-Season Games

EAST LANSING, MI - DECEMBER 03: Cassius Winston #5 of the Michigan State Spartans drives past Luka Garza #55 of the Iowa Hawkeyes in the first half at Breslin Center on December 3, 2018 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

The deepest conference in men’s college basketball will crown its next champion next weekend.

Maryland, Wisconsin and Michigan State all carry identical 13-6 conference records into the Big Ten’s final weekend of regular-season action. There’s plenty to be decided with the seeding, which should surprise no one since eight of the conference’s 14 teams are all ranked among the nation’s top 25.

So, while we won’t know which teams will square off until Sunday, we already have the tournament schedule, along with an inkling of how things might play out. After laying out the scheduling particulars, we’ll provide three bracket predictions ahead of the event.

                 

Big Ten Tournament Schedule

All times ET

Wednesday, March 11

No. 12 seed vs. No. 13 seed (6 p.m., Big Ten Network)

No. 11 seed vs. No. 14 seed (8:30 p.m., BTN)

      

Thursday, March 12

No. 8 seed vs. No. 9 seed (noon, BTN)

No. 5 seed vs. No. 12 vs. No. 13 winner (2:30 p.m., BTN)

No. 7 seed vs. No. 10 seed (6:30 p.m., BTN)

No. 6 seed vs. No. 11 vs. No. 14 winner (9 p.m., BTN) 

         

Friday, March 13

No. 1 seed vs. No. 8 vs. No. 9 winner (noon, BTN) 

No. 4 seed vs. No. 5 vs. No. 12/13 winner (2:30 p.m., BTN) 

No. 2 seed vs. No. 7 vs. No. 10 winner (6:30 p.m., BTN) 

No. 3 seed vs. No. 6 vs. No. 11/14 winner (9 p.m., BTN) 

           

Saturday, March 14

Semifinal No. 1 (1 p.m., CBS)

Semifinal No. 2 (3:30 p.m., CBS) 

       

Sunday, March 15

Championship (3:30 p.m., CBS)

              

Big Ten Tournament Predictions

Purdue Will Win Twice, Secure NCAA Tournament Berth

The Boilermakers are tied for 10th in the conference standings, which you might assume would preclude them from any March Madness consideration. But conventional wisdom gets thrown out the window when more than half the field has a top-25 ranking next to its name.

Purdue isn’t one of these teams, of course, but Matt Painter’s team isn’t your typical 16-14 squad. Even with a near-.500 record, KenPom.com places Purdue 22nd in the nation, thanks in no small part to a 12th-placed standing in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Boilermakers have also proved capable of slaying giants, as they have five wins over ranked opponents, two of which came against top-10 teams.

In its last two outings, Purdue has taken down another bubble team in Indiana and a tournament lock in Iowa, which Purdue defeated twice this seasonby an average margin of 22.5 points.

Sophomore forward Trevion Williams does a little of everything, averaging team-highs of 11.6 points and 7.7 rebounds. Junior center Matt Haarms uses his 7’3″, 250-pound frame to anchor the interior and contributes 2.0 blocks in just 20.3 minutes. There isn’t a ton of shooting on this team, but sophomore guards Sasha Stefanovic (38.3 percent from deep) and Eric Hunter Jr. (36.4) can both catch fire.

Purdue should be motivated both by the stakes at hand and the fact this club has shown it’s capable of defeating anyone. Look for the Boilermakers to play their way off the bubble with a pair of needed victories.

               

Iowa Makes the Final Round

On the surface, the Hawkeyes look like your typical consistently inconsistent team.

Their 20 victories include triumphs over Maryland, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio State and Penn State. Their 10 losses include defeats at the hands of DePaul (89th on KenPom) and Nebraska (147th on KenPom, 2-17 in the conference). The Hawkeyes have done more good than bad, but they’ve also basically alternated wins and losses five weeks (5-5 in their last 10 games).

But it’s hard to paint Iowa as inconsistent when its star, Luka Garza, might be the most consistent player in the country. He’s a nightly supplier of 23.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, and he’s third in the conference (tied for 18th overall) with 15 double-doubles.

He might be the favorite for the Wooden Award, as ESPN’s Jeff Borzello argued:

“Even though the Hawkeyes have been inconsistent of late, Garza is still putting up numbers: 26 and 12 against Purdue, 25 and 17 against Penn State, 20 and 9 against Michigan State. He has expanded his offensive game in Big Ten play, stepping out and shooting 3s, while shouldering more of the loadand still being one of the most efficient offensive players in the country.”

Iowa’s inconsistency comes from most everyone around Garza, and it’s possible someone neutralizes this team by either limiting the others or throwing the kitchen sink at the big man. But sophomore swingman Joe Wieskamp and freshman guard CJ Fredrick can give this offense some semblance of balance, and freshman guard Joe Toussaint can be an underrated energizer who makes plays all over.

Garza is awesome, but he’s not the only reason the Hawkeyes rank sixth nationally (and first in the conference) in adjusted offensive efficiency.

              

Michigan State Wins the Title

Boring prediction, right? We’re OK with that. If it’s a choice between daring and accurate, we’ll always opt for the latter.

As deep as this conference is, the Spartans seem the most logical choice to get this done. It’s not just about coach Tom Izzo being there and doing that before (four times in the last eight years), but that’s certainly a part of it. Experience can be critical in this setting, and Sparty has that in spades, both with Izzo and his senior point guard Cassius Winston.

“I’ve been lucky to have him for four years,” Izzo told reporters. “Who would I take in front him? Maybe Magic (Johnson).”

Winston is the conference’s third-best scorer (18.3 points per game), fourth-best distributor (5.9 assists) and top three-point shooter (69 makes). He’s also the biggest reason why Michigan State leads all Big 10 teams in KenPom rankings as the No. 7 team nationally (12th on offense, 13th on defense).

The Spartans have the conference’s only winning road record (7-4), which should help calm any nerves inside Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse. They also have the second-longest winning streak at four straight triumphs, a stretch that includes victories over Iowa, Maryland and Penn State.

It’s never easy finding a winner in a field this deep, but Michigan State has the coaching, the point guard play and the talent to get this done.

Breaking Sports News

via Bleacher Report – Front Page https://ift.tt/2gMI6gF

March 7, 2020 at 07:00AM

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