The Big Ten Tournament gets underway tonight in Chicago, Illinois and the tournament should be jam-packed with exciting games and action throughout the weekend. The Michigan State Spartans and Purdue Boilermakers shared a piece of the Big Ten regular season title with identical 16-4 conference records.
Only five teams in the conference finished Big Ten play with above .500 records, but the teams that finished 6th through 13th in the standings were only separated by four games. The tight race in the standings and unpredictable play of March Madness college basketball makes for an interesting Big Ten Tournament.
Here’s a run-down of the seven teams on the top half of the bracket:
#1 – Michigan State
#4 – Wisconsin
#5 – Maryland
#8 – Ohio State
#9 – Indiana
#12 – Rutgers
#13 – Nebraska
Here’s a run-down of the seven teams on the bottom half of the bracket:
#10 Penn State
The bracket is set.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) March 11, 2019
Favorite to win the tournament: Michigan State
As a Maryland fan it pains me to not say the Terps, but Michigan State is the clear favorite to win it all. The Spartans swept in-state rival Michigan in the regular season finale to clinch a share of the Big Ten regular season crown and Tom Izzo led teams continue to find their form in March when it matters most. Junior forward Nick Ward should return from injury, which will only help boost the Spartans chances to take the crown.
Threats to make the final: Michigan and Maryland
Michigan has only lost two of its final six games and both were losses to top-seeded Michigan State. Michigan has a balanced scoring attack with three players averaging double-digit points per game led by freshman of the year Ignas Brazdeikis at an even 15.0 points per contest.
Maryland is a threat to make the final with its length on the defensive end and ability to rebound the basketball. The Terps are ranked 21st in the country at 39.4 rebounds per game as a team, led by sophomore First-Team All-Big Ten Selection Bruno Fernando at 10.5 rebounds per game. Turnovers and poor shooting could be the demise of the Terps, but if the team can defend and keep Fernando and freshman Jalen Smith out of foul trouble, Maryland could sneak their way into the final weekend.
Cinderella team: Penn State
The Nittany Lions enter the Big Ten Tournament winners of five of their last six games. It sounds crazy to say a team with a 14-17 overall record is a team to watch out for, but Penn State is playing their best basketball in recent weeks. Junior forward Lamar Stevens, like Fernando, was a First-Team All-Big Ten selection and leads Penn State in scoring at 19.8 points per game. With a second-round win over seventh seeded Minnesota, Penn State would match-up with Purdue. The Boilermakers won both meetings with Penn State, but one of their matchups went to overtime after Penn State squandered a late lead. If any double-digit seed sneaks into the semifinals, I would put my money on it being Penn State.