The Big Ten tournament tips off today with Iowa vs. Illinois at noon. Predictions/guesses? Oh, I've got some. Speaking of, have you entered our Big Ten Tourney prediction contest yet? There's still time to enter before it closes at noon Eastern. Now predictions and links, feel free to use this as an open thread for the Big Ten Tournament today.
(8) Iowa vs. (9) Illinois The consensus seems to be that Iowa is a hot team and that the Fightin' Bruce Webers are dead men walking. However, don't forget that Illinois, albeit in a 2-11 rut, beat Iowa by double digits in Champaign no less than two weeks ago. This Illini team still has weapons -- Meyers Leonard is mercurial but effective, and one still does not want to be on the receiving end of a Brandon Paul points explosion. Combine that with the group consensus seemingly on Iowa's side by a wide margin, and I'm starting to like the Hawkeyes less and less. I picked Iowa in the contest, but I'm switching my pick here. Illinois wins, and I also like the Illini -2.5.
(5) Indiana vs. (12) Penn State Penn State finished in last predictably, but they played much better than their finish in the Big Ten indicated. Pat Chambers had his team playing with energy, they showed much more effort on defense than I thought they would, and Tim Frazier became a point guard/scorer par excellence. Even though the Nittany Lions finished in last, Penn State fans have nothing to be ashamed of from this team. That said, Indiana's playing in a semi-home environment and contending for a top-four NCAA seed. Hoosiers win comfortably, but I'll take Penn State +13 -- I think Indiana will back off the gas pedal and rest for Wisconsin.
(7) Northwestern vs. (10) Minnesota Ralph Sampson III is out for this game, which could be trouble -- even though the Gopher center tends to stray from the post too often, his array of hooks and jump shots were a big factor in Minnesota's near triumph against MSU in Minneapolis. That said, the Golden Gophers have the misfortune of playing the only team today who has an NCAA berth on the line. With John Shurna's pending graduation this year, this could be the Wildcats' best chance for years to come to make the tournament.
Rule of thumb -- in these situations, always lean towards the desperate team. Northwestern wins, and I like the Wildcats giving 2.5 to the Gophers.
(6) Purdue vs. (11) Nebraska I don't really have much to say about this game. The Boilermakers appear to have improved with Kelsey Barlow's departure, while Nebraska had a mostly forgettable first year Big Ten campaign, but did pull off their obligatory upset, beating Indiana in Lincoln. Purdue wins, and since I am a benevolent blog runner, I also like the Boilermakers -10.
And now, links!
MSU men's basketball notebook: Spartan freshman Dawson's surgery a success | Lansing State Journal | lansingstatejournal.com Branden Dawson was able to have surgery about four weeks ahead of schedule due to a lack of swelling and cartilage damage. His recovery is estimated to take about five to seven months, strengthening hopes that he'll be ready for the 2012-13 season. Also in this article is an update on Travis Trice; he had another slight setback with his ankle but I think he'll be ready to play tomorrow.
Michigan State's Brandon Wood 'likely' to replace Branden Dawson in lineup | MLive.com I like this move, but I think it would've been tailor-made for the other side of the bracket, as more teams there (Michigan, Northwestern, Purdue to a lesser extent) are better off playing small.
Recruiting: Michigan State going after Texas OL Caleb Benenoch | Detroit Free Press | freep.com I haven't totally forgotten about football recruiting, I swear! That said, I'm looking to bring on a writer who specializes in football recruiting. Send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested, and I'll have more information after the NCAA tournament.
Wrapping Up the Regular Season " Big Ten Geeks Draymond Green Player of the Year AND Defensive Player of the Year? Yes please. Defensive tempo-free projections tend to skew towards big men however, as Mike Rogers writes in a FanPost that's worth your time.
Big Ten Tournament Predictions -- the kenpom.com blog Spartan Dan alluded to Ken Pomeroy's projections for the Big Ten tournament, so if you want to check them out they are here. MSU has a 27.2% chance of winning the whole thing, second to Ohio State's 37.2% probability.