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Michigan State Basketball: Big Ten Tournament Preview and Bracket

Preview the BTT with TOC

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten Tournament bracket is finalized. Did you hear it was finalized? I think it got finalized.

And here's the KenPom Log5 analysis:

The Draw

Favorable. It's Wisconsin and everyone else, of course. This makes avoiding them until the potential BTT final a huge help. The double bye also helps a bit; this puts MSU above Iowa and OSU who possess similar KenPom profiles. If Purdue had managed to fall into that 6 spot, this would be the ideal bracket. As it stands, the first game against OSU/Minnesota/Rutgers might be a tough one assuming it's OSU.

Branden Dawson's health has to be a major concern against OSU. Frosh Jae'Sean Tate is mini-Dawson and without an athlete of Dawson's caliber as a counter, Tate could have a field day on the boards and put-backs. That's not to mention losing Dawson as a defender against D'Angelo Russell. Dawson put up a 15-11-4 in the game in East Lansing, and MSU outshot OSU from three, 46.7% to 29.4%. We'll have a more proper preview later this week, but that OSU game scares me.

If MSU can get by OSU, though, things open up a bit. Maryland is hugely overrated by the traditional win-loss records. Maryland is #1 in KenPom's luck category, they went 9-0 at home and 5-4 on the road in Big Ten play. I posit that it's difficult to win on the road against new B1G teams (not named Rutgers) for the first two years, as teams acclimate to playing in a new environment. Nebraska was 8-1 in B1G play at home last year, and 5-4 this year (0-9 on the road!).

Anyways, the semifinal game would be Northwestern/Indiana/Maryland. I feel good about playing any of those teams on a neutral court.

Rooting Interests

Purdue, Illinois and Indiana are all outside of the RPI Top-50 and BTT runs could lift all of them while paving the way for MSU. The additional RPI Top-50 wins could be important in the NCAA seeding for MSU. This suggests all of these would be good:

Indiana over Northwestern

Illinois over Michigan

Purdue over Iowa/Penn State/Nebraska

Illinois/Purdue over Wisconsin

Indiana over Maryland

Additionally, to clear the way for MSU, rooting for Minnesota over Rutgers is what we want as Minnesota has a significantly better chance to upset OSU than Rutgers.

The Upshot

If MSU can win the quarterfinal matchup on Friday night, then there's a good chance for another resume-boosting win on Saturday. I'm not sure how possible it might be to get up to an advantageous 6 seed in the NCAA tournament, given the consensus that this MSU team is a 7 or 8 seed at the moment.

A loss on Friday night has silver linings, too, as an immediate loss provides for the maximum amount of rest for an ailing Branden Dawson.

The Prediction

I've gone back and forth on this, but I think this MSU team loses on Friday night to OSU. Even before the Dawson injury, Dawson had been a little out of sorts, anyways. And Ohio State is a very solid team; a loss to them on a neutral court is by no means a bad one.

Elsewhere, Wisconsin still has a potential one-seed to play for, so I don't think they'll sleepwalk in this tournament. There really isn't a bad matchup for them anywhere in this bracket, and picking against them would be foolish. My upset special is Indiana over Northwestern and then Maryland, given that Maryland has very little to play for, while Indiana is playing for their season and their coach (although that didn't help much against MSU). Iowa gives Wisconsin their best game in the semis, and then Wisconsin beats down tOSU in the finals.