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The Big Ten Tournament and the State of the Program

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Just about anything can happen here. The last Big Ten tournament at the Joe is upon us.

NCAA Basketball: Horizon League Conference Tournament-Milwaukee vs Northern Kentucky Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten tournament is more wide-open than one would suspect. Minnesota has been good all year. They are the favorite heading into the tournament (deservedly). However, each of the other five teams in the Big Ten (yes, even our Spartans) could generate some March magic of their own. MSU has not been good lately but has certainly been “better.” Michigan is playing good hockey. Ohio State has still played well. Wisconsin and Penn State are both very strong squads.

The first day of the tournament would be on Thursday, at 4:30 EST, MSU will take on Ohio State. Following that game, Michigan will play Penn State at 8:00. Minnesota and Wisconsin both earned byes. The winner of the MSU-OSU game will face Wisconsin while the winner of Michigan-PSU will play Minnesota.

The cool thing about the Big Ten tournament is that out of the six teams in the tournament, technically all six could make the NCAA tournament by winning the conference (lol). I’m really not sure that I would look forward to MSU playing against one of the best teams in the country but winning the Big Ten would be pretty great. That just is not going to happen though. Let’s actually predict this thing.

Predictions

Michigan State is more than capable of beating Ohio State. Will it happen? More than likely not. Ohio State is a pretty good team and needs to probably in the Big Ten to make the tournament. MSU is in the same position, but come on. MSU has won seven games all season and there is little reason to believe that an eighth win will happen. Ohio State advances to play Wisconsin.

Michigan was hanging out in the basement with State for a lot of the season but now it seems they have found the stairs. Michigan has played good, and at times great hockey since their most recent loss to Michigan State at home. Their tilt comes against a Penn State team that since grabbing the #1 ranking in the country, have looked far from even one of the ten best teams in the country. Michigan is gonna have a date with Minnesota on Friday night.

Michigan has been good recently but Minnesota is actually a great, consistent hockey team. Michigan certainly gains a lot more from a win than Minnesota does. However, Minnesota isn’t going to take a night off and lay down. Minnesota needs momentum going into the tournament and they’re going to get it. Minnesota moves on to the final.

Ohio State-Wisconsin has the potential to be a really, really good hockey game. If you’re a Spartan fan watching this game and have a hard time finding a reason to root for either team, I would not blame you. Either way, this is gonna be some great Friday afternoon viewing. St. Patrick’s Day is a top-1 day of the Spring semester, no arguments. If you love hockey and St. Patty’s then grab a case, make a Shepherd’s Pie and enjoy a really good hockey game. Oh, and an Ohio State win. OSU-Minnesota in the final.

Ohio State is the only team in the Big Ten that stands out to me besides the Gophers. Ohio State has to win three in three days to guarantee an NCAA tournament spot. Ohio State is gonna find three in three days and hand the Gophers a loss in the conference tournament.

Bonus Take!

Tom Anastos has to get fired. If Hollis does not reevaluate the head coaching position and the direction of the program, then it is clear that this program does not factor into his vision for the athletic department. I understand that this is not a big-time revenue grabber by any stretch of the imagination. But seriously, this was once a national-championship caliber program. Even if his replacement is not a vast improvement, something has to change. This program has no direction under coach Anastos and nothing that MSU does on Thursday or beyond changes that. Obviously MSU hockey is a project that will require resources and patience. The hockey program is worth the money and patience. Turn this program back into a powerhouse. The state of this program right now is an insult to Ron Mason and the long, illustrious history of Michigan State hockey. Figure it out.

That being said, there is no guarantee this happens no matter how ugly this season has been. But even Hollis has to realize that changes need to be made and it starts with the man behind the bench. Make the right call.