Big Ten Tournament 2014: Predictions and Championship Odds for Every Team
After one last round of surprises on Sunday, the bracket is set for the 2014 Big Ten tournament. This tourney rarely goes according to seeding under the best of circumstances, and in this upset-filled season, it’s even likelier that some high-ranking team is going to take a painful loss.
Indeed, Wisconsin will head to Indianapolis with just such a defeat still stinging, thanks to Sunday’s second-half collapse at Nebraska. The Badgers still hold the No. 2 seed, but it’s tough to call them the second-best prospect to take home the championship trophy.
Herein, more on Sam Dekker’s squad and the rest of Big Ten, with an eye to how far they’re likely to get and their odds of winning it all in Indy. The teams are presented in order of their seeding, not of any indication of their tournament projections.
All Purdue’s momentum is going in the wrong direction, as the Boilermakers enter the tournament on a six-game losing streak. Even a win over erratic Ohio State would be a surprise at this stage.
The Wildcats are far from being as hopeless as many recent Big Ten bottom-feeders. Of course, all that means is that they have a fighting chance of beating Iowa before getting tossed out on their ears by Michigan State.
10. Penn State
The Nittany Lions have had Ohio State’s number this year, sweeping the Buckeyes in a pair of nail-biters. Unfortunately, they’re 4-12 against everybody else in the conference, including a pair of losses against opening-round opponent Minnesota.
Don’t expect Tim Frazier and company to get far enough to make their anti-Buckeye mojo matter. If they escape from the Gophers this time around, Wisconsin will smother them.
The Illini are as hot as any team in the lower half of the conference, having wrapped up the season with four wins (including Michigan State and Iowa) in five tries. A tourney-opening victory over Indiana to extend that run is well within reach.
Unfortunately for them, the B1G bracket leaves Rayvonte Rice and company slated for a second-round meeting with Michigan, the team that just beat them by 31 points on their own home floor.
It’s not going to get any easier in front of a neutral crowd in Indianapolis.
Noah Vonleh is back from his foot injury, but he wasn’t the same player in the rematch with Michigan that he had been in upending the Wolverines in February. Without Vonleh at 100 percent, Indiana has no real shot at the tournament title.
That said, Yogi Ferrell has won games by himself already this season, and it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see him do so again.
There's a distinct possibility that the Hoosiers will take down Illinois, and maybe even the Wolverines (who only won by four in Ann Arbor on Saturday).
Although Minnesota has pulled off some impressive wins in B1G action, all of them have come at Williams Arena. That doesn’t bode well for the Gophers’ chances of a deep run in Indianapolis.
An opening win over Penn State is plausible enough, but don’t expect Andre Hollins and company to follow that up with their second upset in three meetings with Wisconsin.
If Iowa’s late-season collapse is to be believed, the Hawkeyes won’t make it out of their tournament-opening matchup with Northwestern.
If, on the other hand, Roy Devyn Marble and his mates can improve the defense from absent to merely subpar, they have a shot to power right through to a Big Ten crown.
The reality is likely somewhere in between. Look for the Hawkeyes to handle the Wildcats before bowing out against Michigan State in the quarterfinals.
5. Ohio State
Ohio State has been one of the least predictable teams of the conference season, dropping four in a row (including what looked like a terrible loss to Nebraska) before rallying for impressive road wins over Wisconsin and Iowa.
The Buckeyes ground out a championship in this tournament a year ago, and it would be a mistake to write them off this time, even with all their offensive problems.
They also have the benefit of a favorable draw, with a virtual walkover against Purdue and then a revenge matchup with the Huskers to start their tournament run.
If they can take down archrival Michigan in the quarterfinals—and a big game from Aaron Craft would give them a shot—a title is decidedly feasible.
Nebraska’s best seed in its brief history in this tournament won’t actually do Tim Miles’ team much good. They’re all but guaranteed to open against a dangerous Ohio State team that beat them by 31 in Columbus back in January.
Even in the unlikely event that the Huskers escape that contest, they’ll likely have to face high-scoring Michigan in the semis. Terran Petteway has done plenty of overachieving already in a 19-11 season, but this is beyond him.
3. Michigan State
It’s tough to judge where the Spartans will be by the end of the week because they’re still getting acclimated to the return of their many injured starters.
Now that Branden Dawson has joined Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Gary Harris in the ranks of the once-again healthy, Michigan State resumes being the most talented team in the conference.
However, all that ability won’t matter if Tom Izzo’s squad plays defense as poorly as it did against Ohio State on Sunday (.469 field-goal shooting by a bad offense).
Although the Spartans would have been favorites for this crown in the preseason, they slip to probable runners-up now.
The Badgers got an unwelcome reminder of how much work they have yet to do when Nebraska decked them in Lincoln on Sunday.
The defeat was the third time in five games that Wisconsin had allowed 70-plus points, further evidence that this isn’t a typical Bo Ryan defense.
Still, they’ve got the best clutch players in the conference in Traevon Jackson and Ben Brust, and plenty of scoring up front (led by 7’0” marksman Frank Kaminsky).
Even a very tough draw doesn’t rule out a title, but a semifinal exit against the Spartans is a likelier scenario.
It took a couple of narrow escapes, but Michigan brings a five-game winning streak into the B1G tourney. A major factor in that run has been Glenn Robinson III, who’s finally starting to score like the future star he’s long been billed as.
In another year, Michigan’s pedestrian centers (Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford) would be the death of the Maize and Blue, but post play isn’t going to be as vital as usual in this year’s conference tournament.
The confident Wolverines have a better chance than anyone of coming out with a win, but it’s certainly not as good as they’d like.