Michigan State enters the Big Ten Tournament with the top seed, despite a two-game losing skid to end its regular season schedule.
While the losses at the end of the season were surprising to say the least, it seemed to exemplify a conference in which on any given night any team (that's right, all you Wildcats and Boilermakers fans) could win.
But here are my predictions for how the Big Ten Tournament goes down in Indianapolis. But I will preface that with the fact that I'm terrible at predictions. With the exception of the 2008 NCAA Tournament, in which I picked all four No. 1 seeds to make it to the Final Four, I've never done well in bracket competitions. So, here goes…
No. 8 Iowa vs. No. 9 Illinois: Ladies and gentlemen, Meyers Leonard is about to use his 7-foot-2 body to a potential that Big Ten fans haven't seen yet. The 13 points, nine rebound a game performance he averaged this season will be upstaged by a 20-plus point and 12-plus board showing against the Hawkeyes.
Illinois 68, Iowa 54
No. 5 Indiana vs. No. 12 Penn State: Upset alert. The Nittany Lions looked good on Sunday against Michigan. After a disappointing loss to the Wolverines, Penn State will be looking for someone to get their anger out on and the Hoosiers will be the victims. Freshman Cody Zeller will have a good day, but not good enough as the Nittany Lions will pick up just their fifth conference win.
Penn State 63, Indiana 60
No. 7 Northwestern vs. No. 10 Minnesota: I’m not going to bet against NU senior John Shurna. The guy has done almost everything he can to get his team into the NCAA Tournament (20 points, five rebounds per game) and they’ve found themselves on the bubble. With a first-round win the Wildcats could find themselves a bid. Behind a big performance from Shurna, NU will pick up its first NCAA bid after a win over Minnesota.
Northwestern 65, Minnesota 58
No. 6 Purdue vs. No. 11 Nebraska: The Cornhuskers haven't had much luck in their first year in the Big Ten and I think that trend will continue this weekend. The Boilermakers are hot right now and should easily end the Cornhuskers season.
Purdue 74, Nebraska 52
No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 9 Illinois: Tom Izzo and the Spartans know how to stop Leonard (by using their own big-bodied Draymond Green). Green and Keith Appling will pick apart the Illinois defense and the Spartans, with balanced scoring from several contributors, will walk away with this one.
Michigan State 68, lllinois 51
No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Penn State: Wisconsin, with frustrations brewing from not winning the Big Ten Championship, will burst out with a quick lead in this one. Penn State will try to keep it close, but with Jordan Taylor leading the Badgers, the Nittany Lions will never quite be able to get over the hump.
Wisconsin 71, Penn State 59
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 7 Northwestern: They say it's hard to beat a team three times in one season, but this time around, the Wolverines experience with Bill Carmody's complex offense will pay off. This will be the first time this season where Michigan doesn’t need an overtime to win. Sophomore Evan Smotrycz and junior guard Matt Vogrich will provide the spark off the bench for the Wolverines in this win.
Michigan 75, Northwestern 68
No. 3 Ohio State vs. 6 Purdue: Purdue will jump out to an early lead over the Buckeyes, but Jared Sullinger will make sure the Boilermakers never get too far out of reach. With hot outside shooting performances from both teams, this will be a high scoring game that runs into overtime. Sophomore Aaron Craft will have some big stops down the stretch, propelling the Buckeyes to the semifinals though.
Ohio State 84, Purdue 79, OT
No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 4 Wisconsin: Michigan State was able to get by Illinois without Branden Dawson, but against Wisconsin it'll get much tougher. The Badgers, who aren't known for dominant tournament performances, will look put together and polished in this win. Bo Ryan will, per usual, provide some hilarious quote following the game that probably won't relate to basketball.
Wisconsin 68, Michigan State 66
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Ohio State: The Buckeyes will be too much to handle for John Beilein and company. Even with some zone looks and a strong performance from redshirt sophomore forward Jordan Morgan, the Wolverines will be overpowered in the semis.
Ohio State 72, Michigan 65
No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Wisconsin: Yes, that's right. None of the Big Ten Champions will win the Big Ten Tournament. Ryan and his Badgers will pull this one out in typical Bo Ryan fashion -- lots of buckets as the shot clock winds down. Wisconsin will stretch possessions and mess with the tempo of the game, keeping it low scoring, but coming out on top.
Wisconsin 59, Ohio State 56