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2019 Big Ten Tournament Prediction

Anthony Cowan, Maryland
First Round

12 Rutgers Scarlet Knights over 13 Nebraska Cornhuskers
Rutgers has struggled to consistently climb out of the Big Ten cellar since joining the conference, but this 2019 squad is a tough, physical group that should not be overlooked. On the other hand, Nebraska has been trending down for some time now. They were ranked entering conference play, but suffered a midseason stretch of seven straight losses. Senior wing James Palmer Jr. gives them a fighting chance, but he has been incredibly inefficient at times. Unless he is able to figure things out against a stingy Rutgers defense, I like the Scarlet Knights to move on.

11 Illinois Fighting Illini over 14 Northwestern Wildcats
The Fighting Illini have been about as streaky as you can get in head coach Brad Underwood's second season in Champaign, but they've shown they can have their moments. They've pounded Minnesota, handled Maryland and shocked Michigan State at home. They're the time of up-and-down team that could get hot at the right time, even though the postseason is completely out of the question. Stud freshman forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili is a force on both ends, and Northwestern does not have anybody that can counter him.

Second Round

9 Indiana Hoosiers over 8 Ohio State Buckeyes
These are two teams who sit firmly on the bubble at the moment, and a victory in Chicago could be the difference between dancing and playing in the NIT. Indiana's dealt with a lot of injuries, and at one point lost 12 of 13 games. Yet, amazingly, they're still alive, thanks to a season sweep of Michigan State and non-conference victories over Marquette and Louisville. Ohio State has a slightly better record but has lost six of eight and lacks many quality wins. The Buckeyes should be able to play defense, but can they shoot? They've been held under 60 points in four of those last eight games. I like the Hoosiers to continue their recent hot streak here.

5 Maryland Terrapins over 12 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
The two newest teams to the Big Ten clash in the second round here, and I expect a good game. Rutgers should be able to counter Maryland's PG Anthony Cowan with their own skilled backcourt, but do they have an answer for forwards Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith? Fernando is an absolute load to handle for any big man, while Smith has been stroking from downtown after a very cold start to the year. Maryland is the slightly better rebounding team, which could end up being an important factor in pushing them to a victory.

7 Minnesota Golden Gophers over 10 Penn State Nittany Lions
After narrowly missing the NCAA field last season, Penn State had a brutal start to league play in '18-'19, but they seem to be gelling at the right time. They've won five of six to rise from the cellar of the conference to the 10 seed. They've struggled offensively all year, but forward Lamar Stevens gives them a really good chance against Minnesota. Yet, they'll need to find a way to slow down Gopher guard Amir Coffey, who is averaging 29 PPG over the last three. He'll be instrumental in guiding Minnesota to a close, hard-fought win.

11 Illinois Fighting Illini over 6 Iowa Hawkeyes
While a few teams in the bottom tier of the conference are hitting their stride, Iowa is going the wrong way. They've dropped five of their last six, including a 20-point beatdown on the road against Wisconsin where they shot 31% from the field. Its concerning for the Hawkeyes, who have been built on their offense all year, and care little about the other end of the court (defense ranks 246th nationally in points allowed). Head coach Fran McCaffrey is back after a two-game suspension, but can he motivate this struggling team? Illinois should be able to take advantage of the Hawkeyes' questionable defense, particularly from deep.


1 Michigan State Spartans over 9 Indiana Hoosiers
Indiana has found a way to take down Michigan State in both their meetings so far this season, and they'll enter this game with a bunch of confidence and motivation. Yet, they just so happen to be playing an incredibly hot Michigan State squad, winners of seven of their last eight games, including a season sweep of rival Michigan to lock down the league's top seed. The Spartans also get back big man Nick Ward, who is expected to play all Tournament. He's missed significant time with a hand injury, but is crucial to this offense's success.

4 Wisconsin Badgers over 5 Maryland Terrapins
Wisconsin and Maryland have split the season series so far this year, and I expect a competitive quarterfinals matchup between the two of them. If I'm Maryland I put Wisconsin senior Ethan Happ on the free throw line as much as possible (47% from the line on the season), yet others have proven they can step up. Senior Khalil Iverson has been huge for this team down the stretch, as has budding sophomore Nate Reuvers. The Badgers' suffocating defense, which is eighth in the country in points allowed per game, should help them come out on top.

2 Purdue Boilermakers over 7 Minnesota Gophers
A recent home win over Purdue likely locked in Minnesota to the Big Dance, but the Boilermakers should be out for vengeance in the rematch here. Big man Matt Haarms should be in store for a great game, eager to take on a thin Minnesota frontcourt after going 1-8 from the field in their last meeting. However, the X-factor is undeniably Carsen Edwards; the All-American guard has been terrific for much of the season but had a horrific 7-31 shooting night the last time these two teams met. He is going to need to defer to Purdue's other offensive weapons, namely sharpshooting Ryan Cline, in order for the Boilermakers to get the win.

3 Michigan Wolverines over 11 Illinois Fighting Illini
The top four seeds in the conference all reaching the semifinals? Maybe its unrealistic but MSU, Purdue, Michigan and Wisconsin have really separated themselves from the rest of the pack all year long. The Wolverines are going to get an aggressive fight from the Illini, but Illinois really lacks the length UM possesses. Forward Ignas Brazdeikis should have a big day for the Wolverines, and their tough, physical defense will force the Illini into some poor shots.


1 Michigan State Spartans over 4 Wisconsin Badgers
These are two well-built, deep teams that are locking to improve their seeding before the NCAA Tournament. The backcourt action will be thrilling to watch as possible Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston duels against Iverson and Brad Davison. Yet, the real deciding factor will be in the paint, where a healthy Nick Ward should be able to make all the difference.

3 Michigan Wolverines over 2 Purdue Boilermakers
Michigan has not been shooting the ball great down the stretch, but that could change just at the right moment. Steady veteran Charles Matthews has missed their last three games with an ankle injury, but was dressed against MSU, and should be ready to go by this point. When Matthews, Jordan Poole and Zavier Simpson are all playing well, the trio is absolutely unstoppable. It should be enough to overpower Purdue, who really struggled to shoot the ball the last time these two met, and doesn't match up favorably with the Wolverines.


1 Michigan State Spartans over 3 Michigan Wolverines
A No. 1 seed winning their respective conference tournament? Not exactly going out on a limb, and a pretty boring pick. Yet, this Michigan State squad looks like the Tom Izzo teams of old, who seem to always hit their stride right when March rolls around. Winston is going to keep the offense chugging along as will the addition of Ward, but give credit to Michigan State's unheralded veterans. Guys like Matt McQuaid and Kenny Goins have been crucial to this team, and their veteran leadership will be huge in helping the Spartans take home the Big Ten Tournament crown in Chicago. Could it help them lock down a No. 1 seed in the Field of 68? Currently sitting at sixth in the polls, it isn't unreasonable.

2019 Big Ten Tournament Champion: Michigan State Spartans

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