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2020 Big Ten Tournament Prediction

Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois
It's been awhile since we've seen the Big Ten this balanced and competitive across the league
landscape. Three teams tied at the top of the conference standings, with Wisconsin, Maryland and Michigan State all going 14-6. Further down the league, it looks like there is a good chance 11 teams could make the 2020 NCAA Tournament and even the 12 seed, Minnesota, looks significantly better than 12 seeds of the past. What does this all mean? It's likely going to be a thrilling Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, with upsets and close games galore. It's going to be a tough Tournament to predict, but I decided to take my best shot at it.

First Round (Wed., March 11th)
(winner in bold)

12 Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. 13 Northwestern Wildcats
Minnesota knows they won't be going dancing this season, but the Big Ten Tournament could still have important implications for their NIT hopes, or the future of the Richard Pitino tenure. The Gophers' shooting looks to be finding its stroke, as they dropped 107 over the weekend against Nebraska. Northwestern also lacks a big man who can effectively counter Minnesota center Daniel Oturu, who is averaging 20 points per game on 56 percent shooting.

11 Indiana Hoosiers vs. 14 Nebraska Cornhuskers
It's been a brutal first season on the job for Fred Hoiberg in Lincoln, and it looks like it will mercifully come to a close on the Tournament's first day. They lack any consequential experience to hang with the Hoosiers, who also have an advantage in athleticism.

Second Round (Thurs., March 12th)

8 Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. 9 Michigan Wolverines
The Wolverines have been incredibly streaky all year long, but seem to be playing good basketball as they look ahead towards the postseason. The big advantage I see Michigan having in this one? Rutgers doesn't have a skilled guard like Zavier Simpson, who has been through the battles and currently leads the conference in assists with nearly 8 per game.

5 Iowa Hawkeyes vs. 12 Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota came up just short against the Hawkeyes the last time these two played, but that was in Minneapolis. On a neutral court, Iowa simply has too much on offense, including the likely Big Ten Player of the Year, Luka Garza. Watching Oturu and Garza battle it out will be thrilling; whoever stays out of foul trouble the longest should have the upper hand.

7 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. 10 Purdue Boilermakers
Two equally matched teams collide in this Second Round matchup. Purdue needs a victory, as they sit firmly on the bubble with a week until March Madness. I think their superior defense and slight edge on the block helps them get that much-needed win.

6 Penn State Nittany Lions vs. 11 Indiana Hoosiers
Does Indiana have a scorer of their own who can keep up with Penn State's Lamar Stevens? Stevens is a dominant isolation scorer, and I think he'll be too much for the Hoosiers. Big man Mike Watkins also gives PSU an edge on the glass.

Quarterfinals (Fri., March 13th)

1 Wisconsin Badgers vs. 9 Michigan Wolverines
The Badgers are playing great basketball at the moment, and earned the coveted double-bye. The offense has been particularly hot, and UW's plethora of options on the wing could overwhelm Michigan quickly.

4 Illinois Fighting Illini vs. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes
Tempers have flared between these two the last few matchups, and things could be especially tense considering the stage they'll be on. I really like this Illinois team; they have an explosive offense, and are spearheaded by one of the country's most underrated players in Ayo Dosunmu.

2 Michigan State Spartans vs. 10 Purdue Boilermakers
I don't see any miracle run from Purdue coming in this one. Michigan State's inside-out combination of Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman is going to be a little bit too much, although the battle of the minds on the sidelines will be fun to watch.

3 Maryland Terrapins vs. 6 Penn State Nittany Lions
You know a team not trending in the right direction? It's Maryland, who looked like they were going to lock down the top seed in the conference prior to three losses in their last five games. They need someone to right the ship offensively, but I like the way Penn State is playing.

Semifinals (Sat., March 14th)

1 Wisconsin Badgers vs. 4 Illinois Fighting Illini
Tough matchup to pick in this one; the one team these two clashed in the regular season, Illinois won 71-70. I think the real advantage Illinois holds is on the block; while Nathan Ruevers is playing great basketball, can he really handle Kofi Cockburn over the course of 40 minutes?

2 Michigan State Spartans vs. 6 Penn State Nittany Lions
I see a number of distinct advantages for Michigan State giving them the upper hand. Point guard play and head coach ability are the most obvious, but I also think the Spartans could hold an advantage in the crowd. It's a four-hour drive from East Lansing, and MSU fans always travel well.

Championship (Sun. March 15th)

2 Michigan State Spartans vs. 4 Illinois Fighting Illini
Point guard play once again favors Michigan State, as they have the best in the league. However, I think the real key for them will be their wings; how guys like Aaron Henry and Gabe Brown play will be important against an athletic and fast-paced Fighting Illini team.

Champion: 2 Michigan State Spartans
Last year, I picked Michigan State to hold firm as the league's No. 1 seed and take home the postseason Big Ten Title. It worked out well for me, and this Spartans team looks ready to do much the same. Cassius Winston remains the league's most important player, and the leader of a deep, experienced team. They're a much better team right now than the one that lost six conference games, and I think this upcoming week in Indianapolis should prove that.

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