March is here, and on Wednesday, the five-day gauntlet known as the Big Ten Tournament tips off in Chicago.
This event always delivers, bringing us right up to the bracket reveal on Selection Sunday - and this year is no different, as all 14 teams arrive in the Windy City with intriguing storylines. Purdue ran away with the regular season title, all while Indiana is one of the hottest teams in the sport. Oh, how about Northwestern as the No. 2 seed? Not to mention right around a half dozen teams that are still on the bubble trying to play their way off.
So what do you need to know?
Here is our Big Ten preview - with odds provided by Betfred Sportsbook
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Format: Top 4 teams get byes into Quarterfinals, Seeds 5-10 get single bye into second round
Watch: Big Ten Network/semifinals and final on CBS
Current Gambling Odds (Betfred Sportsbook)
Michigan State +700
Penn State +2500
Ohio State +7500
The Favorite: Purdue (+145)
After bowing out of last season’s Sweet 16 in very disappointing fashion against Saint Peters, Purdue has rebounded with a very successful 2023 season. The Boilermakers will be entering the Big Ten Tournament eyeing a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance after finishing the regular season 26-5 overall and 15-5 in the Big Ten. Big man Zac Edey has established himself as not only the best player in the country this season, but also one of the more dominant players we have seen in college basketball in recent memory. The 7’4” junior from Toronto, averaged 21.9 points and 12.8 rebounds per game this season, to lead the Big Ten Conference in both categories.
On Tuesday he was honored as the Big Ten Player of the Year.
The key for this Purdue team will be just how much help Edey is getting around him, and a lot of that will depend on Purdue’s pair of freshman guards in Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer. In many instances, relying on freshmen with the ball in their hands at such important moments could be detrimental, however Matt Painter made the right decision from early on in the season, giving these guys such a major role. The duo is combining to average 21.6 points and 6.7 assists per game, while both hitting a number of clutch shots when Purdue needed it most. In a tight game, these young guards have proven they will not be afraid to take the big shot and they will not be phased.
It's worth noting however that after starting the season red hot, winning 22 of their first 23 games to start the season, Purdue has cooled off a tad of late, dropping four of their last 10 games. While this is certainly understandable while playing in a very difficult Big Ten Conference, it is to be determined if Purdue can get back to what we saw from them at their peak earlier in the season.
With Edey being consistently dominant, it comes down to just how much help the surrounding cast can give him, and ultimately it could be guys like Ethan Morton, Mason Gillis, and Caleb Furst hitting shots on the outside that determines just how far this Purdue team goes.
Matt Painter has won this event once during his time as Purdue head coach in 2009, and he might be due to breakthrough after a tremendous regular season.
In only his second season in Bloomington, Mike Woodson has gotten Indiana basketball back on the map and the Hoosiers will be heading to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season. It is fascinating to see just how different of a position this Indiana team is in entering this event, compared to last season, when they were playing for their NCAA Tournament lives.
In 2023 however, the Hoosiers are playing some really good basketball, and are in a very solid position considering the draw they received as well.
The Hoosiers are 6-3 since February 1st, with two wins over each of Purdue and Michigan, plus wins over tournament teams in Rutgers and Illinois. There is not a better duo in this Big Ten Tournament, than Jalen Hood-Schifino and Trayce Jackson-Davis, who are averaging a combined 33.9 points this season. Hood-Schifino was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year on Tuesday, and he has proven time and time again he's comfortable on college basketball's biggest stages. That included a 35-point effort that carried Indiana to a win at Purdue a few Saturday's ago.
Jackson-Davis of course was a Big Ten All-First Team member also.
With other valuable role players like Trey Galloway and Miller Kopp really coming into their own as of late, Indiana is definitely a legitimate contender to win this event. Their path would include going through a Maryland team that hasn’t had a ton of success outside their own gym, and a good Northwestern team that swept Indiana this season, but the Hoosiers should be desperate to get their revenge.
Michigan State (+700)
Tom Izzo received a lot of heat and criticism from many this offseason, when Michigan State didn’t add a single player from the transfer portal. In addition, the Spartans had one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in the country, facing off against the likes of Gonzaga, Kentucky, Villanova, Alabama and more before Big Ten play started. While it wasn’t perfect, Michigan State did have a very successful regular season, with the guys Izzo brought back really improving.
Primarily, Tyson Walker has established himself as not only one of the premier guards in the Big Ten, but one of the best in the country. The Northeastern transfer averaged 14.8 points and over over rebounds and assists per game this season, after only averaging 8.2 points per game last season. Having guys like Walker, Jaden Akins and AJ Hoggard, who have the ability to create their own shot is very dangerous in this type of environment. Michigan State also has a handful of taller players on the wing in Joey Hauser and Mallik Hall who can shoot threes and stretch the floor, really forcing defenses to be honest while defending the paint.
Michigan State has proven they are able to compete against some of the other teams they might have to go through, including Iowa, who Michigan State will likely see in their opening round game. Michigan State defeated the Hawkeyes in their first matchup in East Lansing on January 26th, but the Hawkeyes responded with a miraculous comeback of their own on February 25th. In that game, Michigan State held a 13-point lead with about 90 seconds to play, and somehow Iowa came away with the victory.
With this event being on a neutral floor, Michigan State has the ingredients to make a deep run, as Tom Izzo looks for his seventh Big Ten Tournament title.
Penn State (+2500)
This Penn State team will enter the Big Ten Tournament with a ton of momentum, coming off one of their biggest victories in recent memory on Sunday over Maryland. Right on the bubble, Penn State needed at least a victory on Sunday, if they wanted a chance to hear their names called on Selection Sunday for the first time since 2011 and they found a way to get it done.
Despite trailing by 16 points in the first half, Penn State was able to rally behind 16 points from Jalen Pickett, plus the game winning tip-in by Camren Wynter, leading to the victory. Winter has been one of the many transfers to come to Penn State this season, and make a significant impact for Micah Shrewsberry’s team. His performance on Sunday does a great of showing just what exactly this Penn State program is about, as he struggled for the majority of the game with only four points on 3/5 shooting from the floor. It is important to recognize that Winter was also the one who hit the game winning three for Penn State at Northwestern on Wednesday Night.
This shot cemented the Nittany Lions second true road victory over a clear-cut NCAA Tournament team this season and this is not a team I would want to see in this event. Playing a lineup of primarily smaller guys, Penn State can move the ball in absolutely electric fashion and can shoot it with the best of them. This Penn State team has five different players that play over 20 minutes per game and shoot at least 36.5 percent from three-point range or better. This is a team that will be fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives and is good enough to do some damage if they get there.
The Nittany Lions have been very competitive in a difficult Big Ten all season and have to be feeling good about their first-round draw against Illinois, considering they beat the Illini both times they matched up this season. Even though it is only his second season at Penn State, Shrewsbury is also very familiar with this event dating back to his days at Purdue as an assistant.
The Pick: Indiana
The Hooisers have never won a Big Ten Tournament Title in their program’s history, but that will change this season. As a matter of fact, Indiana has only been to the championship game of this event once in 2001 when they lost to Iowa. In this environment, having to face off against two guys in Jackson-Davis and Hood Schifino, who can both create offense when the clock is counting down and you need something.
The Hoosiers draw also really helps them here, knowing they will get a Maryland team that struggles away from their own building. In addition, Indiana showed they can win games that they aren’t necessarily playing at their best in, like they did against Michigan on Sunday. The Hoosiers were outrebounded by Michigan 41-33, and only shot 33 percent and still found a way to win thanks to the greatness of their dynamic duo. I expect that same trend to continue here in the Big Ten Tournament.
Follow Zac Krull on Twitter - @ZacKrull_
To get full odds on the Big Ten and all conference tournaments, visit Betfred Sportsbook
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