Big Ten Tournament Preview
THE COMPUTERS LOVE THE BIG 10...ARE THEY RIGHT OR WRONG?!
You'll see momentarily when we get to the computer evaluations of the Big 10, the final conference starting their tournament during this long week of excitement, that the top contenders are either national superpowers or extremely overrated.
Most conferences we've talked about this week have one or two legitimate threats to go deep (or zero!). The computers had FIVE teams from the Big 10 ranked between 10 and 17 when the week began. That's FIVE teams who are basically expected to reach the 16 (according to the software), with any capable of breaking through to the Final Four.
We're used to seeing Big 10 teams get that far. Michigan reached the finals last year. Michigan State's made a few trips. But, we've also seen many highly regarded Big 10 teams fall flat on their faces in the Dance because media hype and computer hype was unfounded.
Let's quickly run through the schedule...then jump into the computer rankings. All games will be played in Indianapolis.
WEDNESDAY'S FIRST ROUND
Indiana (8) vs. Illinois (9)
Ohio State (5) vs. Purdue (12)
Minnesota (7) vs. Penn State (10)
Iowa (6) vs. Northwestern (11)
THURSDAY'S SECOND ROUND
Michigan (1) vs. the Indiana/Illinois winner
Nebraska (4) vs. the Ohio State/Purdue winner
Wisconsin (2) vs. the Minnesota/Penn State winner
Michigan State (3) vs. the Iowa/Northwestern winner
The semifinals and finals are set for Saturday and Sunday in the standard bracket format. Nebraska rallied late for a #4 seed, but way too late to impress the computers. They're NOT one of the teams listed in the top 17...but are currently seeded ahead of Ohio State and Minnesota, who are. Here now, the "end of regular season" rankings from college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin.
Computer Rankings by Seed
1...Michigan: #10 in Pomeroy, #7 in Sagarin
2...Wisconsin: #12 in Pomeroy, #10 in Sagarin
3...Michigan State: #16 in Pomeroy, #11 in Sagarin
4...Nebraska: #47 in Pomeroy, #55 in Sagarin
5...Ohio State: #14 in Pomeroy, #13 in Sagarin
6...Iowa: #17 in Pomeroy, #14 in Sagarin
7...Minnesota: #52 in Pomeroy, #49 in Sagarin
8...Indiana: #64 in Pomeroy, #56 in Sagarin
9...Illinois: #65 in Pomeroy, #61 in Sagarin
10...Penn State: #77 in Pomeroy, #69 in Sagarin
11...Northwestern: #146 in Pomeroy, #132 in Sagarin
12...Purdue: #106 in Pomeroy, #87 in Sagarin
Ohio State is still in the top 14 with both guys even though they stumbled badly in several late season tests...and could only manage a 10-8 conference record. Is the Big 10 so loaded that you can go 10-8 yet still be a top 14 team? Iowa was just .500 in league action with a 9-9 record...yet is still in a virtual dead heat with Ohio State (and Michigan State in Pomeroy). We can at least say this. Emphasizing recent form would have you disagreeing with the computers. Smart handicappers emphasize recent form!
Both Ohio State and Iowa are positioned to rally back from late slumps given their draws. Ohio State would only have to face the #12 seed and then Nebraska on the way to the finals. Iowa has the much tougher traw...but needs the much tougher draw to win back respect. The brackets have then lined up for Michigan State, Wisconsin, and then the Michigan/Ohio State survivor barring upsets.
Breaking things down on offense and defense...
Pomeroy's Adjusted Offensive and Defensive Ranks By Seed
1...Michigan: #3 on offense, #93 on defense
2...Wisconsin: #6 on offense, #55 on defense
3...Michigan State: #17 on offense, #39 on defense
4...Nebraska: #103 on offense, #27 on defense
5...Ohio State: #119 on offense, #2 on defense
6...Iowa: #4 on offense, #105 on defense
7...Minnesota: #35 on offense, #94 on defense
8...Indiana: #123 on offense, #48 on defense
9...Illinois: #194 on offense, #16 on defense
10...Penn State: #74 on offense, #106 on defense
11...Northwestern: #319 on offense, #14 on defense
12...Purdue: #125 on offense, #112 on defense
This was not a particularly great defensive conference this year. Ohio State was fantastic on that side of the ball, but struggled badly running a halfcourt offense. None of the other contenders are scary by Dance standards. In fact, questionable defense by Dance standards could be issues for Michigan State, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa. Can you believe that Big 10 teams will have to win with offense? At least they're all playing more entertaining games this year.
Most Underrated ATS
Michigan State: 17-11-2
The market was mostly in synch with this high profile conference. Oddsmakers did miss out on Nebraska's significant improvement. And, they underestimated Michigan State's ability to play consistently well through the season.
Most Overrated ATS
That's the two worst teams in the league...teams who never could figure out how to get things going. The likes of Ohio State and Iowa were overrated vs. quality in league play...but had successes in other areas that helped counteract that.
JIM HURLEY loves handicapping the Big 10 tournament. It's often the home for more surprises than the other places. Be sure you're checking the daily packages for news about upsets and blowouts here and all across the college board. Daily MARCH MADNESS BEST BETS can be purchased with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. By now, you should have already done that given how many tournaments have started! Don't be a straggler!
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