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2020 Big Ten Conference Tournament Preview and Prediction

Here’s what you do with the 2020 Big Ten Conference Tournament. You throw all of the names in a hat minus Northwestern and Nebraska. You pick one out. You bet that team. All 14 teams will be in Indianapolis for the tournament that begins on Wednesday March 11. The bottom four teams will be in action. Seeds 5 through 10 start on Thursday in the second round. The top four seeds start on Friday in the quarterfinals.

This is the most represented conference according to most of the bracket projections with 10 teams in the field. Some bracket projections have Purdue as one of the first four teams out of the field. That seems like a stretch, but a big showing in Indy could give the Boilermakers extra life.

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Even though the Big Ten is arguably the best conference in college hoops, especially if we exclude Northwestern and Nebraska from that discussion, the best that the winner of this conference tournament can do is a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Here are the teams, seeds, records, and odds from BetOnline Sportsbook for the 2020 Big Ten Tournament:

  1. Wisconsin 21-10 (14-6) (H2H tiebreakers) +900
  2. Michigan State 22-9 (14-6) (H2H tiebreakers) +300
  3. Maryland 24-7 (14-6) +400
  4. Illinois 21-10 (13-7) +1000
  5. Iowa 20-11 (11-9) (H2H tiebreakers) +800
  6. Penn State 21-10 (11-9) (record vs. Wisc/MSU/MD) +1000
  7. Ohio State 21-10 (11-9) (H2H tiebreakers) +800
  8. Rutgers 20-11 (11-9) +800
  9. Michigan 19-12 (10-10) +600
  10. Purdue 16-15 (9-11) (H2H tiebreaker) +2000
  11. Indiana 19-12 (9-11) +4000
  12. Minnesota 14-16 (8-12) +4000
  13. Northwestern 8-22 (3-17) +15000
  14. Nebraska 7-24 (2-18) +15000

This is hard for me and probably for a lot of others. There are a lot of questions about the Big Ten going into the NCAA Tournament. It makes sense in a conference with this kind of strength that everybody would kind of beat everybody, but what is the actual ceiling of some of these teams? Sure, they’ve all traded blows and everybody wound up with at least six losses. Are the other teams in the NCAA Tournament going to be inferior? After all, at least five teams have been ranked in the top 25 most of the season from the Big Ten. Not that the polls mean much, but this is a conference that has garnered a ton of respect.

Bart Torvik has the Big Ten second to the Big 12 in terms of conference strength. What does that mean in the long-term? Hell, what does that mean in the short-term here in this conference tournament? Do we know of a team capable of winning three games or more in three or more days to take this thing down? Somebody has to do it, but which team? Who would you put your faith in?

Most would call it parity. What if we call it no dominant team in the Big Ten because no team has a ceiling high enough to be considered one?

Here is the schedule for the 2020 Big Ten Tournament:

Wednesday March 11

6 p.m. ET: 13 Northwestern vs. 12 Minnesota

8:30 p.m. ET: 14 Nebraska vs. 11 Indiana

Thursday March 12

12 p.m. ET: 9 Michigan vs. 8 Rutgers

2:30 p.m. ET: 13/12 winner vs. 5 Iowa

6:30 p.m. ET: 10 Purdue vs. 7 Ohio State

9 p.m. ET: 14/11 winner vs. 6 Penn State

Friday March 13

12 p.m. ET: 9/8 winner vs. 1 Wisconsin

2:30 p.m. ET: 13/12/5 winner vs. 4 Illinois

6:30 p.m. ET: 10/7 winner vs. 2 Michigan State

9 p.m. ET: 14/11/6 winner vs. 3 Maryland

Saturday March 14

1 p.m. ET: 9/8/1 winner vs. 13/12/5/4 winner

3:30 p.m. ET: 14/11/6/3 winner vs. 10/7/2

Sunday March 15

3:30 p.m. ET: Championship Game

If you want some sort of earth-shattering analysis, I don’t really have it for you. I’m sorry. But that’s just the nature of the beast in this conference. It isn’t hard to see at least seven of the teams in a really serious light to make a run. It does seem a lot harder for the teams outside the top four because they need to win four games in four days to do it and I just don’t know if that will be the case. It’s hard enough to be at your best twice a week, let alone four times in four days.

That being said, we’ve obviously seen teams make runs like that in this tournament. Michigan did it back in 2017 as a #8 seed. They also did it in 2018 as a #5 seed. Before that, though, the winner was a top 3 seed every year dating back to 2001. The outlier is the big 4-in-4 run.

Wisconsin may be the #1 seed, but the Badgers were fifth in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency per Bart Torvik. They don’t fit the profile of a top seed. I wouldn’t even say that they get a great draw with a likely quarterfinal matchup against either Iowa or Illinois.

Speaking of Iowa, they were the best offensive team in the conference, but also the worst defensive team in the conference. That could be their downfall in the tournament, though they do draw an Illinois team in the quarterfinals that struggles on offense. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Iowa outscore Illinois and then beat Wisconsin. If that’s good enough for you to take a piece of the Hawkeyes, by all means go for it. I don’t think they can get over the hump on Day 4, but so many of these teams are power-rated closely enough that championship game hedges are not that difficult to figure out. I have a little bit of interest in Iowa.

Michigan State has felt like a sleeping giant all year long and we all know how good Tom Izzo is in March. Michigan State has two wins in this conference tournament in the last four years and four appearances in the last six years. If you want to talk about ceiling, Sparty probably has the highest one in the conference, but would draw really tough games against the Ohio State/Purdue winner and then probably Maryland again. Similarly, Maryland gets a tough draw as the #3 seed with Penn State and Michigan State.

You almost want to attack the top half of the bracket because Wisconsin looks the weakest of the top three seeds. That is what led me to Iowa. All of these teams are flawed in some way. Michigan State doesn’t force turnovers. Ohio State doesn’t defend well. Iowa can’t defend. Penn State is just average across the board. Illinois can’t score. Maryland is way too inconsistent. There is also the angle here that just about all of these teams were much better at home than on the road.

Winning four games in four days is really hard and it would probably be in my best interest to avoid anybody outside the top four, but Iowa is the only team I like enough with a good enough price to consider. Ultimately, I think Maryland or Michigan State wins the tournament, but you can get Iowa at a decent price when they’ll likely be around +5 against Michigan State and +3 against Maryland, which yields some good hedging opportunities.

Also, consider a money line rollover with Iowa. Project out some spreads and see if they’ll be better than +800 having to win four games in four days. They’ll be roughly lined as a small favorite against Minnesota, a pick ‘em or small dog to both Illinois and Wisconsin, and then those aforementioned numbers against Michigan State and Maryland. You’re going to get a better price on a ML rollover.

Pick: Iowa +800

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