The second round of the Big Ten conference tournament begins at 12 noon on Thursday. None of the games feature teams with winning records competing against each other. However, the action should be strong from the first whistle. Only one of the favorites are a lock to make the NCAA Tournament, so a win for any of these teams will bring some belief into the quarterfinals. Therefore, this should be an intriguing day in Big Ten basketball.
The Iowa Hawkeyes won the inaugural Big Ten Conference Tournament game over the Illinois Fighting Illini. In the second game, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers to advance to the second round of the tournament. Let’s see what their home crowd sounds like on Thursday night. It should get competitive and loud in the arena.
8 Maryland Terrapins (19-12, 8-10) vs.
9 Wisconsin Badgers (14-17, 7-11) 12:00 p.m. Winner Plays No. 1 Michigan State
Early games are always an intriguing factor in tournament play. The Maryland Terrapins and Wisconsin Badgers both need to win the conference to earn the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. Although both teams start with a fairly tough game, the winner will have an opportunity to keep advancing. Yes, the Badgers have a losing record on the season. However, the Badgers are also playing their best basketball of the year. They have won 4 of their last 6 games and the two losses came to Michigan and Michigan State in the season-finale. Don’t be fooled by the record. This team is competitive now. They are led by Ethan Happ’s 17 points and 8 rebounds. Earlier in the year, he was a one-man show. Now, Brad Davison has become a viable option on the offensive side of the ball. This two-man game can do some damage against Maryland.
Meanwhile, the Terrapins are led by the perimeter. Anthony Cowans is as quick as any guard in the country. He is scoring 15.7 points per game. Cowans also produces 5.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds on a nightly basis. His back court mate Kevin Huerter is one of the best shooters in the Big Ten. Huerter is dropping in 14.6 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range. They also have freshman Bruno Fernando as an inside presence. The Terrapins won the regular season meeting 68-63.
Score Prediction – Maryland 70 – Wisconsin 68
5 Michigan Wolverines (24-7, 13-5) vs.
12 Iowa Hawkeyes (14-18, 5-14) 2:25 p.m. Winner Plays No. 4 Nebraska
When the Michigan Wolverines and Iowa Hawkeyes tip-off on Thursday afternoon one teams is going to have an advantage. Fortunately, we won’t know which team that will be. Evidently, the Wolverines are the higher ranked team with NCAA Tournament seeding to play for. However, they are jumping into a new environment, while the Hawkeyes should be comfortable after their 96-87 win over Illinois in the first round. The Hawkeyes have a short turnaround, but we’ve seen teams prosper in this situation, especially in Madison Square Garden. The Wolverines have won five-games in row, including a 74-59 victory over the Hawkeyes on Valentines Day. They also swept the regular season. As a result, the Wolverines will need the three-game season sweep to advance to the quarterfinals. They won the 2017 Big Ten Conference Tournament in a similar situation. However, the Wolverines entered that postseason with a different mindstate. This time, this should be all about basketball.
Score Prediction- Michigan 75 – Iowa 70
7 Penn State Nittany Lions (19-12, 9-9) vs.
10 Northwestern Wildcats (15-16, 6-12) 6:30 p.m. Winner Plays No. 2 Ohio State
It’s safe to say if the Penn State Nittany Lions finished the regular season strong, they’d be thinking about an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Instead, they played four of the hottest Big Ten teams down the stretch. They completed a season-sweep over the Ohio State Buckeyes. However, the Nittany Lions lost three straight games to put their NCAA Tournament aspirations on hold. Well, they have a final shot to get back into the good graces on Thursday. A win over the Northwestern Wildcats won’t do it, but they may have a chance at a third win over the Buckeyes with a win. Therefore, the possibilities are endless. The Nittany Lions have five players scoring in double figures. Meanwhile, the Wildcats have had a disappointing season. They are under .500 this season and their opportunity to earn consecutive bids to the Big Dance hinges on a four wins in Madison Square Garden. However, the Wildcats have lost six games in a row. They split a pair of games with the Nittany Lions, so the formula to win Thursday afternoon is there. It should be a well-played game in front of the evening crowd. Expect the Nittany Lions to have some home crowd advantage, especially if they get off to a good start.
Score Prediction- Penn State 74 – Northwestern 65
6 Indiana Hoosiers (16-14, 9-9) vs.
14 Rutgers Scarlet Knights (14-18, 4-15) 8:55 p.m. Winner Plays No. 3 Purdue
The Indiana Hoosiers finally know who they are facing. After the Rutgers Scarlet Knights defeated Minnesota, their attention turned to the Hoosiers in another important game. The Hoosiers lost their final two games of the regular season. However, they were a buzzer-beating three away from knocking off the Buckeyes in the season-finale. Now, the Hoosiers have to win all four games to advance to the NCAA Tournament unless something miraculous happens. If the Scarlet Knights win out, they’ll reach .500. They are capable of competing with the Hoosiers, but they must be better than they were in the prior contest. The Hoosiers won, 65-43 on the road in February. If they come in with an overconfident attitude, things could get dicey. The Hoosiers have a lot to gain with a win. However, they have everything to lose. As a result, we expect the Hoosiers to hit the ground running. Keep in mind, the Hoosiers are only (4-8) away from home. Rutgers was (1-9) away from the RAC before Wednesday’s win. Will they be able to earn two in a row?
Score Prediction- Indiana 73 – Rutgers 70