I'm in Chicago, getting ready to head over to the United Center for the start of the Big Ten tournament, figure I ought to lay some predictions on the table before it's too late.
Let's start with today's games. Three teams have something to play for (Michigan, Michigan State, Illinois) and three teams do not (Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State). Gimme the first three to win. Illinois is the most vulnerable of the favorites because Penn State, despite the miserable year, is actually halfway decent. But the Illini are home in Chicago and a loss would cripple their NCAA hopes. I'm going chalk.
Quarterfinal Friday is looking like it could be a great day. To start at the top of the bracket, I'll go with Ohio State over Michigan to send the Wolverines back to the NIT. Ohio State is just too talented, Michigan too schizophrenic. Purdue-Iowa is an interesting 4-5 game. Steve Alford is feeling some heat at Iowa (again) while Purdue is staring the first NCAA berth of the Matt Painter era in the face. Iowa won big on its home floor two weeks ago, my guess is Purdue gets revenge. Got to have one upset in Round 2, so I'm going MSU over Wisconsin. Teams typically don't shoot well in their first game at the United Center, and the Spartans have made the Badgers too reliant on the 3-pointer in their two meetings. With the win, MSU improves its NCAA seeding to a six. The Illinois-Indiana nightcap, like the Purdue-Iowa game, is a complete toss up, but I'm going Indiana and that ferocious defense.
That same defense is good enough to get Indiana past a tired MSU team on Saturday and into the finals against Ohio State, which handles Purdue with ease. The Buckeyes lost the championship game to Iowa last year, but they didn't have Greg Oden or Mike Conley. That sensational duo is enough to send the Buckeyes to their first conference title since 2002 and lock up a No. 1 seed in the St. Louis regional.