The Big Ten is tied with the SEC for most teams invited to the NCAA Tournament with eight. A few teams have very difficult paths out of the first round, and some should make it to at least the second or third round.
Let’s break down each of the eight team’s paths.
1.Purdue - Lose in second round
Ah, Purdue. So controversial and strongly disliked by Buckeye fans (and I believe the rest of the Big Ten). Purdue’s success will be majorly dependent on whether or not the referees cater to Zach Edey. As in, the refs during Big Ten play will not call Edey for any fouls, yet somehow he draws multiple every game. It’s pretty much impossible to beat him.
However, I do believe that the refs will be more fair in the NCAA Tournament, which could severely affect the Boilermakers. As they are the No. 1 seed, they play No. 16 Texas Southern or Fairleigh Dickinson University. Purdue should win this game easily, but then will most likely face Memphis in the second round. No. 8 Memphis plays No. 9 Florida Atlantic in the first round, and while that’ll be a battle, Memphis is playing some great ball recently, as it even upset No. 1 Houston Sunday in the AAC Tournament. Therefore, I see Memphis winning.
I think Memphis will continue to win in the second round and knock off Purdue. Yeah, I do not see the Boilermakers going very far, as they have proved to be very beatable with the way they played in the Big Ten Tournament. When Zach Edey isn’t on the floor their offensive point differential is 25 points. It’s +29 when he’s playing and +4 when he isn’t. Hopefully the refs will play fair which will limit what he can do, therefore making Purdue lose.
2. Penn State - Lose in first round
How about this Penn State team?! The No. 10 seed in the Big Ten Tournament being literally three seconds away from knocking off No. 1 Purdue to win the entire thing. Now, the Nittany Lions will play No. 7 Texas A&M in the first round. Penn State has been playing their best ball all season, so they are definitely hot at the right time.
However, Texas A&M heads into the Big Dance winning 10 of its last 12 games, including an upset win over Alabama to close out the regular season and made it to the SEC Tournament championship before losing to the Tide. So, this is going to be a war.
Unfortunately for the Big Ten, I think Penn State is going to run out of gas and fall to the Aggies. While both teams have faced stiff competition all year long in their respective conferences, I believe Texas A&M has been tested more in the SEC and will prevail against Penn State.
3. Northwestern - Lose in second round
The Wildcats will square off against No. 10 Boise State, who finished third in the Mountain West Conference regular season standings. Northwestern lost in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament to Penn State. It also lost three of their final four regular season games. However, Boise State has been fairly inconsistent over their last several games as well.
I think Northwestern will get it together and beat Boise State. Yet, then they will most likely have to play No. 2 UCLA in the next round, and even with the injury bug that has bitten the Bruins, they are still playing with confidence and I think the Wildcats will fall to them in the second round.
4. Michigan State - Lose in second round
The No. 7 Spartans will take on No. 10 USC in what will be a GREAT game, I think. Both teams are very talented and had successful seasons, competing with some of the best teams in the country. Yet, I think the Spartans take this one because of their veterans, their ability to shoot the ball and three-point defense against USC.
If Michigan State does make it to the second round, it will probably play No. 2 Marquette who has been looking real fine, and just won the Big East Tournament — which is not easy. Marquette has played well all season long, also winning the Big East in the regular season. I think the Golden Eagles will overtake Sparty in the second round.
5. Maryland - Lose in first round, if not, then to Alabama in second round
This will be a great No. 8/No. 9 matchup against West Virginia to open the tournament. Maryland had a really solid year after not much was expected of them, and WVU battled in the difficult conference that is the Big 12 and played really well late in the season. This game could honestly go either way, but whoever advances will most likely have to play No. 1 overall seed Alabama. Yikes.
I honestly don’t know who to pick here... I think I have to go with the Mountaineers solely because of the grit they have as a result of their schedule.
6. Iowa - Lose in second round
Another great No. 8/No. 9 game with the Hawkeyes squaring off against Auburn. The Tigers really struggled down the stretch, finishing 4-8 over its last 12 regular season games, but they still earned a No. 9 seed in the tournament. Iowa also didn’t do too hot over their final few games, going 2-4 and falling to the Buckeyes in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.
The Hawkeyes have great shooters and even better rebounders. Their offense is very strong. They had a couple of ugly losses during the season but overall they are a talented team who I believe will play well in the first round and defeat Auburn who has just been struggling too much recently. Then, Iowa will probably have to play No. 1 Houston, which will not be an easy game to win. Therefore I predict the Hawkeyes falling in the second round.
7. Indiana - Lose in Sweet Sixteen
No. 4 Indiana will take on No. 13 Kent State in the first round and this will be an interesting matchup. The Golden Flashes just won the MAC Tournament while the Hoosiers fell in the second round to Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament. Kent State is hot right now, currently on a six-game win streak, but so is Indiana, besides the Penn State loss, as it took down Purdue just a few weeks ago.
It’s going to be a really tight game, but I can’t count out Trayce Jackson-Davis in the final NCAA Tournament of his collegiate career. I’ll take the Hoosiers on this round, and then they will most likely play the Miami Hurricanes in the second round. Oof, that will be tough. If the Hoosiers play to their full potential in that game, I can see them making it to the Sweet Sixteen against Houston. However, I don’t see them making it to the Elite Eight.
8. Illinois - Lose in first round
Last but certainly not least, the Fighting Illini. Yet another great No. 8/No. 9 game against No. 9 Arkansas. Both teams have been fairly inconsistent all season long, but have the potential to make a run in the tournament. Arkansas is full of talented freshmen and overall have a scary offense.
On the flip side, Illinois has the veterans, but are one of the worst shooting teams in the country. I think the Razorbacks are going to expose Illinois’ weaknesses and go to town on them to advance to the next round.
Are any of my predictions going to be right? Who knows, it’s March. While I don’t see any Big Ten teams making it particularly far in the tournament, there could definitely be a few surprises. Let the madness begin!
Which Big Ten team do you think will go the furthest?