Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
This week’s topic: Who will win the men’s Big Ten Tournament?
The Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament begins on Wednesday, and barring a minor miracle — or a big, fat, hairy, scarlet & gray miracle — Ohio State is not expected to contend for the title. I am not breaking news, as you likely figured this out some time in mid-January. But the Buckeyes’ lack of tournament hopes will not stop Gene and I from predicting an outcome. Or two outcomes, really.
We decided to flex our prognostication skills once again, for which we are both well known. Gene, of course, predicted Oral Roberts’ upset of OSU in 2021, while I, being a bit longer in the tooth, famously nailed that Fred Taylor would cut down the nets in 1960. So here we are again, just a couple of fortune tellers looking into our crystal ball(s).
(Editors note: some of the above details may be fabricated, but whose to say?)
On the docket today is predicting Ohio State’s B1G tourney fate, which will be followed by picking an eventual winner. But what if said fate is to win this whole damn thing!? Who says the Buckeyes can’t get hot and catch lightning in a bottle!? Huh!? Huh!?
Well, I do. I say the Buckeyes have no shot of winning it all in Chicago. But that does not mean I am predicting a quick exit. On the contrary, I am here to tell you that Chris Holtmann’s squad will make a run in the Windy City. And why, exactly, do I have these delusions of grandeur? Because I think the bracket worked out quite nicely for the Scarlet and Gray.
OSU gets Wisconsin in the first round, and I could not be less impressed by the Badgers. Yes, they beat the Buckeyes during the regular season (only matchup), but they play an awful, ugly brand of basketball. Their leading scorer averages 12.2 points per game on 39% shooting. They rank No. 333 (out of 363) in PPG as a team. Greg Gard’s squad does not have Johnny Davis or a borderline elite big man to save them this year, so I think Ohio State simply outscores UW.
Thursday’s game would then be against Iowa, and guess what? The Buckeyes already beat the Hawkeyes! They hung an average of 84 points on the Fighting Frans. This particular matchup would likely result in a fast-paced shootout, and OSU is better equipped to run and gun without Zed Key. Give me the Scarlet and Gray in an absolute barnburner.
If Ohio State advances to the third round, they would meet up with Tom Izzo’s Michigan State team, recipients of a double bye for this tournament. But MSU is not your typical BTT 4-seed. Due to very unfortunate and tragic events taking place, the Spartans only played 19 conference games and ended the (B1G) regular season with 11 wins and 8 losses. Had the team played an additional game and lost, they would have fallen into a tiebreaker and possibly received a much lower seed.
All this to say that Michigan State is very beatable. If a third game between these two team does come to fruition, I will take the Buckeyes.
Three wins and OSU is in the Big Ten semis, baby! But Saturday, March 11 is where I see this season coming to an end for Holtmann and the boys. They simply have no answer for Zach Edey and Purdue. Also, the Boilermakers have made a recent habit of destroying the Buckeyes’ hopes and dreams, which is what I believe will take place in the semifinals.
By now you are probably thinking my second prediction is for Purdue to win the Big Ten Tournament... No so fast, my friends! I will close this out by choosing a different team from the Hoosier State (hint, hint).
Give me Indiana to win this year’s Big Ten Tournament. Led by hyphenated stars Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino, Mike Davis’ Hoosiers have greater collective starpower. Furthermore, they have big bodies to throw at Edey to at least make him work hard for his points and rebounds — and they are lethal from beyond the arc (25th nationally in 3PT%). I think IU is surprise Elite 8 or Final 4 team waiting to happen, so I will pick them to cut down nets in Chi-town.
What do you think, Gene? Am I crazy like a fox, or just plain crazy?
Starting with the Buckeyes, I am not as confident as my counterpart here. I’m not gonna hit here and pretend to be an expert on Ohio State hoops, as I wasn’t exactly glued to the screen this season whenever Chris Holtmann’s team took the floor, but I know enough to say that this team simply isn’t very good. Sure, there is some reason to be optimistic for next year with all the young talent on the squad, but the 2022-23 campaign simply ain’t it for the Buckeyes.
For that reason, I will say that Ohio State’s campaign comes to a merciful end in the first round against Wisconsin. Now, would I be shocked if the Buckeyes win a game or two this week? Absolutely not. In fact, they are favored against the Badgers on the ESPN matchup predictor at 59.4% despite their 13-18 record and their previous loss to Greg Gard’s unit. However, the smart money this year has been to pick against Ohio State and be pleasantly surprised if they do pull off a win, so I will be doing just that.
Hopefully I am wrong and the Buckeyes can pull off one of the greatest Cinderella stories of all time as they sweep through the Big Ten and win the tournament altogether — their only chance of earning a spot in this year’s NCAA Tournament — but I'm not a man to put my chips in favor of fairytales.
On the other half of this equation, since Josh was kind enough to not pick the favorite in this year’s Big Ten Tournament, although the Hoosiers are the second-favorite on most sportsbooks, I will gladly take the favored Purdue Boilermakers.
Matt Painters group won the Big Ten regular season this year with a mark of 15-5, going 26-5 overall. Unless you’ve been living under a rock throughout the college basketball season, you know about Purdue’s 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey. The big man averaged well over a double-double this season with 21.9 points and 12.8 rebounds per game, and led the conference in points, rebounds, field goal percentage, player efficiency rating, and of course free throw attempts.
The projected Wooden Award winner is joined by a strong supporting cast among the likes of Braden Smith, Brandon Newman, Fletcher Loyer and a host of other contributors on a nightly basis.
Aside from their talent, the biggest reason I'm picking Purdue to win the Big Ten this season is that they’ve already lost to Indiana twice. It is hard enough to beat a time two times in the same year, let alone three. The Boilermakers will be seeking revenge against the Hoosiers if the two meet in the conference championship game, which is a very likely possibility. I think Painter will have his guys ready for the third meeting between these two schools if it comes down to it, especially with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament potentially on the line.