The most wonderful time of the year is upon us!
Conference tournaments for all the major conferences start up over the next few days, while a number of teams have already clinched a spot in the NCAA Tournament in thrilling fashion. Southeast Missouri State won the Ohio Valley in overtime, while UNC-Asheville rallied from down 14 in the second half on Sunday to claim the Big South title.
While seeing teams in one-bid leagues is exciting, there is something different about the few days before the brackets are announced when there is an avalanche of college basketball from noon to beyond midnight. The Thursday and Friday of conference tournament week is especially entertaining during the day because you’ll see top conference seeds try and fight off pesky lower seeds who have nothing left to lose.
The Big Ten Tournament kicks off on Wednesday with Ohio State and Wisconsin in the first round. Even though we love the Buckeyes, we aren’t crazy enough to think Chris Holtmann’s team is going to become the first team to shock the world and win five games to secure the Big Ten’s automatic bid. Since expansion of the conference, no Big Ten team playing on Wednesday has ever made it to even Saturday, let alone Sunday.
Since the Buckeyes aren’t a legitimate threat to win it all in Chicago, today we are giving our picks for who we do think will win the Big Ten Tournament title. This year has been wide-open in the conference, which makes the tournament even tougher to predict than normal. Will it be Purdue with monster Zach Edey? Can Northwestern continue to shock college basketball with their strong play? Or will it be someone else?
Today’s question: Who will win this year’s Big Ten Tournament?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Before we get to our choices for today’s question, we have to announce that this will be Meredith’s last “You’re Nuts”. To celebrate an amazing run at Land-Grant Holy Land, we are going to also pick our favorite “You’re Nuts” involving Meredith.
We thank Meredith for years of tremendous writing here at LGHL, and wish her nothing but the best going forward!
Brett’s answer: Indiana
Picking Purdue feels way too chalky for me. I know the Boilermakers have Zach Edey, but what happens if Edey gets into foul trouble and is sidelined for a big chunk of a game? Does Purdue have enough outside of Edey to survive something like that? I’m not convinced that they do.
Give me the team that has beaten Purdue twice this year. Indiana has a player that is just as much of a game-changer as Edey. Trayce Jackson-Davis hit another level with his play after the calendar turned to 2023. The Hoosiers closed out the regular season with an overtime win over Michigan in Bloomington where they overcame a double-digits deficit in the second half to take down the Wolverines for the second time this season.
Not only do I like the veteran presence that Jackson-Davis gives Indiana, the Hoosiers also have one of the best freshmen in the country in Jalen Hood-Schifino. Sometimes the play from the guard is inconsistent, but when he gets hot he can really fill it up. Indiana also has some other complimentary pieces in Race Thompson and Miller Kopp, who won’t be shook by the big stage that comes with the conference tournament.
The Hoosiers also have a favorable draw in this year’s tournament. Indiana could square off with Maryland in the quarterfinals, but the Terrapins weren’t very good at the end of the regular season. In the semifinals, the Hoosiers could see Illinois, Penn State, or Northwestern. Mike Woodson’s team has to be eager to see the Wildcats again to get some revenge since Northwestern beat them twice this year.
Brett’s favorite ‘You’re Nuts”: Which non-football related historical figure would be best to coach Ohio State?
This was back from the early days of “You’re Nuts” back in May 2021. The offseason obviously provides a little bit more of a challenge to try and come up with topics, but this was one that I knew would be fun when Meredith suggested it.
Usually when we suggested topics, one of us would e-mail the other on Sunday with an idea, and for the most part there wasn’t much back-and-forth about it since they were well thought out and were close to the pulse of what was happening with the Buckeyes (or with sports in general).
I couldn’t have asked for a better partner to write not only these pieces with, but also to share game previews and bold predictions over the last few years. It’s not going to be the same here at LGHL without Meredith, since she was such a professional with her work, but also knew when was time to have fun with articles and topics. I wish you all of the great things in your next chapter, since you deserve all of them!
Meredith’s answer: Northwestern
Sadly, I can’t imagine Ohio State turning on the jets and winning the Big Ten Tournament this year, so I’m going to go with another biased take and say it’ll be Northwestern. The Wildcats are poised to make their second-ever NCAA Tournament and as the conference’s perennial underdog, it’s hard to cheer against them.
The Wildcats finished the regular season tied with three other teams for second-place in the conference standings, and with their luck and tiebreakers, drew the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Their 20-10 overall finish is the team’s best since the 2016-17 season when Northwestern made that single NCAA Tournament.
While their scoring is nothing to write home about (quite literally - the Wildcats are 11th in the conference in offense with just 68 points per game), their defense is elite, allowing under 63 points per game. Like their football counterparts, if Northwestern can’t overmatch their opponents on talent, they’ll stay in the game with smart play and a defensive mindset.
Meredith’s favorite ‘You’re Nuts”: Mean Girls (obviously)
I was very close to picking the favorite historical figure edition as well!
In terms of my favorite “You’re Nuts” topic we’ve done together, last May, we created a burn book for Big Ten football coaches. Brett took the Big Ten East and I the West. My favorite was the bonus pick of Tracy Clay (“HE MADE OUT WITH A DILLY BAR!”)
Anyway, thanks for everything, Brett - it’s been a blast these past couple years writing these pieces, previews, bold predictions and more!