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March Madness 2017: Big Ten Tournament Preview, Bracket and Conference Postseason Awards

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Big Ten Player of the Year: Caleb Swanigan, Purdue

A no-brainer for this award, Swanigan posted a ridiculous 25 double-doubles this season while averaging 18.7 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. Nearly unguardable in the post without a double team at the college level, Swanigan has expanded his offensive game as he hurts defenses from every level of the floor. A 44 percent three-point shooter who also makes 79 percent of his free throws, Swanigan has rare touch for a player his size.

Big Ten Coach of the Year: Richard Pitino, Minnesota

Minnesota looked like they might be in serious trouble entering this season but Pitino has done a remarkable job of helping turn things around while saving his job. After only eight Big Ten wins the last two seasons, the Golden Gophers finished with 11 Big Ten wins this season as they finished in fourth place. Mixing veterans, transfers and true freshmen, Minnesota has a top-15 defense and the future looks solid.

First-Team All-Big Ten:

  • Caleb Swanigan, Purdue (POY)
  • Melo Trimble, Maryland: The Terps lost four starters but Trimble (16.9 ppg, 3.7 apg, 3.4 rpg) was once again one of the nation’s most clutch players. Trimble scored Maryland’s game-winning points five times in the final 30 seconds this season.
  • Ethan Happ, Wisconsin: Happ clearly emerged as Wisconsin’s best player this season, putting up 13.9 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. Defensively, Happ is perhaps the Big Ten’s best player.
  • Peter Jok, Iowa: One of the nation’s best offensive players, Jok scored in bunches (2o.2 ppg) but also improved his all-around game (5.7 rpg, 2.7 apg) while leading the Big Ten in free-throw percentage at 92 percent.
  • Derrick Walton Jr., Michigan: Finally healthy for a full season, Walton was brilliant in his senior season as he gets a slight nod over Nate Mason. Walton had good numbers (14.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.5 apg) and was very efficient (43% FG, 41% 3PT, 85% FT)

Second Team All-Big Ten:

  • Nate Mason, Minnesota
  • Miles Bridges, Michigan State
  • Tai Webster, Nebraska
  • Malcolm Hill, Illinois
  • Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern

RELATED: Player of the Year | Coach of the Year | NBC Sports All-Americans

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The Big Ten Tournament moves east to Washington D.C. for the first time this season as it will be very intriguing to see which fanbases travel to catch this event.

As for the tournament action itself, this has been a strange year for the Big Ten.

Since the committee didn’t give the Big Ten a top-four seed during February’s early bracket reveal, we know that the conference likely has work to do to get even one top-four seed. With the way Purdue has played lately, they have the best chance to win this event and gain a respectable seed, but the Big Ten is going to have to prove itself in March with some pretty undesirable seeds.

The Bracket 

When: March 8-12

Where: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.

Final: Sunday, March 12, 3 p.m. EST

Favorite: Purdue

The Boilermakers are the easy favorite for this event as they won the Big Ten regular season by two full games and enter this week as winners of eight of their last nine games. With the Big Ten’s best player in Caleb Swanigan and a great supporting cast that was built to play around Swanigan’s unique skillset, the Boilers are motivated to earn a better NCAA tournament seed by winning this event. Matt Painter made that clear in the postgame interview following the Northwestern win.

And if they lose?: Wisconsin

Based solely on recent play, Wisconsin has no business being in the title conversation this week. The Badgers had lost five of six games before Sunday’s win over Minnesota as they went into a freefall. But the rest of the Big Ten is still very mediocre and Wisconsin has a veteran group that knows how to win in tournament settings. The win over the Golden Gophers was convincing enough that Wisconsin might have figured things out just in time.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 21: Reggie Lynch #22 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers fouls Ethan Happ #22 of the Wisconsin Badgers while shooting the ball during the second half of the game on January 21, 2017 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Ethan Happ (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Other Contenders:

  • Maryland: As long as Melo Trimble is on the floor, you can’t count out Maryland. One of the nation’s elite guards is still great in close games and he has plenty of talent around him.
  • Minnesota: The Big Ten’s biggest surprise has an elite defense anchored by Reggie Lynch, one of the nation’s best shot blockers, and an offense led by breakout guard Nate Mason.

Sleeper: Iowa

The Hawkeyes have quietly crept into the bubble picture by winning four straight — including impressive road wins at Wisconsin and Maryland. The Big Ten Tournament draw also happens to lay out very nicely for Iowa. Potential matchups in the first three rounds come against Indiana, Wisconsin and Maryland — three of the four teams Iowa just beat. With something to play for, a potent star senior scorer in Peter Jok and a favorable draw, Iowa could be a team to watch in D.C.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Illinois: A shocking road loss to Rutgers might leave Illinois out either way. A win over Michigan in the first round has to happen at the very least and Illinois might even have to beat No. 1 seed Purdue to get in.
  • Iowa: If Iowa beats Indiana and gets the best of the Badgers again in the quarterfinals then they might be dancing.

Defining moment of the season: The Big Ten didn’t have a lot of great moments this season but Purdue clinching the Big Ten title against rival Indiana on Senior Day was pretty cool.

CBT Prediction: Purdue over Wisconsin

No. 1 Duke outlasts Penn State despite more injury concerns

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The injuries continue to pile up for No. 1 Duke as the Blue Devils managed to outlast Penn State with a 78-68 win on Saturday afternoon.

Sophomore big man Chase Jeter left the game in the first half with an ankle injury and didn’t return while junior guard Grayson Allen continues to battle a toe injury that makes him look far less explosive than normal.

Despite Jeter’s absence and only 12 points from Allen, the Blue Devils jumped out to a manageable lead on Penn State as they were able to outlast a late burst that had the Nittany Lions somewhat close in the final minutes.

Senior forward Amile Jefferson put together a monster double-double of 16 points and 16 rebounds while Matt Jones and Luke Kennard each chipped in 15 points. Playing another important factor in this one was freshman Frank Jackson, who continued his sensational start to the season by scoring 17 points.

The Blue Devils (3-1) are certainly missing enough talented players by this point, and if Allen continues to be hampered by the toe injury, they could be in some trouble in these next few games.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said Jeter was “doubtful” to play on Sunday while the team’s three freshmen who have been out (Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden, Harry Giles) will remain out.

Advancing in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, the Blue Devils will face the winner of Rhode Island and Cincinnati on Sunday in what should be an intriguing game since Duke is so depleted right now.

As for Penn State (2-2), this was a solid test for a young Nittany Lions team that looks like it can be competitive in the Big Ten this season. Freshman Tony Carr has to contain some of his wild moments but he finished with a team-high 20 points and six rebounds. Shep Garner added 15 points while Payton Banks had 13.

No. 6 Michigan State beats Penn State 88-57 after slow start

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Tom Izzo has been telling his players when they’re not making shots that defense and rebounding can win games, especially in the NCAA Tournament.

No. 6 Michigan State showed that against Penn State on Sunday.

Denzel Valentine started slow and finished strong with 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists to help the sixth-ranked Spartans beat the Nittany Lions 88-57.

Valentine missed his first six shots as Michigan State was off to a 3-of-15 shooting start.

“Our defense and rebounding kept us in the game and that’s the way we have to win as we move forward,” Izzo said. “It makes me feel like they’re listening.”

The Spartans (24-5, 11-5 Big Ten) have won four straight and eight of nine, outscoring teams by 21-plus points in those victories and losing only to then-No. 18 Purdue by one point in overtime on the road during the stretch.

“I think we’ve got a chance to make a run,” Izzo said.

Penn State had been on a relatively successful run recently.

The Nittany Lions (15-14, 6-10) had won three straight and four of five, including victories over then-No. 4 Iowa and then-No. 22 Indiana.

“We were hopeful to put up a fight at least,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “And, we didn’t do that.”

Chambers did his part by being feisty.

He was ejected with 4:53 left in the first half when he was called for two technical fouls within the same rant. Chambers had to be held back by his coaching staff, two assistants at one point, as he tried to charge toward officials more than once before leaving the court. After Chambers was ejected, he started to gather his team for some parting thoughts before he tried to go back at the officials.

“We’re trying to buck the system of being the brunt of everybody’s jokes,” Chambers said. “So we’re going to fight, players are going to fight.”

After the Spartans’ miss-filled start, they connected on 14 of 18 shots.

“We played hard with energy and effort,” Valentine said.

Despite making just 37 percent in the second half, they easily maintained their comfortable cushion.

“Michigan State is playing at an incredible level,” Chambers said.

Michigan State’s Deyonta Davis and Bryn Forbes scored 15 points each and Matt Costello had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Shep Garner had 22 points and Devin Foster scored 11 for the Nittany Lions during a game in which their respect for Chambers grew.

“I love it when Coach comes out and battles for us,” Garner said. “That’s what he does. He puts his neck on the line.”

TIP INS

Penn State: Brandon Taylor entered the game as the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. He fouled out with 7:20 left in the game with as many fouls as he had combined points (2) and rebounds (3). The 6-foot-6 senior forward, who shared Big Ten player of the week honors on Monday, was averaging 16.6 points and 6.6 rebounds. Taylor had scored in double digits the previous 16 games, including 24- and 18-point outputs against the Hoosiers and Hawkeyes. … While Chambers was kept away from the court in the second half, one of his assistants was called for a technical foul.

Michigan State: Valentine, a national player of the year candidate, has a chance to become the first player in at least three decades to average 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. He entered the game averaging nearly 20 points, seven-plus rebounds and more than seven assists per game. The NCAA began keeping assists as an official statistic during the 1983-84 season.

UP NEXT

Penn State hosts Northwestern on Thursday.

Michigan State plays at Rutgers on Wednesday.

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LATE NIGHT SNACKS: No. 20 Duke wins at UNC, No. 3 Oklahoma falls

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 20 Duke 74, No. 5 North Carolina 73

Duke, already shorthanded, lost Matt Jones in the first half to a left ankle injury and they couldn’t slow down Brice Johnson either. But they continued to fight, ultimately winning on two Grayson Allen free throws with 1:09 remaining. To say the least North Carolina’s execution down the stretch left much to be desired, as Johnson’s last shot attempt came with just under five minutes left in the game. He finished with 29 points and 19 rebounds, while Allen led Duke with 23 points and seven boards and Brandon Ingram added 20 and ten.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

Penn State 79, No. 4 Iowa 75: Within a two-week period the Nittany Lions have knocked off two of the three teams tied atop the Big Ten standings in the loss column (No. 22 Indiana being the other). Donovon Jack scored 19 points and Brandon Taylor and Shep Garner 18 each for the Nittany Lions, who won despite Peter Jok scoring 28 points and Jarrod Uthoff 19.

Saint Joseph’s 79, No. 15 Dayton 70: Phil Martelli’s Hawks picked up a big win, as they ended Dayton’s nine-game win streak to force a three-way tie atop the Atlantic 10. DeAndré Bembry led five Hawks in double figures with 16 points while also grabbing 13 rebounds, and it was the combination of their offensive balance and solid defense that won the game for Saint Joseph’s.

BUBBLE BANTER: Wednesday’s key results

Texas Tech 65, No. 3 Oklahoma 63: The Red Raiders picked up their third straight win over a ranked opponent, holding off the Sooners in Lubbock. Aaron Ross scored 17 points and Keenan Evans 14 for the Red Raiders, who limited Buddy Hield to 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting. Jordan Woodard led Oklahoma with 25 points, but with everyone else struggling it wasn’t enough.

No. 8 Xavier 85, No. 23 Providence 74: The Friars lost for the fourth time in their last five games Wednesday, falling by nine in a game that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe. Myles Davis posted his first career triple-double (11 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists), Trevon Bluiett scored 23 points and Jalen Reynolds went for ten and 15 boards. Kris Dunn led the Friars with 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, but he also turned the ball over seven times on the night.

STARRED

Retin Obasohan, Alabama: 35 points, four rebounds and three assists in the Crimson Tide’s win at LSU, shooting 11-for-18 from the field and 11-for-11 from the foul line.

Myles Davis, Xavier: Davis posted a triple-double, going for 11 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists to lead the Musketeers to a comfortable win over No. 23 Providence.

Brice Johnson, North Carolina: Johnson finished with 29 points and 19 rebounds. Why he didn’t get more touches down the stretch in their loss to No. 20 Duke is something that will be discussed for quite some time.

STRUGGLED

Eli Carter, Boston College: Carter had a miserable night at Clemson, shooting 1-for-17 from the field in the 64-55 loss. He finished with five points and six assists.

Marcus Paige and Joel Berry II, North Carolina: Paige and Berry combined to shoot 4-for-22 from the field in their loss to No. 20 Duke.

Starters not named Khristian Smith, Indiana State: Smith shot 5-for-12 from the field and scored 14 points in the Sycamores’ 78-50 loss at Illinois State. The other four starters combined to score ten points on 3-for-25 shooting.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • Top-ranked Villanova won for the 15th time in their last 16 games, as they beat Temple 83-67 at the Liacouras Center. Jalen Brunson, whose father played at Temple, scored 25 points on 9-for-11 shooting from the field as the Wildcats won the Big 5 title outright.
  • No. 11 Miami got going in the second half as they beat Virginia Tech 65-49. Jim Larrañaga’s Hurricanes outscored the Hokies 44-27 in the second half.
  • No. 12 Arizona steamrolled rival Arizona State, beating the Sun Devils 99-61 in Tucson. Allonzo Trier scored 20 points, and the Wildcats scored 52 points in the paint.
  • No. 18 Louisville rebounded from a slow start and blitzed Syracuse in the second half, beating the Orange 72-58. Damion Lee scored 15 points and Chinanu Onuaku added 13 points and 15 boards for the Cardinals.
  • No. 22 Indiana rebounded from its loss at Michigan State by taking care of business at home, beating Nebraska 80-64. Troy Williams led four Hoosiers in double figures with 18 points on the night.

OTHER NOTABLE OUTCOMES

  • Clemson, which is looking to play its way back into the NCAA tournament discussion, avoided a bad loss by beating Boston College 64-55.
  • St. Bonaventure’s hopes of getting into the bubble conversation took a major hit, as they lost 71-64 at La Salle. The Bonnies are now two games out of first in the Atlantic 10 as a result of this loss.
  • Stony Brook’s 18-game win streak came to an end as they were beaten soundly at Albany, 82-70. The Great Danes sent double teams at Jameel Warney all night long, which helped them limit the Seawolves to less than 40 percent shooting.
  • Bucknell retained sole possession of first place in the Patriot League with an 87-52 win over Loyola (MD). Trailing the Bison by a game are Lehigh, which beat Navy 77-74 on the road, and Boston University (71-68 win over Colgate).
  • Seton Hall continued its run towards an NCAA tournament bid with a 72-64 win over Georgetown. Isaiah Whitehead scored 22 points, Khadeen Carrington 18 and Desi Rodriguez 17 for the Pirates.
  • Alabama picked up a nice win on the road, as they beat LSU 76-69. Retin Obasohan, who’s been one of the best guards in the SEC this season, scored a career-high 35 in the win.
  • Chris Mullin picked up his first conference win as head coach at St. John’s, as the Red Storm beat DePaul 80-65. The Red Storm had lost 16 straight games before tonight.
  • Trailing by 15 with 6:01 remaining, New Mexico close the game on a 19-2 run as they beat Boise State 80-78. Elijah Brown scored 26 points and Tim Williams 18 for the Lobos, who are now in sole possession of second place in the Mountain West.
  • USC came back from a 15-point deficit to beat Colorado 79-72, moving to 15-0 at the Galen Center this season. Julian Jacobs, who sparked the run, scored 17 points and Jordan McLaughlin finished with 25 points, four rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Penn State guard Reaves sidelined with mononucleosis

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Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers announced Friday morning that freshman guard Josh Reaves will miss multiple games after being diagnosed with mononucleosis. Reaves has played in 17 of Penn State’s 18 games, averaging 6.4 points and 3.9 rebounds in 24.5 minutes of action per contest.

Reaves made 14 starts in those 17 games, and with him out of the rotation the Nittany Lions take a hit on the perimeter. Devin Foster, who has come off the bench in all 18 games and is averaging 18.7 minutes per contest, is one player whose playing time is likely to increase with Reaves being sidelined.

Junior Shep Garner currently leads the team in minutes with an average of 34.6 per night. Penn State, which is 1-4 in Big Ten play and 10-8 overall, will visit Northwestern Saturday afternoon.

BIG TEN CONFERENCE RESET: Michigan State reigns, questions abound after top three

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College basketball’s non-conference season is coming to a close, and to help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason primers to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Big Ten.

BIG TEN PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

Valentine isn’t only the best player in the Big Ten this season, he’s been the best player in college basketball, period. He’s slowed a bit the last two weeks — and he’ll be out for at least another week with a knee injury — but as of today, and with all due respect to the likes of Melo Trimble and Caris LeVert, there really isn’t a discussion to be had. Valentine should be the consensus Big Ten Player of the Year right now.

That certainly doesn’t mean things can’t change by March. If Trimble leads Maryland to an outright Big Ten title he’ll have a strong case, as will LeVert or Jarrod Uthoff if they can find a way to steer their team to a tournament berth and a top 25 ranking come the end of the year. And all of that is assuming Valentine comes back from his knee injury totally healthy. But we’re talking today, and as of today, this is an easy pick.

ALL-BIG TEN FIRST TEAM

  • Melo Trimble, Maryland
  • Caris LeVert, Michigan
  • Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
  • Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
  • A.J. Hammons, Purdue

[2015 REVIEW: Best Dunks | Best Games]

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED

  1. Maryland will be challenged: Entering the season, the Terps were the clear-cut favorite in the Big Ten race. With Melo Trimble returning and getting flanked by newcomers Rasheed Sulaimon, Robert Carter and Diamond Stone, they a trendy pick to be preseason No. 1. And while they haven’t quite been as dominant as many thought, they will head into Big Ten play with their lone loss coming at North Carolina in what was arguably their best game of the season. But here’s the kicker: the Terps are not the favorite to win the Big Ten at this point. Michigan State is. If fact, it’s safe to say that, right now, there is a …
  2. … clear cut top three: Michigan State is the No. 1 team in the country, and deservedly so. Maryland still looks like a team that could end up winning the conference if things break their way. And then there is Purdue, a team with the biggest and best front line in the country and arguably the best defense in college basketball. The Boilermakers were considered, at best, a borderline top 25 team entering the year, but with the way their guards have been able to shoot and the sheer dominance of their front line, it’s not a stretch to call Matt Painter’s club Final Four caliber. But beyond that …
  3. … the drop-off right now is huge: Indiana has not been as good as we thought they would be. The same goes for Michigan. Wisconsin is in full-on rebuilding mode, which has included a midseason coaching change. Ohio State did beat Kentucky, but they also lost at home to UT-Arlington and Louisiana Tech and are just 7-5 on the season. Iowa has looked really good at times this season, but they also looked like the same old Iowa when they blew a 20-point second half lead at Iowa State. Nebraska? Illinois? Someone is going to emerge from the pack. The question is who?
Maryland guard Melo Trimble (AP Photo/Matt Hazlett)
Maryland guard Melo Trimble (AP Photo/Matt Hazlett)

[CONFERENCE RESETS: ACC | Big Ten | American]

KEY STORY LINES IN LEAGUE PLAY

  1. Izzo’s greatest season ever?: Tom Izzo has coached a long time in the collegiate ranks. He’s been the head man at Michigan State for 20 years, long enough to get himself nominated for the Naismith Hall of Fame. And there is a chance that this could end up being the best season that Izzo’s ever had in East Lansing. Not the best team, mind you. The best season. He’s currently sitting at 13-0 and No. 1 in the country in both polls. He will only face a currently ranked team twice during the rest of the regular season. The current favorite for National Player of the Year is on his roster; the only time Izzo has coached a Player of the Year was win the NABC somehow gave their award to Draymond Green over Anthony Davis in 2012. Oh, and he could end up enshrined in the Hall of Fame during Final Four weekend. Can it possibly get any better than that?
  2. Indiana’s defense: This is a drum that has been beaten over and over again, but the bottom line is this: Indiana has one of the nation’s most potent offensive attacks, but their defense has been impressive for a grand total of about five minutes — the comeback against Notre Dame — all season long. It’s not time to throw in the towel on them just yet. Remember, Duke was a disaster on the defensive end of the floor for much of the season prior to last year’s NCAA tournament, and the Blue Devils ended up making a run to the national title because they suddenly started to defend at an elite level. If the Hoosiers can find a way to start stringing together stops on a consistent basis, this is a team with top 15 talent and the ability to make a Final Four if they get hot in March.
  3. Michigan’s health: The issue with the Wolverines entering the season was whether or not they were ever going to get healthy. Through the first month and a half of the season, they haven’t been. Zak Irvin took awhile to get back into a rhythm after September back surgery. Derrick Walton has been dealing with an ankle injury. Spike Albrecht’s Michigan career may have come to an end because of a hip problem. Their second-leading scorer is a kid that played at Division III Williams two seasons ago. Michigan’s issues in the paint — how about this stat: their three leading rebounders are LeVert (5.4), Walton (4.7) and Irvin (3.6) — essentially ensure that they won’t be competing for a Big Ten title, but without a healthy back court, they won’t be making a run at the NCAA tournament regardless of how good Caris LeVert is.

[NEW PODCAST | NEW TOP 25]

BETTER THAN THEIR RECORD: Everyone knows what the issue is with Indiana. Are they going to be able to consistently get enough stops to beat good teams and win enough games to get into the NCAA tournament. I’m of the belief that they’ll figure it out, and the way they were able to defend down the stretch against Notre Dame is what, more than anything, has me convinced. They’re never going to be great on that end of the floor, but with that offense, they don’t need to be to be good.

BEAT SOMEONE AND WE’LL TALK: Slowly but surely, Northwestern is reaching a point where we need to start talking about them. They’re 11-1 on the season. They’ve beaten Columbia, who is one of the better mid-major teams in the country. They’ve beaten Missouri. They’ve won at DePaul. Their only loss is to North Carolina. Chris Collins’ club has gotten our attention. Now they need to go out and beat someone other than a high-major cellar dweller.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Tom Crean entered the season as the Big Ten coach with the most on the line, and after a disappointing trip to Maui, an awful performance at Duke on national television and a defense that hasn’t addressed the issues that plagued them last season, the Hoosier faithful have never been more fed up.

POWER RANKINGS, POSTSEASON PREDICTIONS

Tourney teams

  • 1. Michigan State (13-0): Losing Denzel Valentine might cost them a win or two in January, but getting Eron Harris on track and lighting a fire under Bryn Forbes is going to be better for this team in the long run.
  • 2. Maryland (11-1): Melo Trimble is the best closer in college basketball, but I think they’re one guard away from being the best in the Big Ten. I worry about Trimble and Sulaimon having dead legs come March.
  • 3. Purdue (11-1): The combination of A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan is impossible for just about anyone to matchup with, and their defense will keep them in every game. If their guards are hitting threes, they can beat anyone in the country.
  • 4. Indiana (10-3): I don’t think that the Hoosiers will ever truly be a contender for the league title, but I think they’ll be a top 25 team by the end of the season, one that can get to the Sweet 16.
  • 5. Iowa (9-3): Jarrod Uthoff is awesome and the Hawkeyes have looked great at times this year. But, to be frank, I just don’t trust this team to be able to win games.
  • 6. Michigan (10-3): Getting healthy will make them good. The lack of any presence on the interior keeps them from being anything more than that.

NIT teams

  • 7. Wisconsin (8-5): Yes, Wisconsin has issues. They also have two of the ten best players in the conference in Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig.
  • 8. Ohio State (7-5): The Buckeyes’ win over Kentucky is going to look really good on Selection Sunday, but I’m not convinced this team can add enough filler to their résumé.
  • 9. Illinois (8-5): Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn have actually been really good this season, but I just can’t see them overcoming the injuries this season.
  • 10. Northwestern (10-1): The injury to Alex Olah is a tough blow and their record is inflated because of a weak schedule, but I’ll go ahead and buy-in … at least for an NIT bid.

Autobid or bust

  • 11. Nebraska (8-5)
  • 12. Penn State (9-4)
  • 13. Minnesota (6-6)
  • 14. Rutgers (5-7)