Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Big Ten Tournament Picks

Thursday, March 11

Game 1: No. 8 Michigan vs. No. 9 Iowa, ESPN2, 1:30 p.m.

First meeting: The Wolverines’ one-two punch of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims enjoyed some 20/20 vision, each scoring that much in a systematic 60-46 home victory.

Second meeting: The fans at Carver-Hawkeye were given a rare thriller, but went home disappointed as Sims’ 27 points lifted Michigan to a 80-78 overtime win to spoil 30 points and 13 rebounds for Iowa’s Aaron Fuller.

AB's take: This is not a vote of confidence in Michigan. This is facing the facts against an Iowa team that has kicked off March Madness with losses of 27 and 35 points. Looks like some people are ready for the season to end.

AB's Pick: Wolverines

Game 2: No. 7 Northwestern vs. No. 10 Indiana, ESPN2, 4 p.m.

First meeting: All five Northwestern starters scored in double digits, and Verdell Jones III scored 28 fruitless points in a 78-16 Wildcat win in Welsh-Ryan.

Second meeting: Indiana recorded a conference season-high in points, holding off NU in overtime 88-80 behind 24 points by Jordan Hulls. John Shurna had 31 points and 12 boards for the Wildcats.

AB's take: The ‘Cats better hope they have nine lives, because every time Northwestern seemed primed to lock up that coveted NCAA bid, it laid a giant stinker of a loss to set its chances back. Perhaps a 20th victory could help sweeten the deal for bracketologists.

AB's Pick: Wildcats

Game 3: No. 6 Minnesota vs. No. 11 Penn State, BTN, 6 p.m.

First meeting: Lawrence Westbrook went off for 29 points and the Golden Gophers opened Big Ten play with a 75-70 win at the Barn.

Second meeting: Westbrook nailed a game-winning, buzzer-beating jumper and Ralph Sampson III (13 and 10) had a double-double to help Minnesota squeak past Penn State 66-64 in State College.

AB's take: Actually, the Nittany Lions are finally starting to pick up their game. And the Gophers have been somewhat of an enigma this year. But Minnesota remains too deep to allow an undermanned team like Penn State indignify the Gophers in Thursday’s finale.

AB's Pick: Golden Gophers

Friday, March 12

Game 4: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 8 Michigan, ESPN, 11 a.m.

First meeting: This was part of Ohio State’s snag to open the conference season, dropping its second straight Big Ten game due to DeShawn Sims’ 28 points and nine boards. Manny Harris chipped in 24 in Michigan’s 73-64 home victory.

Second meeting: The Buckeyes turned the tables back at Value City Arena, getting by 66-55 on another stellar Evan Turner night (18 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists) and William Buford scoring 24 of his own.

AB's take: Let’s not waste too much time on this one. ESPN is getting a dud to kick off its Friday coverage, whether Iowa or Michigan wins the tournament opener Thursday.

AB's Pick: Buckeyes

Game 5: No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Illinois, ESPN, 1:30 p.m.

First meeting: Wisconsin fans, cover your ears. Bruce Weber continued to wave a magic wand in the Kohl Center and the Illini became the only team to beat the Badgers on their home floor, winning 63-56 behind Demetri McCamey’s 27 points and seven helpers.

Second meeting: The Badgers garnered a measure of revenge, crippling Illinois’ NCAA tournament hopes and receiving 20 points a piece from Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor in a 72-57 victory.

AB's take: If the Illini needed Sunday’s regular season finale, they desperate need Friday’s rematch. Problem is, their trusty and vociferous Orange Krush won’t be behind them in Indianapolis. If Trevon Hughes’ ankle is a serious injury, the Badgers could be trouble; but he wasn’t terribly effective Sunday anyway when UW got by just fine.

AB's Pick: Badgers

Game 6: No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 7 Northwestern, BTN, 5:30 p.m.

Only meeting: Would you believe the only Big Ten team Purdue didn’t beat this year is … Northwestern? That’s right, in the teams’ lone date this year, the Wildcats did their upset thang at Welsh-Ryan, taking 20 points from Michael Thompson and a double-double from Luka Mirkovic – that’s right, Luka Mirkovic – to stun the Boilers 72-64.

AB's take: Purdue’s loss of Robbie Hummel is crippling to its home-state title hopes. In fact, it’s not good for any Big Ten Tournament desires they’re after. Call this my upset special of the weekend, as the hot-and-cold Wildcats decide to reach for the left-hand nozzle and turn up the heat on undermanned Purdue.

AB's Pick: Wildcats

Game 7: No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 6 Minnesota, BTN, 8 p.m.

First meeting: Durrell Summers provided 13 big points off the bench to complement Kalin Lucas’ 14 points, and the 36-percent-shooting Spartans came up with one of those ugly-but-effective Breslin Center wins, 60-53.

Second meeting: Minnesota was in control early, but Lucas (22 points) was just good enough down the stretch to lead the Spartans to a nail-biting 65-64 win at the Barn.

AB's take: MSU hasn’t always made it look pretty this year, but now it’s March, which is when Tom Izzo-coached teams tend to turn on the afterburners. It’s not like the Gophers are the type to haul in big fish like the defending national runners-up in primetime.

AB's Pick: Spartans

Saturday, March 13

Game 8: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Wisconsin, CBS, 12:40 p.m.

First meeting: This was one of those games when Evan Turner looked fly on the Kohl Center bench in street clothes and Ohio State looked fried without him. Trevon Hughes recorded team-highs with 16 points and seven boards to help UW cruise 65-43.

Second meeting: Yeah, that fellow wearing No. 21 in scarlet makes a difference. Turner scored 15 as he was still shaking off the rust, but David Lighty led the way with 18 points and the Buckeyes shot 52 percent en route to a 60-51 win at Value City Arena.
AB's take: Ohio State dismissed Wisconsin in last year’s 4-versus-5 BTT quarterfinals, when the Badgers couldn’t hold on to a 7-point lead in the final six minutes. This year’s UW team is much wiser and arguably more talented. But alas, so is Ohio State’s 2010 version.

AB's Pick: Buckeyes

Game 9: No. 7 Northwestern vs. No. 3 Michigan State, CBS, 3:10 p.m.

First meeting: MSU opened Big Ten play with its most explosive road offensive game of the year, enjoying 40 bench points and soaring past host Northwestern 91-70.

Second meeting: Durrell Summers and Kalin Lucas combined for 47 points on 15-of-24 shooting, and NU’s John Shurna saw a 31-point outburst go for naught when Michigan State prevailed 79-70.

AB's take: This is where the fairy tale ends for NU. Michigan State has scored 50 and 49 second-half points in its two games against Northwestern, which tells you a little bit about how its superior athleticism wears down the plucky-but-overmatched Wildcats.

AB's Pick: Spartans

Sunday, March 14

Game 10: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Michigan State, CBS, 2:30 p.m.

Only meeting: The schedule was in Michigan State’s favor as the Spartans did not have to travel to Columbus. But the Buckeyes quite enjoyed themselves up in East Lansing, as Evan Turner set aside a head cold to drop 20 points (16 in the second half), 10 rebounds and six assists on the Spartans in a pivotal 74-67 victory just three weeks ago. Turner, William Buford, Jon Diebler and David Lighty played the entire game.

AB's take: There has to be somewhat of a confidence boost gained by that win in Breslin for the Buckeyes – especially since it was won by a veteran group of just six players that checked into the game. Don’t be surprised to see MSU come out firing with all intents of roaring into the NCAA tournament with a bang. But Evan Turner knows this is the time to show NBA scouts why he should be the No. 1 pick – not to mention his last chance to satisfy his beloved OSU fans with some March heroics.

AB's Pick: Buckeyes


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