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2011: Big Ten Tournament: Day 2 Will Separate Contenders And Pretenders

Day two of the Big Ten Tournament always provides plenty of drama. Last year it was Evan Turner hitting a near half court shot to beat Michigan. In 2008 Adam Hoffarber’s miracle shot allowed Minnesota to shock Indiana. This year features one team that needs to win the Big Ten Tournament in order to advance to the NCAA’s, four that are on the Bubble, two trying to improve their seed, and one that will possibly be the #1 overall seed. It should be a heck of a day.

Game1: Northwestern (18-12, 7-11) vs. Ohio State (29-2, 16-2)

the Wildcats won over a depleted Minnesota team yesterday, but they have never advanced beyond the quarterfinals. Michael Thompson had a record setting day with 35 points, but he’ll need to be on even more against the #1 team int he country. Northwestern did nearly upset the Buckeyes in Evanston back in January, but Ohio State prevailed by a point. From Along the Olentangy:

Whether it was voodoo magic or just a string of lucky bounces, the Wildcats could sure use more of it today. Ohio State ranks 79th in the country and 5th in the Big Ten in offensive rebounding percentage, and forward Jared Sullinger is one of the premier rebounders in the country, averaging 9.7 per game. Northwestern’s leading rebounder, center Luka Mirkovic, only averages 5.4 per game and is more effective on the defensive end of the floor. Mirkovic averages two offensive rebounds per game to Sullinger’s 3.1.

Northwestern’s an effective shooting team, and they displayed that proficiency against Minnesota in the first round. They shot a 50% effective field goal percentage, most of which came on the back of senior guard Michael Thompson who put together a truly incredible performance. Thompson hit 50% from the field and had 35 points, knocking down five 3-pointers in the process. Against Ohio State in January, Thompson was the leading scorer with 16 points, but he did not dominate like he did against the Golden Gophers. Minnesota does not have the guard play that Ohio State does, so some of Thompson’s performance can be attributed to the opponent, but he’s shown that he’s capable of going off if allowed.

Illinois (19-12, 9-9) vs. Michigan (19-12, 9-9)

These teams are nearly identical, so it is natural their only meeting during the regular season came down tot he final possession. both are fighting for an NCAA Tournament bid. The winner will be probably be safely int he field, but what about the loser? Illinois’ profile can likely take a hit more than Michigan’s because the Fighting Illini have a quality victory over North Carolina. The Wolverines do not. From Maize N’ Brew:

Looking at the numbers, Michigan’s RPI of 56 isn’t great, but it’s not that bad either. While you’d prefer it to be in the top 50, it’s still in the top 68 in the country and no one can complain on that end. Here are the rest of them:

Good Wins [RPI]: Harvard 34; Michigan St. 47 (twice); Penn St. 55 (twice); Oakland 52; @ Clemson 61

Bad losses [RPI]: @ Indiana 182; @ Northwestern 91

Record against Top 50 RPI: 3-8

Record against Top 100 RPI: 9-11

Performance in last Ten Games: 7-3 (losses by a total of 12 points)

If we’re being honest it’s a good, but not great resume. But then again we’re talking about getting into the Tournament, not talking seeding. As for intangibles, Michigan is arguably one of the hottest teams in the country. They’re balanced and they’re obviously well coached. They’ve beaten several other bubble teams during their push toward the Tournament.

Certainly were biased here, but this resume should be enough to get Michigan into the tournament as it stands. But nothing is guaranteed.

Michigan State (18-13, 9-9) vs. Purdue (25-6, 14-4)

The Boilemakers won both regular season meetings in convincing fashion, while Michigan State is squarely on the Bubble. Some think that its victory yesterday over Iowa was enough, as the Spartans are back int he top 50 of the RPI, but a win over top 10 Purdue would likely seal their place. The Boilermakers are still seeking a #2 seed to the NCAA Tournament, and some think they have an outside chance at a #1 seed. From Hammer & Rails:

I am very wary of playing the Spartans for a third time, but I am encouraged that we drilled them both times. The second half of our game in East Lansing is about the best we have played all year, especially with Lewis Jackson tearing them apart. They have yet to prove this season they can stop LewJack, or JaJuan Johnson for that matter. I think our guys have been itching for another game all week to get the bad taste of that Iowa game out of their mouths. It is good that Michigan State won, because if we had lost to Iowa again we would have probably dropped to a four seed. Now I think we have a three seed even if we lose to Michigan State because they are good, desperate team trying to get into the NCAA’s. a win makes a two seed a very strong possibility, especially if some other things go our way. 

Penn State (17-13, 9-9) vs. Wisconsin (23-7, 13-5)

As good as the Badgers have been at home,t hey have been merely average on the road. They are just 7-7 away from the Kohl Center this year, with two wins coming on last second shots or in overtime. The Nittany Lions still have an outside shot at the NCAA Tourney, but they absolutely need this one. Penn State won in Happy Valley during the regular season, but Wisconsin won at home to earn a split between the teams. From Bucky’s 5th Quarter:

Are you wondering what to expect out of Wisconsin this weekend in the Big Ten Tournament? If the past decade has taught us anything, you should know by Friday night.

If the Badgers win their first game, clear your schedule. Wisconsin has won four times on Friday in the last 10 years and all four times the Badgers have advanced to the championship game. Wisconsin has won it all twice (2004, 2008) and finished second twice (2005, 2007). The Badgers have never played on Thursdays under Bo Ryan and that streak continues with the team’s No. 3 seed this season.

Unfortunately, there is also an ugly flip side. Wisconsin has been bounced immediately from the tourney the other six times during the past decade, including Ryan’s first two seasons in Madison when UW lost back-to-back years as the top seed (2002-03). That is not totally unusual though, since the No. 1 seed actually lost its first game four of the first six years since the Big Ten Tournament started in 1998.