Can a Big Ten team cut down the nets this year?
It’s hard to believe, but the last time a Big Ten team won the men’s basketball championship was Michigan State in 2000; we aren’t going to give the B1G credit for Maryland’s title in 2002.
The conference has a lot to prove. For years, analysts and computers have lauded their strength of schedule and theoretical ability to have teams make a run.
And the conference hasn’t lacked Final Four appearances. Since Michigan State’s championship, a Big Ten team has lost the final game seven times, most recently Michigan’s loss to Villanova in 2018.
This year, the conference made headlines with nine teams making the field. The first Big Ten team to make an appearance will be Indiana on Tuesday night in a play-in game against Wyoming.
Let’s discuss the chances of the Big Ten’s teams to win it all. We’ll break them down in order of appearance, beginning with Indiana.
Indiana Hoosiers (20-13)
Seed: 12* in the East Region (play-in)
Play-In: vs. Wyoming — Tuesday — 9:10 PM ET
Forward Trayce Jackson-Davis is a legit star; he averaged 25 points per game in three games in the Big Ten Tournament and did it against some of the better bigs in the country. But he needs a lot of help if the Hoosiers are going to advance very far.
Indiana lost five of seven to close out their regular season and finished 9-11 in the Big Ten. Jackson-Davis could win them a game or two, but he isn’t enough to put money on the Hoosiers.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (18-13)
Seed: 11* in the West Region (play-in)
Play-In: vs. Notre Dame — Wednesday — 9:10 PM ET
Why are we intrigued by a play-in Rutgers squad? Between Feb. 5-16 they won four straight games against teams that, at the time, were ranked in the top 16 in the nation: Michigan State, Ohio State, at Wisconsin and against Illinois. That streak showed this team has some onions.
They’ll rely heavily on their two best players: Ron Harper, Jr. and Geo Baker. Harper hit some huge shots this season, and Baker was a strong compliment. Rutgers will need their defense to keep games close enough that their star power can win the day.
Michigan Wolverines (17-14)
Seed: 11 in the South Region
First Round: vs. #6 Colorado State — Thursday — 12:15 PM ET
Want drama? Michigan finished their regular season without head coach Juwan Howard due to his suspension for hitting/slapping an opposing coach. But could that put a chip on his team’s collective shoulder?
They looked like trash in their opening game of the Big Ten Tournament, blowing a double-digit lead late to Indiana. But they have a few things that matter in March: Hunter Dickinson is a bona fide star at center, Eli Brooks is a solid guard and they have balanced scoring (four players averaging double figures).
Iowa Hawkeyes (26-9)
Seed: 5 in the Midwest Region
First Round: vs. #12 Richmond — Thursday — 3:10 PM ET
Keegan Murray‘s stock is sky-high after leading Iowa to the Big Ten Tournament championship. He averaged 23.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game this season and had an exceptional conference tournament.
If you’re looking for a team that has veteran depth, balanced scoring, a super star leader and is coming into the tournament red-hot, Iowa’s your pick to click. They’re rolling right now, playing their best basketball of the year.
Ohio State Buckeyes (19-11)
Seed: 7 in the South Region
First Round: vs. #10 Loyola (Chicago) — Friday — 12:15 PM ET
After a good start to the season, the Buckeyes lost four of their last five — including a disappointing loss to Penn State to end their conference tournament early. They’re a really well coached team, but a first-round draw against a veteran Loyola team is a brutal way to start their bracket.
Like Indiana, they’re a one-player team on paper. EJ Liddell averaged 19.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game; going back for another year paid off for him. But he’s one of only two players to average double-digit points per game for Ohio State this season.
Purdue Boilermakers (27-7)
Seed: 3 in the East Region
First Round: vs. #14 Yale — Friday — 2 PM ET
Purdue finished their season on a 12-4 run with two of those losses coming at Michigan State and at Wisconsin. And the loss to Iowa in the Big Ten Conference championship game undoubtedly reminded them that they are, in fact, mortal.
Jaden Ivey is one of the most exciting players in this tournament. He averaged 17.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game this season. This Purdue team has plenty of size — see 7-4 Zach Edey — and balanced scoring; four Boilermakers averaged double-digit points. They also have four players who shot better than 40 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
Illinois Fighting Illini (22-9)
Seed: 4 in the South Region
First Round: vs. #13 Chattanooga — Friday — 6:50 PM ET
This team has the ability to win it all. They could also flame out miserably (see last year). But they have plenty of experience on their roster and should have a strong desire to make things right after getting bounced by an in-state school, Loyola (Chicago), last year.
Kofi Cockburn might be the most dominant big man in the country. He averaged 21.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game this year and is a nightmare matchup for anyone. Four Illinois players averaged double-digit scoring this year. They have veteran depth and balance, making them an intriguing play this year.
Michigan State Spartans (22-12)
Seed: 7 in the West Region
First Round: vs. #10 Davidson — Friday — 9:40 PM ET
This is not a typically strong defensive group for Tom Izzo. They’ve been streaky all year; they lost five of six before winning three of their last four. They did beat Purdue and Wisconsin late in the season, however. So the ability to win a big game is there.
Gabe Brown (11.4) is the only player on the MSU roster to average double-digit points per game this season. They’ll need a big performance from Marcus Bingham, Jr. (9.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.2 blocks per game) if they want to get past Davidson — or further.
Wisconsin Badgers (24-7)
Seed: 3 in the Midwest Region
First Round: vs. #14 Colgate — Friday — 9:50 PM ET
Since the calendar rolled over to 2022, the Badgers are 12-5 with two of those losses coming in their last two games (a bad loss to Nebraska to end their regular season and a surprising loss to MSU to start/end their conference tournament. Two of their five losses this calendar year are to Michigan State.
They’re led by guard Johnny Davis, who will be in the Association next year. He averaged 19.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game this year. Davis is one of three Badgers to average double-figures in points this season.