B1G picks: Predicting the Big Ten Tournament semifinals
INDIANAPOLIS — Purdue restored order to the Big Ten Tournament bracket late Friday night, erasing an early deficit against Penn State to become the only favorite to win a game in the quarterfinals.
With that being the case, this tournament is now Purdue’s to lose. The 3rd-seeded Boilermakers are quite clearly the most accomplished team left in the field, finishing just a couple of banked 3-pointers from winning the regular-season conference title.
But if there’s anything to be taken from the first 2 full days of the tourney, it’s that you should think twice before putting the house on Purdue. This has been perhaps the most unpredictable version of this event ever played.
Evidence: 2008 was the only time 3 teams seeded 5 or lower advanced to the semifinals. That year it was No. 5 Michigan State, No. 6 Indiana and No. 8 Ohio State. It’s been topped this year, as the 5-, 7- and 9-seeds all remain alive for the championship.
As you’d expect, the chaos is reflected in my tournament picks so far. I’ve called some of the upsets, nailing Penn State over Ohio State on Thursday and Indiana over Illinois on Friday.
But at 4-4 overall, there’s some work to be done if I’m going to finish over .500 for the week.
No. 5 seed Iowa over No. 9 Indiana, 1 p.m.
Every ounce of my heart wants to see the Hoosiers face Purdue on Sunday for the championship. Gainbridge Fieldhouse would be more electric than being struck by lightning while holding a golf club in the middle of a pond.
But I made the mistake of picking against the Hawkeyes in the quarterfinals, and I’m sure as heck not going to do it again. Iowa is shooting 56% from the field in the Big Ten Tournament. And it is really, really difficult to lose when you’re doing that.
If anyone can slow the Hawks down it’s Indiana, which held Illinois to its 2nd-worst shooting performance this season on Friday.
But thinking something is possible is not the same as predicting it. Iowa looks primed to win this whole thing.
No. 3 Purdue over No. 7 Michigan State, 3:30 p.m.
Just as a Big Ten Tournament surprise, Matt Painter broke out a player many of us forgot he even had. And that secret weapon is making Purdue’s already dangerous offense even more potent.
Brandon Newman, who has played a grand total of 5 minutes since Jan. 23 and gone without a point since Jan. 17, was very much a factor for the Boilermakers against Penn State. Newman was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field and scored 12 points in 21 minutes.
It’s the most Newman has played since logging 22 minutes against Nicholls State on Dec. 29 and the most he’s scored since getting 13 points against Florida State on Nov. 30.
If there’s anyone capable of adjusting to a last-minute wrinkle, it’s Tom Izzo and his coaching staff. But even without an extra player to scout, this was going to be a tall order for the Spartans.
Michigan State did beat the Boilers at Breslin Center just 2 weeks ago, but that’s all the more reason to think Purdue will be out for revenge in this one.
Give me an Iowa-Purdue championship game — and, hopefully, the first one to 90 wins.