Big Ten Tournament Preview, Picks and Best Bets

Big Ten Tournament Preview, Picks and Best Bets

Things got intriguing down the stretch in this conference as some teams in the bottom of the standings got hot. Ohio State and Indiana are on four-game winning streaks, while a few others are trending in the wrong direction. The tournament will be played at the Target Center in Minneapolis. This is the first time they will be hosting the event, so we are not sure what to expect from a shooting backdrop standpoint. Here are my Big Ten Tournament preview, picks, and best bets!

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Big Ten Tournament Preview, Picks and Best Bets

Purdue, Northwestern, Nebraska, and Illinois all get double-byes. That is beneficial for a team like Northwestern, who is banged up at the moment. Over the last six years, there has been a team seeded fifth or higher make the championship game. If you are a Big Ten team, it may be in the best interest of them to not win this tournament. Since 2019, the Big Ten winner has not made it past the second weekend in the NCAA tourney. Now, let’s get into my Big Ten Tournament picks and best bets!

Big Ten Conference Tournament Preview, Picks, and Best Bets

Favorite: Purdue +100

There was not much debate about who the top team in the Big Ten was. Purdue is looking to repeat as conference champions, the first since 2006-2007 Ohio State. This is also their third straight championship game appearance. 

Braden Smith’s growth and maturity, as well as Lance Jones’ addition, have elevated this team to a new level. Fletcher Loyer is coming off a rough February, scoring single digits in five of their six games. If they can get him to get back to how he ended the regular season, this Purdue team’s ceiling is cutting down the nets in April.

Do I think Purdue continues its dominance and wins fairly easily? I lean that way, but do I want to wager on them to win at this price? No! If the bracket breaks right, though, there could be some advantageous matchups for them to cover some numbers.

They are the only team in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency in the conference. The only team I can see giving them issues is Illinois, but they would not see them until the championship. Purdue’s improved shooting and ability to win in various ways are something not many Big Ten teams can match.

If we are looking for a weakness or two, their three-point defense can become an issue. Of course, if Edey gets in foul trouble, that would alter the gameplan. Outside of a team getting white hot from three and controlling the pace to take Edey out of the game, beating Purdue is going to be a tall task. Pun intended.

Darkhorse: Wisconsin +1200

It has been a true roller coaster ride for the Badgers this year. They were being talked about as a two-seed in the NCAA tournament and now are fighting to stay in the top six seeds. After starting 8-1 in conference play, the Badgers finished 3-8 in their last eleven. Maybe a new season is just what the doctor ordered for the Badgers, who also get a favorable draw. 

In their way is a combination of Maryland, Rutgers, and Northwestern before getting Purdue. One of the three wins in their last eleven was against Rutgers, who will likely be without Mawot Mag. They swept Maryland and Northwestern when they both were at full strength. Northwestern is now likely down a couple of starters, while Maryland could be without Julian Reese, who did not play in the last game of the season. 

The Badgers’ offense, specifically from three, is the root of all of their issues. In conference play, they shot 35% from deep, but in their last eleven games, they are around 31%. They have failed to even hit 30% from deep in three of their last four. In the game, they did hit above 30%, but they barely (32%) made it. 

Despite all of this, they still are top five in the conference when it comes to offensive efficiency. This reset should give Greg Gard time to tighten up his defense and get some more consistency outside of AJ Storr. They have proven they can play at a high level, and there is no better place to do it than in the Big Ten Tournament, making them solid darkhorse picks!

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Best Bet: Illinois +310

The Illini are a buy-on team for me in this tournament and moving forward. Their offense is electric and plays at a frantic pace. Their defense is in question, but they get timely stops, and the only defense that had success against them is on the other side of the bracket. 

Arguably, their path is quite easy as they have potential matchups with Iowa, Ohio St, and Nebraska. Barring any upsets, the Illini are 4-0 against those three teams. If Indiana and Penn State do get by, no worries. They had no luck with the Illini. If any team has a chance to knock them off, it would be Nebraska, BUT they only have four wins away from home. Their inexperience could show in a game this big against the Illini.

They defend without fouling, take care of the ball, and get to the line at a high rate. The time without Shannon allowed their ancillary pieces to get some good experience in big games. They were even competitive against Purdue in Mackey, losing by two possessions; a large reason why they are one of my Big Ten Tournament best bets.

We are on a crash course for Purdue to meet Illinois in the championship. The number is likely to be around Purdue -3/-3.5 in the championship game, so why not have +310 in your pocket with a chance to lock in a profit through in-game wagering or even a Purdue moneyline bet? I don’t think you will need them. Shannon and company cut the nets down on March 17th. 

 

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