So it's that time of year folks. We are finally to the point when March Madness starts to live up to its name and we all do our best impression of 'work' while streaming BTN, ESPN, and whatever other channels are necessary to get our fix for basketball. Before the Big Dance, there is some work to be done at the conference level, and lucky for us in B1G country, we have a tournament that seems to be setting up to be ridiculous. As we have said many times before, any team can - and has done so repeatedly - beat anybody... you know, except Purdue (note: I am already claiming rights to denial of saying that if Purdue beats Ohio State).
With that in mind, I wanted to go through some of the basics, load up on some Q&A with the OTE staff, and give you game times, channels, and the like. That said, this is Part I, and Part II will drop right before Game 1 so you all can have a place to chat it up and laugh at Illinois and Indiana because they were almost bubble teams but are now seeded below Nebraska. You know, because Nebraska... right? Let's move right onto that Q&A.
1) This season has been absolutely absurd with enough twists and turns to make it a B1G season to remember. With the seeds set, who do you see as most likely to emerge from the carnage?
Graham: I was in Chi last year. There was a lot of defense and not spectacular offense - Was it the playing arena? The lack of necessity to suceed (i.e. Michigan looked flat and uninterested)? I like OSU v. MSU in the final. Michigan doesn't need a deep run in the BTT and the Bucks seem more awake than they were mid-season.
MNWildcat: Choose someone from 1-6 and flip a coin. I honestly don't know. Maybe Wisconsin, since they might be the most consistent team, with their style, and don't have to play Nebraska at PBA. Come to think of it, no one has to play Nebraska at PBA anymore. You're safe now, Big Ten. So remove Nebraska from that list. Anyone 1-6, excluding Nebraska. Take that, Huskers.
Green Akers: I want to say Wisconsin, as their style of play, in particular a relatively balanced inside-outside offense, seems the least susceptible to falling apart due to an off day, but Bo's resume in tourney environments does not impress me. Michigan and MSU rely very heavily on making 3s, which can be a risky proposition. Iowa's defense has been a sieve for about a month now, and the heightened pressure is still a new thing for Nebrasketball. So...I'm reluctantly going to say OSU. LaQuinton Ross is not the player that Sullinger or Thomas were, but his offensive punch can be enough with the way the Buckeyes constantly foul without consequence, I mean, play defense. Matta always does well in the conference tourney, his team is one of the more experienced and thus won't be as shaken by the brighter lights.
Candystripes for Breakfast: Well, much as I want to go FULL HOMERSOTA like I did for the BTT Pickem [ed note: go ahead and get those entries in now], I don't think Indiana is actually going to emerge from this madness. I think it's going to come down to who emerges from the Wisconsin/Michigan State half of the bracket, and that team will be your Big Ten Champion.
babaoreally: I'm going to say Michigan State. I don't have a good reason; they haven't been playing well lately. They have the players to do it, they just need to play a few good games.
GoAUpher: Honestly, I'd expect one of the top 3 seeds to win it. Obviously things are topsy turvy enough where a hot lower seed could go on a run, but that's not what I think we'll see in the end. Wouldn't be shocked by one big upset with a low seed making it to the semis though.
Aaron Yorke: With Branden Dawson back on the court, I like three-seed Michigan State to make a run and win the Big Ten Tournament. It's going to be very tough to get past Wisconsin in the semifinals, but the Spartans have the size and defense to match up well with the Badgers. In the championship I see Michigan State defeating Ohio State in a rematch of their final regular season game. OSU defeats Michigan in the semis thanks to its elite perimeter defense.
Jasper Scherer: The sexy pick might be to go with one of the underdogs, but I just don't see it happening. Sure, the "anything is possible" mentality has dominated the B1G this year, but in a tournament where experience often trumps young talent, the higher-seeded (and older) teams like Michigan State and Wisconsin are better built for this type of competition.
Jesse: Look, I'm kind of in all out euphoria land at this point, so I'm blindly picking Nebrasketball until further notice. It's probably not wise, but I'm gonna do what I want.
2) With that in mind, as BHGP says, this place is filled with blood and spiders. Who from day one has the best chance to emerge with the B1G title?
MNWildcat: Iowa. Yes, I know BHGP is burning down and there's no joy in Iowa City and all that, but Iowa still can outscore any team in the Big Ten on any given night. And spare me the OSU crap. They certainly could, yes, but I don't see them being high-octane enough to get past both Nebraska and Michigan, consecutively. Of course, this now means they will win the conference.
Green Akers: Of the four bye teams, I'd say Nebraska is still the weakest, so OSU's first-round matchup with a punchless Purdue team gives them the easiest road to the semis, I reckon. Put the Buckeyes in a cage with their Super Duper Rivals, and the fact that Michigan's far and away a better team might not matter. Of course, should that happen, a game featuring Nik Stauskas and Aaron Craft is the best of times and the worst of times in that one of them must lose...but the other must win. #TeamMeteor
Candystripes for Breakfast: Now, since blood and spiders have been invoked, for this question I will go FULL HOMERSOTA and say Indiana emerges on the back of sweet, sweet revenge (beating Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska, and Michigan State) to be champions and make the Big Dance.
babaoreally: Ohio State. They always do well in the BTT, and they were considered good at one point earlier in the year.
GoAUpher: Michigan. Unless they decide to let their guard down, they are the team that has shown the most consistency and ability to ride out the swings of this crazy season.
Aaron Yorke: Michigan should have the best chance at the title because it has the easiest road to the championship game. It's not as though Nebraska can't upend the Wolverines; I just don't think they're as threatening as Michigan State or Wisconsin on the other side of the bracket.
Jasper Scherer: Building off my previous response, Michigan State looks set to go on a nice run, thanks to their finally healthy core and a roster that's loaded with experience. They've been here before, and don't forget, the Spartans earned a preseason No. 2 ranking for a reason; writing them off would be a mistake.
Note: I'm pretty sure that the last three answers meant I can't write questions real good. Anyhow, Part II is coming out soon! Look for it around 10:30 Central! ALL OF THE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!