The 2017-2018 season started with plenty of hype for the Big Ten. As many as nine teams were projected to participate in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, but the conference will not come close to having that many teams represent. Wisconsin stumbled out of the gate and fell apart mid-season. They finished with a 15-18 record and will miss the tournament for the first time in two decades. Minnesota had off the court issues, ending with a 15-17 season. Northwestern tried to get it together about a month ago, but they faded late, losing their last seven on their way to a 15-17 season. Iowa finished just 4-14 in conference play as well. The final result? We could have just four teams in the tournament from the Big Ten. But wait, those four are pretty darn good teams. Let’s run through the four Bit Ten teams that will make big moves in the tournament.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes are not exactly the hottest team in the country entering the tournament. They have lost three of their last five, including two losses to Penn State, who won’t play in the tournament. They are anchored by power forward and All-American candidate Keita Bates-Diop who is average 19.4 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game. In addition to Bates-Diop, Ohio State has three other players averaging double figures in scoring- Jae’Sean Tate, C.J. Jackson, and Kaleb Wesson. This is the type of balanced team that could make some serious noise in the NCAA tournament. Right now they are a projected five seed in the South.
Purdue: The Boilermakers have recovered from a three-game losing streak in February to finish strong, winning five in a row before losing to Michigan in the Big Ten title game. Usually the Boilermakers are anchored by a strong inside presence, but this year, their top scorer is their 6’1” guard Carsen Edwards at 18.5 points per game. They do have a strong big man though in 7’2” center Isaac Haas, who is averaging 14.9 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game. Power forward Vincent Edwards has 14.5 points per game himself to go along with 7.3 rebounds. Every year these Boilermakers look good on paper, but for some reason, they just can’t get it together come showtime. Maybe this year will be different. Right now they are projected as a two seed in the Midwest.
Michigan State:Despite all the bad headlines surrounding the school, the Spartans have kept it together on the court this season. They were winners of 13 straight before losing to Michigan in the semi-finals of the Big Ten tournament. The Spartans are anchored by guard Miles Bridges, who is averaging 16. 9 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game. Sophomore forward Nick Ward has been a solid presence inside, averaging 12.6 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game. Once again, “Sparty” looks like another serious contender to be in the Final Four come April. Right now they are a projected three seed in the West.
Michigan: The Wolverines are on fire entering the NCAA Tournament. Winners of nine in a row, Michigan pulled off a remarkable performance in the Big Ten Conference Tournament, defeating Purdue 75-66 in the championship game. Their best player is a 6’11” forward from Germany named Moritz Wagner, who is averaging 14.5 and 7.1 points per game this season. Despite the hot streak, buyer beware. This will be a long layoff before the tournament starts and this is not exactly a great team on paper. Right now they are a projected three seed in the East.