The Big Ten tournament starts today, and I'm expecting a wild ride. Or not. This has been the craziest of seasons. Maybe the league'll cap it off by not having a single upset in the tourney. You never do know.
But even though making predictions seems almost silly at this point (have you seen my preseason attempts?) I'm going to do it anyway because, well, it's what I do, and it's also kind of fun. And on the off-chance that I'm right about everything, I'll look like a genius.
Here we go:
Winner: Nebraska -- This is probably a risky pick but it's going to make me look extra smart if it happens because I haven't seen anyone else do it. (If I gambled this way I would probably be broke.) But seriously, the Huskers have been playing at as high a level as any team in the conference lately. In their last three games, they have shot 35.6 percent from three-point range, averaged just eight turnovers a game and has held opponents to .94 points per possession or fewer in two of those. That's a strong recipe.
Most Outstanding Player: Terran Petteway -- He went through a few "slower" games (for a guy who has failed to reach double digits just once in the conference slate, that is), but the breakout transfer is back on the money now, lighting up the scoreboard for 26 against Wisconsin. I say he steps up again over the weekend, on a long Huskers run.
Early exit: Ohio State -- The Buckeyes have been anything but consistent this year, and while they've beaten first-round matchup Purdue twice, they've also had their fair share of head scratchers (swept by Penn State?) Although the Boilermakers have struggled (understatement here), their physicality and tenacity on the offensive glass gives them the chance to catch any team off-guard. Thursday, I say that's Ohio State, fresh off a huge victory over Michigan State.
Best potential matchup: Minnesota- Wisconsin -- If the Gophers can handle beating the Nittany Lions on Thursday, they get the Badgers on Friday. Rubber game between border rivals? What could be better. Minnesota would love to get another stab at the boys from Madison, and the latter would likely love to show the Gophers that January Thing They Shall Not Discuss was simply an anomaly. The wild card? Mo Walker. He was huge in the first meeting, throwing up his career-high, 18-point night. In the second matchup, he was in foul trouble almost instantly and had trouble finding his aggressiveness again. Would he be able to avoid such a game again?
Bold prediction: Iowa will make a big run -- I know, I know, but I'm just going to go all the way with this. I've been saying the Hawkeyes are primed to big things for a while now and now they seem capable of losing pickup games at the YMCA. I keep thinking they'll turn it around in convincing fashion; wake up and become that team we saw for the first half of the Big Ten schedule. And why not now? Aren't they angry yet? If I go down with this prediction, at least we'll know I've been all in, the whole way. And that should count for something, guys.