The battle for the Big Ten's regular-season title turned into a very enjoyable slug-fest, and this week's Big Ten Conference tournament, which tips off Wednesday evening in Indianapolis, should be more of the same. Three teams tied for the Big Ten's regular-season title and at least four more can be considered serious contenders to win this conference tournament.
Heading in, it appears eight Big Ten teams are probably locks to make the NCAA tournament, and a couple more could make it by winning a game or two in this Big Ten tournament. But one team, Michigan State, stands as a heavy favorite on the Big Ten tournament betting board, with the rest following at varying degrees of value.
The Spartans, Wisconsin, and Maryland tied for first place in the Big Ten during the regular season, each going 14-6 in conference play. Through tie-breakers, the Badgers earned the No. 1 seed for this Big Ten tournament, followed by Sparty at No. 2 and the Terrapins at No. 3. And Illinois claimed the No. 4 seed and the fourth and final bye into Friday's quarterfinal round by going 13-7.
Michigan State began this season as the No. 1 team in the country, then fell out of the rankings in February. But the Spartans finished their regular season with a five-game winning streak and now loom as the Big Ten's best shot at a national championship. MSU swept its two games with the Illini this season and split its two games with both Wisconsin and Maryland.
Michigan State also tops that Big Ten tournament betting board at +200.
The Terps split their two games with the Spartans, swept two games from Illinois, but lost their only match-up with the Badgers. Maryland also lost three of its last five games. But the Terrapins are the second betting choice to win the Big Ten tournament at +500.
Wisconsin only started 6-6 in conference play and lost its leading scorer to a mid-season transfer. But in a case of addition-by-subtraction, the Badgers then won their last eight games in a row. Bucky also split its two games with the Spartans this season, won its only match-up with Maryland but lost its only game with Illinois.
Wisconsin is getting +700 to win this Big Ten tournament.
Those Illini won that lone match-up with the Badgers but lost their two games with both Michigan State and Maryland. However, Illinois also finished its regular season with a 5-1 run.
The Illini are lined at +800 to win this Big Ten tournament.
Iowa, Ohio State, Penn State, and Rutgers all tied for fourth place in the Big Ten, all landing at 11-9 in conference play. The fifth-seeded Hawkeyes played 3-3 this season against the top four seeds in this Big Ten tournament; the sixth-seeded Nittany Lions played 2-3; the seventh-seeded Buckeyes 2-4; and the eighth-seeded Scarlet Knights 3-4.
Iowa and Ohio State are both getting +1200 on that Big Ten tournament betting board, Penn State +1600, and Rutgers +2000.
And even teams in this deep Big Ten like ninth-seeded Michigan, 10th-seeded Purdue and 11th-seeded Indiana could make some noise this weekend. The Wolverines, champions of this Big Ten tournament two of the last three seasons, are only getting +1200 to win it this week. The Boilermakers, who own victories this season over Michigan State and Wisconsin, are getting +2500; and the Hoosiers, who also beat the Spartans this season, are lined at +4000.
The oddsmakers probably have this one right; Michigan State is the best team in this conference right now. But there's no value in that price on the Spartans. Instead, we skim down the board to Illinois. The Illini finished their regular season in good shape, own a double-bye and will probably face a team they just beat last weekend, Iowa, in their first game. They'd then probably meet Wisconsin, whom they've also already defeated this season, and wouldn't have to play Michigan State or Maryland until the championship game. At 8/1, we see value here with Illinois.
Free Pick:Illinois +800 (8 to 1)
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