ASA Inc will be releasing their BIG TEN CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT GAME OF THE YEAR ON FRIDAY! No one knows the Big 10 better than ASA and on Friday we expect a huge pointspread winner with our Game of the Year. Don’t miss it!
Notes: RPI listed below for each team going into conference tourneys. This stat is heavily weighted when it comes selection time for the NCAA Tourney. Also, all ratings following offensive and defensive stats for each team below are national rankings. (i.e. Illinois averages 79 PPG on offense which is #14 nationally)
ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI: 29-1 SU (15-1 in Big Ten), 13-8-2 ATS, 10-12-2 O/U
Odds to win BT tourney -350 Off PPG: 79 (#14 nationally), Def PPG: 61.1 (#23), Off FG%: 49.7% (#10), Def FG%: 42% (#88), Off 3-point%: 40.9% (#5), Def 3-point%: 36.7% (#273), FT%: 73.9% (#23), Rebound Margin: +3.4 (#66)
ASA’s take on Illinois: Obviously this is the team to beat. Especially after coming off a loss to end the regular season @ Ohio State. Expect them to be very hungry. A phenomenal perimeter team that placed their three starting guards (Dee Brown, Deron Williams & Luther Head) all on the first team all Big Ten team. They shoot nearly 41% from behind the arc so if they get it going, they can score a bunch of points in a hurry. The Illini’s inside game on offense is really their only “suspect” portion of their game. They rely heavily on the perimeter and while they do get some points underneath from James Augustine, most of those are due to guard penetration and kicks to him for easy buckets. Very rarely does he actually catch the ball in the post and make a move to the hoop. Starting forward Roger Powell can also do a few things inside, however at 6’6, he is more of a slasher. All 5 starters average double digits in scoring with Augustine being the lowest at 10 PPG. The Illini host the winner of the Northwestern – Michigan game on Friday. They should cruise in that one. They then will face the winner of Minnesota – Indiana. If they catch IU, the Hoosiers could give them at least a few problems. Illinois beat Indiana this year in Champaign by 13 points as a 22-point favorite. Indiana played without leading scorer Bracey Wright in that game.
INDIANA HOOSIERS: 15-12 SU (10-6 in Big Ten), 16-9 ATS, 14-11 O/U
Odds to win BT tourney +1800 Off PPG: 64.3 (#268 nationally), Def PPG: 63.2 (#45), Off FG%: 43% (#212), Def FG%: 41.6% (#72), Off 3-point%: 34% (#195), Def 3-point%: 32.6% (#62), FT%: 72.1% (#68), Rebound Margin: -2.1 (#232)
ASA’s take on Indiana: If we were to take a “sleeper” team with some long odds, IU would be our choice at +1800. This young Hoosier team was playing awfully well at the end of the season. They won 4 of their last 5 games with their only loss coming by 2-points @ Wisconsin. They also knocked off MSU at home during that final stretch. Thus, they played two of the top three teams in the Big Ten basically even down the stretch. We were at the game where IU played in the Kohl Center vs. Wisconsin and we were very impressed. The Hoosiers play very solid defense and are extremely athletic at every position. They can score and defend well from every position. Their phenomenal freshman class no longer plays like freshman. Forward D.J. White is already one of the best inside threats in the conference. They also have one of the best players in the Big Ten in Bracey Wright (18 PPG). IU is playing very well and they are in a must win situation. They currently have 10 conference wins but just 15 wins overall. In order to reach the NCAA tourney, they need to at least beat Minnesota in round one which won’t be easy. They would then face Illinois and must have a good showing or beat the Illini. That is why we like this team as a longshot because if they somehow upset Illinois, they will then most likely face Wisconsin or MSU in the finals, two teams they have already beaten and played well against. They must first get by Minnesota on Friday.
IOWA HAWKEYES: 19-10 SU (7-9 in Big Ten), 11-15-2 ATS, 14-13-2 O/U
Odds to win BT tourney +2500 Off PPG: 74.0 (#65 nationally), Def PPG: 67.8 (#144), Off FG%: 46.5% (#44), Def FG%: 42% (#86), Off 3-point%: 38.2% (#40), Def 3-point%: 34.7% (#169), FT%: 69.2% (#156), Rebound Margin: +1.5 (#112)
ASA’s take on Iowa: This team is somewhat baffling to us. They beat both Texas and Louisville in their non-conference slate, however could muster just a 7-9 record in the Big Ten. They started the season 12-1 with their only loss to North Carolina. This team also took Illinois to overtime in Champaign and was leading @ Wisconsin late before losing by just 3 points. This is also a team that lost @ Purdue, @ Northwestern and at home to Michigan. We realize they lost their leading scorer, Pierre Pierce, with just 9 games left in the season, however they should still be better than they are. They have a very good inside player in hard working Greg Brunner (14 PPG) and two very good perimeter players in Jeff Horner and Adam Haluska (both 14 PPG). Chances of them making the NCAA are very slim unless they win the BT tourney or at the very least make it to the finals. They play Purdue in round one and should get by that game. They will then face MSU, a team they don’t match up very well with. That will probably be it for them. On a sidenote, if this team makes the NIT, they will most likely be a “go against”. The upperclassmen do not want to go to the NIT and have stated as much. If they do, the seniors will have been in the NIT four straight years.
MICHIGAN WOLVERINES: 13-17 SU (4-12 in Big Ten), 9-17 ATS, 11-15 O/U
Odds to win BT tourney +7500 Off PPG: 61.8 (#298 nationally), Def PPG: 64.2 (#64), Off FG%: 44.4% (#144), Def FG%: 42.9% (#140), Off 3-point%: 31.3% (#285), Def 3-point%: 34.8% (#182), FT%: 72.1% (#69), Rebound Margin: -1.1 (#198)
ASA’s take on Michigan: This team had very high hopes coming into the season, however injuries killed them. Their best player, Daniel Abram, went out early in the season. They also had injuries to key players throughout the year including point guard Daniel Horton, forward Brent Petway, forward Chris Hunter and center Graham Brown, all starters at one point during the season. Horton is suspended and won’t play the rest of the year. Hunter has also been out as of late and most likely won’t play in the BT tourney. This team should be really good next year with nearly everyone returning. If they stay away from the injury bug, they will contend for the upper half of the Big Ten and maybe even more next year. The Wolverines play Northwestern in the opening round with the winner getting the pleasure of playing Illinois on Friday. Michigan and Northwestern just met in Evanston on 2/26/05 and the Wildcats plastered Michigan 69-53 as 5.5 point favorites. This team lost 12 of their last 13 games (with only win over Penn State) and has nothing going for them right now.
MSU SPARTANS: 22-5 SU (13-3 in Big Ten), 13-9 ATS, 11-10 O/U
Odds to win BT tourney +300 Off PPG: 78.4 (#20 nationally), Def PPG: 63.1 (#42), Off FG%: 49.9% (#9), Def FG%: 42.9% (#139), Off 3-point%: 35.8% (#118), Def 3-point%: 35.7% (#225), FT%: 79.1% (#2), Rebound Margin: +9.2 (#5)
ASA’s take on Michigan St: Only three losses in the conference were to Illinois, @ Wisconsin by 3 and @ Indiana in overtime. They do have some injuries right now with starting guard Shannon Brown (toe) and reserve forward Delco Rowley (knee). Both were injured in practice. Brown is a key for MSU averaging 10 PPG and he is the best athlete on the team. He thinks he can be 100% by Friday, but don’t expect head coach Tom Izzo to take any chances with him. Izzo said he wants to make sure that Brown is full strength and doesn’t want the injury to linger into the NCAA tourney. He will most likely play, but Izzo will keep a very close eye on him. Rowley situation could be more serious. He injured his knee in practice and they think it could be serious. He is a key contributor off the bench. If at full strength, this team is at least a threat to give Illinois a serious run. They have the inside game with Paul Davis (12 PPG & 7 RPG) and a good outside game with guards Chris Hill, Maurice Ager and Shannon Brown. Another big plus come tourney time are teams that can make free throws. That can make a huge difference in close games. MSU hits almost 80% from the line as a team which is good for second in the nation. They are also one of the best rebounding teams in the country. The one knock has been lack of a true point guard. Freshman Drew Neitzel is the only one on the team. Neitzel was inserted into the starting line up in early February and former starter Chris Hill now comes off the bench. MSU was 9-1 SU with Neitzel starting at the point. The Spartans most likely would match up with Iowa on Friday. Then either Wisconsin or Ohio State before a potential rematch with Illinois in the finals. We feel this team could make a nice run in the NCAA tourney.
MINNESOTA GOPHERS: 20-9 SU, (10-6 in Big Ten), 14-9-1 ATS, 10-14 O/U
Odds to win BT tourney +1800 Off PPG: 68.8 (#173 nationally), Def PPG: 63.1 (#40), Off FG%: 46% (#62), Def FG%: 43% (#143), Off 3-point%: 35.2% (#151), Def 3-point%: 31.5% (#33), FT%: 70.8% (#100), Rebound Margin: +3 (#72)
ASA’s take on Minnesota: The Gophers have been playing well enough down the stretch to get by but they will need to step it up in the tournament if they expect to make some noise. Their record may not indicate that as they did win their last five games, however a closer look reveals a different story. Their final two wins were against the Big Ten’s two worst teams, Purdue and Penn State. The Gophs beat Purdue by just 2 points after having to come back from a 16 point second half deficit. The Boilermakers lost their best player Carl Landry (18 PPG & 7 RPG) in the first half of that game to a knee injury. He did not return and is now out for the season. If Landry doesn’t get hurt, Minnesota loses to Purdue. They then beat a very bad Penn State team by just 4 points to close out the regular season. However with their 10-6 Big Ten record and their 20-9 overall record, we feel they are most likely already in the NCAA tourney field. JC transfer Vincent Grier is one of the best players in the league averaging 18 PPG. This team definitely won’t “wow” you but they play hard and very well together. One thing Minnesota has going for them is that they have not played since Wednesday, March 2nd. Thus when they play on Friday vs. Indiana, they will have had a full 9 days off. The winner of the IU – Minnesota game gets to play Illinois (most likely) on Saturday. These two played in Bloomington on 2/12/05 and Indiana won handily 71-56. The Gophers did beat the Hoosiers in Minneapolis this year by 6 points. Minnesota simply wasn’t playing well down the stretch of the regular season but with the added rest they should be ready for their opening round showdown with Indiana.
NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS: 14-15 SU (6-10 in Big Ten), 11-12-1 ATS, 13-9-1 O/U
Odds to win BT tourney +7500 Off PPG: 59.3 (#318 nationally), Def PPG: 62.0 (#28), Off FG%: 45.7% (#72), Def FG%: 45.1% (#251), Off 3-point%: 33.4% (#219), Def 3-point%: 37% (#287), FT%: 61.6% (#314), Rebound Margin: -5.4 (#307)
ASA’s take on Northwestern: This team really wants to make the NIT field. Some teams have no interest in the NIT and have their sites set solely on the big dance. That’s not the case with NU. Their players want to play in the NIT. Thus they have some motivation this weekend. With an overall record of 14-15, they must win at least two games in the Big Ten tourney to even qualify for the NIT. Problem is, they take on Michigan to on Thursday and a win pits them against Illinois on Friday. This team can frustrate it’s opponents by controlling tempo. They really try to slow the game down as can be seen in their 62 PPG allowed which is 28th nationally. They are not a great defensive team giving up 45% shooting to their opponents, but they limit possessions by slowing the game down. However, that slow tempo also affects their offense which puts up less than 60 PPG. This team had won 4 of 5 in early to mid February but faltered a bit late in the season. NU lost 3 of their final four games. They did just beat their first round opponent, Michigan by 16 points on 2/26/05. NU hopes of a NIT berth could be dashed by Michigan in round one. If the Cats win, their NIT hopes will absolutely be trashed by Illinois on Friday.
OHIO STATE BUCKEYES: 19-11 SU (8-8 in Big Ten), 16-10-1 ATS, 12-16 O/U
Odds to win BT tourney +1800 Off PPG: 71.7 (#104 nationally), Def PPG: 64.1 (#63), Off FG%: 46.7% (#39), Def FG%: 41.9% (#80), Off 3-point%: 37% (#76), Def 3-point%: 32.4% (#58), FT%: 65.5% (#256), Rebound Margin: -1.4 (#204)
ASA’s take on Ohio State: Well, since OSU cannot go to the NCAA tourney or the NIT due to self imposed sanctions, many are saying this IS their Big Dance. If they were eligible, they would most likely be in the NCAA this year. We also viewed this conference tourney as being their “big dance”, however beating Illinois on the final day of the regular season could have changed that. That huge win could take some luster off their BT tourney appearance. We’re simply not sure right now how this team will respond emotionally after giving the Illini their only loss of the season. This team has one of the best inside players in the conference in Terrance Dials (16 PPG, 8 RPG). He is simply a horse in the paint. They also have a fairly deep back court. After starting Tony Stockman and Brandon Fuss-Cheatham at guards for much of the season, head coach Thad Matta, replaced them on January 29th with Je’Kel Foster and Jarmar Butler. Matta felt that it would improve OSU’s defense with Foster and Butler starting and also bring a spark off the bench with the offensive minded Stockman and Fuss-Cheatham. Before Matta made the change, the Buckeyes were giving up 66 PPG in Big Ten play. After the switch, they have given up just 60 PPG. Stockman provides a nice boost off the bench as he is the team’s second leading scorer at almost 12 PPG. The Buckeyes should easily get by Penn State if they come focused. OSU will then play Wisconsin on Friday which is good and bad. The Badgers beat the Bucks in both meetings this year by 6 points in Madison (without Alando Tucker who was out with a foot injury) and by 8 points in Columbus which is bad. The good? It’s always tough to beat a good team three times in a season, thus OSU may have an advantage there. We wouldn’t be surprised to see this team make a run if they come ready to play. They have the ability to beat both Wisconsin and then Michigan State before getting to the finals. It would be very tough, however because they have to play on Thursday while both MSU and have byes in the opening round.
PSU NITTANY LIONS: 7-22 SU (1-15 in Big Ten), 9-14-1 ATS, 13-13 O/U
Odds to win BT tourney +7500 Off PPG: 63.2 (#284 nationally), Def PPG: 70.7 (#225), Off FG%: 40.6% (#294), Def FG%: 45.5% (#260), Off 3-point%: 32.7% (#243), Def 3-point%: 37.3% (#296), FT%: 69.3% (#154), Rebound Margin: +0.4 (#141)
ASA’s take on PSU: Let’s keep this short and sweet. This team has almost zero chance to even win a game in this tourney. They are by far the worst team in the Big Ten. The 10th place team, Purdue beat PSU by 27 points. The 9th place team, Michigan swept the Nittany Lions. Their only conference win was by 3-points at home vs. Northwestern. And the Lions had to shoot a whopping 54% from behind the arc in that game simply to get a 3-point win. PSU was underdogs in every single Big Ten game. In 15 of those 16 conference games, they were dogs of 6 or more. They have some OK players, however most of them are very young. Aaron Johnson is a pretty good inside player averaging 12 PPG and 10 RPG. OK, that’s enough on this team. One and done!
PURDUE BOILERMAKERS: 7-20 SU (3-13 in Big Ten), 10-17 ATS, 12-15 O/U
Odds to win BT tourney +7500 Off PPG: 63.3 (#283 nationally), Def PPG: 68.0 (#150), Off FG%: 42.4% (#239), Def FG%: 44.8% (#230), Off 3-point%: 29.8% (#309), Def 3-point%: 40.3% (#329), FT%: 68.5% (#178), Rebound Margin: +1 (#127)
ASA’s take on Purdue: While this team struggled all year on offense, they REALLY took a huge hit when starting forward Carl Landry injured his knee vs. Minnesota. This team is flat out poor on offense. Guards David Teague and Brandon McKnight are OK, however now with Landry out for the season, they have NO inside game at all. Heck, one of their best inside players is Charles Davis and he is on a football scholarship at Purdue. Forward Gary Ware (4 PPG on the season, but 11.5 PPG in final three games) is playing pretty well at the end of the season but he won’t strike fear in any of the other Big Ten teams. Coach Gene Keady is making his final appearance as the Boiler head coach as he is retiring. One thing can be said about this team, Keady has them playing hard and they are scrappy. In their final regular season game, Purdue got down by 24 points @ Wisconsin but battled back to lose by just 12. At halftime, Keady was so upset he asked his players who wanted to start the second half. The first five players to raise their hands, started the second half. Purdue doesn’t shoot the three ball well and they are the worst team in the Big Ten at defending it allowing over 40%. Purdue’s three conference wins were the fewest since 1963 when the Boilers came up with just two wins. It would be nice to see Keady get at least one win in the Big Ten tourney before heading out but we don’t see that happening with Landry out. Iowa also has a bit of extra incentive after losing at Purdue by 3 points on 2/16/05.
WISCONSIN BADGERS: 20-7 SU (11-5 in Big Ten), 13-14 ATS, 12-15 O/U
Odds to win BT tourney +600 Off PPG: 68.6 (#178 nationally), Def PPG: 60.4 (#16), Off FG%: 44.7% (#129), Def FG%: 42.6% (#118), Off 3-point%: 39.4% (#19), Def 3-point%: 30.5% (#16), FT%: 66.4% (#230), Rebound Margin: +3.8 (#56)
ASA’s take on Wisconsin: The Badgers are the reigning Big Ten conference tournament champs. Being from Madison and attending nearly every game in person, we have a pretty good feel for this team. Their guard play will determine how far they go in the conference tournament and in the NCAA. Wisconsin’s backcourt consists of Sharif Chambliss (who is a 2-guard playing point guard and is coming off an ACL tear last March), Kammron Taylor (a very quick scorer who didn’t really play at all last year) and Michael Flowers (a true freshman). The loss of Devin Harris (early to the NBA) and Boo Wade (legal problems) really hurt this team. With those two players in the line up, Wisconsin would have been every bit as good as Illinois this year. Their inside game with Mike Wilkinson and Alando Tucker is solid. This team actually shoots very well from the perimeter, but their guard play is sporadic at best. Sometimes they play phenomenal, sometimes their not very good at all. They defend the three very well and they shoot the three very well as a team. Chambliss, who is a great shooter, needs to start playing better. He was not shooting the ball with confidence at the end of the season. In fact, in his last seven games Chambliss is just 12 of 42 from the field (28%), just 9 of 27 (33%) from behind the arc and only 3 of 14 (21%) from the FT line. That’s bad! This is a guy who shot 90% from the line as the leading scorer at Penn State his junior year. His confidence is low right now and for Wisky to make any noise, he needs to get it back. One downfall of this team is they do not shoot FT’s well. Just 66% which can really hurt playing top notch teams in the NCAA tourney. We do not expect Wisconsin to repeat as BT tourney champs. While they are fully capable, they have a VERY tough road having to beat (most likely) Ohio State, Michigan State and then Illinois.