NCAA Basketball Betting: Big Ten Tournament Looks Wide Open
by Bovada Sportsbook Staff | March 10, 2014
The Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament is clearly Arizona’s to lose. Ditto Kansas in the Big 12 (if Joel Embiid can play) and Florida in the SEC. Virginia was the regular-season ACC champion but it would be an upset if one of Duke, North Carolina or Syracuse don’t win that conference tournament.
If you want parity and the chance to cash in on a longer shot to win a conference tournament, the Big Ten is for you. There are likely nine teams that could be the one left standing around 5:30 p.m. ET on Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The only ones that you can probably count out? No. 10 Penn State, No. 11 Northwestern (the only BCS conference school never to play in the NCAA Tournament) and No. 12 Purdue. There will be live betting available on most of the games at Bovada.
Michigan (23-7, 15-3) won the outright Big Ten regular-season championship for the first time since 1986. The Wolverines were national runner-ups last season and a preseason Top-10 team. However, they lost All-American forward Mitch McGary early in the season to back surgery. That was expected to torpedo U-M’s title hopes, but Nik Stauskas emerged as a star and fellow sophomore Caris LeVert took a huge step up this year. Michigan ended the season winning five straight and swept preseason Big Ten favorite Michigan State this year. However, MSU is 10/1 to win the national title while Michigan is 20/1.
The Wolverines open play Friday against the No. 8 Indiana-No. 9 Illinois winner from Thursday’s game. They are 1-0 against Illinois this year and 1-1 against the Hoosiers, who will have the major fan advantage whenever they take the court. Michigan beat visiting Indiana 84-80 on Saturday. Michigan has won a single Big Ten Tournament, the first one in 1998 (later vacated). Even if U-M was to win this tournament, it wouldn’t get a top seed in the Big Dance.
Wisconsin (25-6, 12-6) might have had a shot at a top seed in the NCAA Tournament before losing Sunday at Nebraska to end the Badgers’ eight-game winning streak. Perhaps the problem was that Nebraska wasn’t ranked. UW is 6-1 against Top-25 teams this year, including a win over current No. 1 Florida. Wisconsin is the No. 2 seed and will play the No. 7 Minnesota-No. 10 Penn State winner on Friday. The Badgers are 1-1 against the Gophers and 1-0 versus PSU. Wisconsin’s last Big Ten Tournament title was in 2008. It lost in the championship game as the No. 4 seed last year to Ohio State.
Michigan State (23-8, 12-6) lost a tiebreaker with Wisconsin and thus is the No. 3 seed. The Spartans are a veteran group that clearly has the talent to win a national title, but they have had trouble staying healthy. Largely because of that, Tom Izzo’s team hasn’t won back-to-back games since mid-January with stars Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson and Keith Appling all missing time. They are all back now but haven’t quite looked in sync. Sparty’s last Big Ten Tournament championship was in 2012. It will open Friday against the No. 6 Iowa-No. 11 Northwestern winner. The Spartans were 2-0 against both teams. Iowa was ranked as high as No. 15 a few weeks ago but ended the season losing five of six.
The No. 4 seed is surprising Nebraska (19-11, 11-7), which seems in good shape to make its first NCAA Tournament since 1998 — thus Huskers have never won a game there. Nebraska started Big Ten play 0-4 before a light went on. Sunday’s upset of Wisconsin should punch the Huskers’ Big Dance ticket. Nebraska will play the No. 5 Ohio State-No. 12 Purdue winner on Friday. The Huskers are 1-1 against each school.
The highest seed to win the Big Ten Tournament has been No. 6, although two schools seeded 10th or higher have made the championship game. The top seed has won it five of the past seven years.