Connect with us


Predicting every 2023 Big Ten Tournament game

Who will take home the Big Ten tourney title?



© Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten Tournament begins on Wednesday and here’s what I think will play out from round one to the championship.

After a season packed full of rock fights, upsets, and blowouts, we find ourselves on the doorstep of the Big Ten Tournament.

This past week, Michigan State’s conference and national tournament hopes grew and faded within 40 minutes of basketball nearly every night. Although their lightweight end-of-season week did not move the needle too much for them, games across the league dragged them from a prospective 8-9 seed in the conference tournament all the way to a double-bye.

Upsets like Minnesota over Rutgers, Nebraska toppling Iowa on the road, and Penn State sinking a buzzer-beater to defeat Marland 65-64 all contributed to MSU soaring over the log-jam that was the middle of the conference to reach a 4-seed and nearly a full week of rest leading into the first matchup.

So, what’s next for the Big Ten? A week filled with great matchups and the chances for many teams to punch their ticket to the Big Sance or squander it, I will lay out my predictions for the tournament from a game-by-game perspective, and tell you which games will likely be must-watch TV.

Game 1: (13) Ohio State vs. (12) Wisconsin

To lead off the weekday slate of tournament games, we are asked to muscle our way through what is almost certainly going to be a white-knuckle ride of below-mediocre basketball.

Ohio State started the year with a large turnover in talent highlighted by the loss of E.J. Liddell. They have shown glimmers of hope for the Buckeye fans but were never able to stop the skid heading lower and lower in the Big Ten.

Wisconsin came out of the gates looking like a title contender led by Chucky Hepburn, but as the season progressed they slid further and further down the rankings landing them in a bubble spot headed out of the regular season.

Ohio State has been playing terribly as of late and I don’t see them turning the corner against a team with their season on the line.

Prediction: Wisconsin wins decisively

Game 2: (11) Nebraska vs. (14) Minnesota 

Both teams began the season with any hope of a good season buried in the backyard.

Minnesota ended the season with only two wins in the conference and positioned itself as the laughing stock of a tightly contested conference.

Nebraska, on the other hand, dug itself out of the hole that it created at the start of conference play by winning six of its last eight games. This now red-hot Nebraska team is scoring from across the floor and playing fairly good defense, holding opponents to an average of 68 points in those last six wins. Nebraska seems to be peaking at the right time in the season, and I don’t see a world where Minnesota stops them.

Prediction: Nebraska in a landslide

Game 3: (9) Rutgers vs. (8) Michigan

Now I need to start this section off by saying I am incredibly biased against the University of Michigan. As a die-hard MSU fan and alumnus, I will never root for a Michigan team, but I will attempt to be objective in this matchup.

Michigan has lost the past two games against a good Indiana team and a banged-up Illinois team. Fans of the team’s expectations for this season have been shattered as these losses have all but eliminated them from the NCAA tournament. But. If there’s one thing I know about Michigan, its basketball team pulls off miracles I never in a million years would have expected. With that being said, I think Michigan has a chance to go on a run in the Big Ten Tournament and find itself in a play-in game nationally, but I cannot bring myself to really believe in it.

This Rutgers team is no rollover. With huge wins against some of the best teams in the conference this year, Rutgers plays solid defense and can back it up with scoring if they can get hot from the floor.

Michigan will need expert play from their freshman guards, Hunter Dickinson, and its coach. None of that has proven to work down the stretch for them and I would be shocked if they can turn it around now to save their season.

Prediction: Rutgers with a comeback win down the stretch

Prospective Game 4: (12) Wisconsin vs. (5) Iowa

Iowa has had an interesting season for many reasons. Arguably their best player, Kris Murray has gone from a threat anywhere on the court to a cold shooter from the 3-point line in their final games. The rest of the team thrives at home from deep but suffers heavily on the road.

I think this game has the potential to be an excellent matchup, but we will have to tune in to see how Fran McCaffery’s sharpshooters fare on a neutral court.

Prediction: Iowa in a shootout, barely scraping by

Game 5: (10) Penn State vs. (7) Illinois

Penn State is one of the most interesting teams in the conference this year. They have a very good 3-point shooting percentage (38.9 percent on the year) and are led by one of the conference’s best in Jalen Pickett. He’s leading the team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals, while carrying his team to a few good wins within the conference, most recently upsetting Maryland to close out the season. However, they haven’t seemed to get over the hump, losing several games to underdogs as well.

Illinois, on the other hand, had some success early in the year, but with a serious injury to their starting point guard, Jayden Epps, this already thin lineup suffered a massive blow this past week. Dropping two close games to Purdue and Michigan during that stretch, Illinois has found a way to battle it out in games, but not win them. After coming off that big win against Maryland on Sunday, Illinois is going to have a tough time slowing down Penn State’s momentum on Thursday.

Prediction: Penn State in a close one

Prospective Game 6: (11) Nebraska vs. (6) Maryland

If I can be totally honest in this matchup, I don’t really know what is going to happen. Maryland has had a solid season but their lack of road wins within the conference (1-8) doesn’t fill me with confidence heading into the tournament. I truly think this game could come down to how well the Maryland faithful travel. With a strong crowd backing them, Maryland wins by a large margin.

With an empty arena, Nebraska out-works the Terps down the court.

Prediction: Nebraska simply because I love a good upset

Prospective Game 7: (9) Rutgers vs. (1) Purdue

I am predicting this matchup to be the highlight of the mid-week games. Purdue has proven to be a wagon this season, coasting to a non-contested regular season championship.

However, this team is starting to show its cracks. By a true stroke of divine intervention, or maybe just Zack Edey, the Boilermakers managed to only drop four games out of the last eight. It may seem shocking that I say they were lucky to only win half of their final eight games, but when you look at the scores, out of the four games they did manage to win, three of them were by a tight margin.

This Purdue team has an outrageous amount of talent, but I believe their fate lies solely on the shoulders of Matt Painter, and to be honest, I don’t have much faith in his tournament capabilities.

Prediction: Rutgers prevails in a great battle

Prospective Game 8: (5) Iowa vs. (4) Michigan State

You can probably guess what my prediction is in this one.

After three seasons of a team with no defining characteristics, personality, or leadership, this year’s MSU team has emerged like a phoenix out of the rubble. Shooting insanely well from beyond the arc, this team has found a way to beat teams with their guard play. Tyson Walker couldn’t miss a shot when the clock is below five seconds even if he tried. Joey Houser is finally showing off the promise that was made to the fans of an excellent passer and scorer. AJ Hoggard is threading the needle and making shots to cement himself as a name to look for on the scouting report, and Jaden Akins is finally backing up his defense with outstanding 3-point shooting.

Now that was a lot of hype for a team that barely made it to the double-bye and lost to Iowa just over a week ago. But I don’t think Izzo lets that happen twice. With the way the Spartans have been shooting the ball, I think MSU just needs to find a way to slow down Filip Rebraca and they can pull out a tight win in their first tournament game.

Prediction: MSU outshoots Iowa in a high-scoring game… that doesn’t go to overtime

Prospective Game 9: (10) Penn State vs. (2) Northwestern

Northwestern has a roster that sends shivers down my spine as an MSU fan. We all know what Boo Buie is capable of on the court, but Chris Collins has finally developed and recruited talent to surround him with players that push him even higher and carry the team to a top spot in the Big Ten.

This is a Wildcats team like we have never seen before and I don’t think Jalen Pickett is capable of playing 1 vs. 5 the whole game. Penn State is going to need to have an outstanding game to be capable of upsetting this Northwestern team.

Prediction: Northwestern by a lot

Prospective Game 10: (11) Nebraska vs. (3) Indiana

Unfortunately for our underdogs, they are going to run into a buzz-saw. Indiana has been strong all year and has some massive wins against ranked opponents as well. Trayce Jackson-Davis has led this group to a formidable 3-seed by leading the team in scoring, assists, rebounds, and blocks. Add in Jalen Hood-Schifino and the rest of the supporting cast, and I think you have a team that no one wants to be matched up against in either tournament.

This would be the third game for Nebraska in three days, and even if they had the capabilities, I don’t think they have the endurance to put up much of a fight.

Prediction: Indiana storms past the Cinderella team

Prospective Game 11: (9) Rutgers vs. (4) MSU

I am a firm believer in the fewer games played, the better when it comes to the Big Ten Tournament. Not just because there are fewer chances to lose, but because of conditioning and subsequent exhaustion. I foresee a similar fate for Rutgers as I see for Nebraska. Rutgers is a strong team, and I don’t expect a blowout by any means, but I think it’s going to be tough for them to keep up with MSU’s fast-paced transition offense.

Prediction: Michigan State pulls away late for a double-digit win

Prospective Game 12: (2) Northwestern vs. (3) Indiana

This game is also a toss-up for me. I want to say I love Indiana in this one, but a little voice in the back of my head keeps whispering “Boo Buie” and I don’t know what to make of that. Northwestern should have a formidable crowd since the tournament is being held in their backyard, however, I expect the Hoosiers to bring every single person on their campus to the games.

Because I just don’t know which team has the talent to win on the court, I am going to go with what the crowd split will likely be.

Prediction: Indiana by one because its fans are louder

Prospective Big Ten title game: (4) MSU vs. (3) Indiana

Yeah, I know, I put my own barely-above-average team in the finals and you are expecting me to say they will win it all. And you would be right.

Michigan State split with Indiana in the regular season, each team winning at home. I expect a true back-and-forth game, with both Tom Izzo and Mike Woodson dueling in a chess match. What it truly comes down to is Izzo for me. He saw how Indiana played the first time and made corrections to win the second, and I think will do the same the third time they face off.

This game definitely could go either way, but I have to bet on my guy and trust that he can pull out a championship in a season no one ever would have expected.

Prediction: A game for the record books, ending with another banner in Breslin


Michigan State basketball: Way-too-early projected starting 5 for 2023-24

Next year’s team could be special.



Michigan State basketball
© Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State basketball has officially entered the offseason and now it’s time to predict what next year looks like.

Markquis Nowell will go down in Michigan State basketball history as one of those forbidden names. We will no longer be mentioning the Kansas State guard as he’s now in the same group as Giddy Potts, Boo Buie, Jabari Parker, and Shabazz Napier. We’re just throwing those names out for good.

Now that we got that out of the way, we can move forward and look ahead to next season.

And next season could be special. Michigan State brings back some key players such as Jaden Akins, AJ Hoggard, Mady Sissoko, Jaxon Kohler, Carson Cooper, Tre Holloman, and potentially Pierre Brooks. However, decisions have yet to be officially made for Tyson Walker, Malik Hall, and Joey Hauser, but an elite recruiting class is coming in.

In fact, the Spartans are bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in program history, led by five-star big man Xavier Booker, five-star point guard Jeremy Fears, four-star super-athlete Coen Carr, and four-star athletic sharpshooting wing Gehrig Normand.

The lineup next year should be athletic and the bench will be deep.

But what will the starting five look like, assuming that Hauser is gone? Here’s my best guess:

PG: AJ Hoggard, SR
G: Tyson Walker, SR
G: Jaden Akins, JR
F: Xavier Booker, FR
C: Mady Sissoko, SR

AJ Hoggard will be back for his senior year to lead the team at the point and he might just be the Big Ten’s best at the position. He showed against Kansas State that he can take over a game offensively and I’m looking forward to seeing him take another step in 2023-24.

For my bold prediction: I think we see Walker return. The way the season ended left a sour taste in his mouth and he became one of the best players in the Big Ten. If he gets the green light next year, he could be the Spartans’ go-to- scorer and potentially a Big Ten Player of the Year frontrunner.

Akins’ return is going to be huge for this team as well. If Walker were to leave, he’d assume the role of go-to scorer and I know he’d flourish. But he did play well in a No. 3 option role this season and he’s going to excel as the second option next season. He is the starting five’s top NBA prospect outside of Xavier Booker at the four.

Speaking of Booker, I see him sliding in as the starting power forward much like Jaren Jackson Jr. did as a true freshman. He’s a long, athletic big who can rebound and score in the post and that’s just what was missing this year. While I do think Hall returns and could play the four in a small-ball lineup, I think Tom Izzo brings him off the bench and Booker starts.

Lastly, Mady Sissoko grew a ton this season and I don’t think he’s done getting better. He had his ups and downs and showed how raw he truly was this year, but I think Izzo can mold him into a dominant defensive center. Will he be Oscar Tshiebwe down there? No, but I could see him averaging 2.0 blocks and 7.0-plus rebounds per game next season while continuing his lob-threat ability. Maybe he’ll even develop a post game on offense.

Coming off the bench would be Fears, Hall, Carr, Normand, Holloman, Cooper, and Brooks (assuming he doesn’t hit the portal).

This will be one of the deeper teams that Izzo has ever had and full lineup changes won’t completely crush momentum.

Raise your hand if you’re looking forward to next season.

Continue Reading


Michigan State basketball: Did Tyson Walker hint at return?

Something to monitor.



Michigan State basketball
© Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Tyson Walker might just be teasing us, but he hinted at a return to Michigan State basketball on Instagram.

Now that Michigan State basketball is headed back home after a crushing loss to Kansas State in the Sweet 16, a couple of storylines are going to dominate the offseason.

One, is Tom Izzo going to reach into the transfer portal for some help?

And two, will Tyson Walker, Joey Hauser, or Malik Hall decide to return?

The first question won’t be answered until the second one is and it feels like it’s been one-third answered. Hauser posted somewhat of a farewell on Instagram on Friday with the caption “that’s a wrap” and a green heart emoji. No one was shocked as he was the least likely to return, but it was Walker’s comment on the post that has people raising an eyebrow.

The “idk who I’m going to sit next to on the planes now” comment followed by Houser offering up Jaxon Kohler seems promising. Maybe it’s just two guys having fun with the fans, knowing that emotions are at an all-time high and we will find a way to make every word seem important.

But I’m putting stock in this. It just feels like Walker is leaning more toward coming back because he didn’t even think twice about writing that knowing that people would overreact (like myself).

And Hauser’s response makes it seem even more likely. Like he knows Walker wants to return.

Of course Walker had to post this to calm the rumor mill, but maybe he just let his intentions slip in the original post on Hauser’s Instagram post?

Maybe both guys are just messing around and both Hauser and Walker want to return along with Hall? OK, now I’m going way too far down the “what does this comment mean?” rabbit hole.

Either way, I would venture a guess of Walker returning with Hall while Hauser hangs up the green and white jersey for good.

If that’s the case, it was one heck of a career for Joey and Walker has big things ahead of him in East Lansing.

We can hope.

Continue Reading


Michigan State Basketball: 3 potential 2023-24 lineup options

There will be plenty of options.



Michigan State basketball
© Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Michigan State basketball season came to an unfortunate end yesterday after the devastating overtime loss in the Sweet 16. But what about 2023-24?

That loss is going to sting for at least the next few months. With Tennessee losing as well, the path to the Final Four was Michigan State’s for the taking. Unfortunately, the better team won Thursday night, and it wasn’t Michigan State basketball.

With that being said, there’s a lot of hope and optimism looking forward. Along with the hope, however, comes numerous variables regarding the Spartans’ roster.

Let’s go through a few options Tom Izzo and staff can roll with, roster-wise, in 2023-24.

Option 1: Roll with the roster we have (with a returning member)

  1. A.J. Hoggard/Jeremy Fears
  2. Tyson Walker
  3. Jaden Akins/Coen Carr/Gehrig Normand
  4. Xavier Booker/Jaxon Kohler
  5. Mady Sissoko/Carson Cooper

In option one, Tyson Walker doesn’t want to leave Michigan State with the Kansas State loss looming over him and so he decides to return for one final year. One of the nation’s best guard combinations of AJ Hoggard, Tyson, and Jaden Akins run it back with more experience and more expectations.

Being that Walker returning is the main variable in this scenario rather than a transfer acquisition, Michigan State moves forward with the players and recruits already bought in.

With that being said, Michigan State basketball would be left extremely thin at the four in this scenario. This would force Xavier Booker to step up (a common theme in these scenarios), along with a possible big ball lineup, shifting Jaxon Kohler to the four. With his offensive upside shown this season, but defensive downfalls, this could actually act as a plus.

Option 2: Attack the transfer portal

  1. A.J. Hoggard/Jeremy Fears
  2. Jaden Akins
  3. Transfer Player/Pierre Brooks/Gehrig Normand
  4. Xavier Booker/Coen Carr
  5. Mady Sissoko/Jaxon Kohler

Most fans will be shouting for option two to become reality but, with Tom Izzo’s track record, it’s not as likely.

The variable for option two is Walker, Joey Hauser, and Malik Hall all electing to move on, so Izzo and Co. turn to the well that is the transfer portal. Doing so in the past has seemed to work out with Tyson, so Izzo will be looking to strike gold once again to fill the open wing position.

While there are plenty of names within the portal, the Spartans have been linked to just a few. Six-foot-6 small forward Zack Austin from High Point, 6-foot-5 shooting guard Jace Carter from UIC, and 6-foot-3 combo guard Jayden Taylor from Butler have all been contacted by MSU and would fill the three-guard/small four role well.

Still, MSU would be somewhat light at the four, so the coveted 6-foot-10 freshman Booker would find himself in the starting lineup once again.

The offense would be led by Hoggard, but run through Akins, as he’s proven to be up to the challenge

Option 3: Feed the young bucks

  1. A.J. Hoggard/Jeremy Fears
  2. Jaden Akins/Pierre Brooks
  3. Coen Carr/Gehrig Normand
  4. Xavier Booker/Jaxon Kohler
  5. Mady Sissoko/Carson Cooper

Even less likely than turning to the transfer portal, is option three.

A staple for Tom Izzo-led teams is veteran leadership. It isn’t often a freshman steps in and is given a starting role right away. Think Kalin Lucas, Miles Bridges, or Jaren Jackson Jr. to name a few who were.

In this scenario, not only do Tyson, Hauser, and Hall all move on, but the Spartans also decline to bring in any transfer players. A young starting core would pose a difficult task for Izzo, leading this to being the least likely scenario. I can see plenty of frustration from Hoggard and Akins resulting from the inexperience around them, not to mention a possible second line of Tre Holloman, Pierre Brooks, Jeremy Fears, Gehrig Normand, and Carson Cooper. While it isn’t likely this lineup would see the floor all at the same time, it’s hard to find the trusted go-to guy in that group. MSU is better off avoiding this scenario.

In all reality, Michigan State’s 2024 lineup will likely combine all three of these options. Why choose just one when the most realistic path back to the Final Four is a combination of the three? We will see.

Continue Reading