2011 Big Ten Tournament Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Seed Team W L Poss. Off PPP Def PPP Eff Margin
1 Ohio State 16 2 63 1.19 1.02 0.17
2 Purdue 14 4 65 1.12 0.99 0.13
3 Wisconsin 13 5 57 1.19 1.09 0.10
5 Illinois 9 9 64 1.07 1.02 0.05
6 Penn State 9 9 59 1.08 1.10 -0.02
4 Michigan 9 9 61 1.06 1.09 -0.03
9 Minnesota 6 12 62 1.03 1.07 -0.03
7 Michigan State 9 9 64 1.02 1.06 -0.04
8 Northwestern 7 11 62 1.06 1.14 -0.08
10 Iowa 4 14 66 0.98 1.10 -0.12
11 Indiana 3 15 64 1.02 1.14 -0.12
Big Ten Tournament Bracket / Tempo Free Aerial / Gasaway Log5 Preview (Partial $)

In preparation for the Big Ten Tournament tomorrow, we put together a preview featuring the final efficiency margin table along with capsules of the early games and the teams that earned byes.

Ohio State’s offensive explosion in the final two weeks cemented the Buckeyes where they belong: at the top of the league. Just about everyone else fell into line about where you would expect. The lone exception is Minnesota, whose numbers are propped up by Al Nolen playing the first half of the conference slate.

Despite Michigan’s second half surge, they still have a negative efficiency margin in conference play which is actually .02 points per possession worse than last year’s squad. This year, however, two Big Ten teams with negative efficiency margins – Michigan and Michigan State – are still in a position to grab NCAA tournament bids. Squads with a negative efficiency margins in conference play are almost always eliminated from the tournament swiftly. In fact, it’s been five years since a team with a negative efficiency margin made the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

The caveat is that John Beilein teams routinely break this rule. The last major conference team with a negative efficiency margin team to win a tournament game was Michigan in 2009. The last negative-EM team to make the second weekend was West Virginia in 2005. Will Michigan 2011 break the rules again? A respectable showing in the Big Ten Tournament and the Wolverines will have a chance. Preview capsules after the jump.


First Round

Penn State vs. Indiana

Penn State has a long ways to go to make the NCAA tournament but not because of anything the Nitanny Lions did in conference play. Penn State played the league’s toughest schedule, with single plays versus Iowa and Indiana, but managed to tie for fourth with the fifth best efficiency margin. Pathetic non-conference performance aside, Penn State has the look of a team capable of making a run. Look for the Nits to steamroll Indiana and give Wisconsin everything they can handle.

Michigan State vs. Iowa

Michigan State has everything to play for. The Spartans have been to 13 consecutive NCAA tournaments and a loss here would almost assuredly send them to the NIT. Iowa fans might just be glad not to see Michigan across from their name on the Big Ten Tournament bracket. The Wolverines have ended their season in Indianapolis three years in a row.

Iowa is certainly in rebuilding mode but Fran McCaferty’s squad has showed signs of life. The Hawkeyes enter the tournament after a home win over Purdue and split the season series against the Spartans – a 20 point home win and a 19 point road loss. It would likely take a horrific shooting night from Kalin Lucas to doom Michigan State but you have to play the game.

Northwestern vs. Minnesota

Northwestern lost seven of its final 11 games this season but remains the hotter team in this game. Minnesota has disintegrated before our eyes, closing the season by losing nine of its final 10 games. Someone has to win this game but don’t expect much in the way of aesthetics. Northwestern knocked off the Gophers last week and Tubby Smith has confirmed that Al Nolen will remain sidelined in the Tournament.

Michigan vs. Illinois

The only predetermined game on Friday pits a pair of bubble teams head-to-head. Michigan’s current standing might be more tenuous than Illinois’ but the Wolverines are playing very good basketball of late, winning eight of 11 games including a pair of buzzer beating losses. Unfortunately for Michigan, one of those losses was at Illinois and the size on the Illini roster presents problems for Michigan’s undersized frontline. Michigan was just 2-18 from three point range in the first game and some hot shooting might be the difference this time around. The winner punches an NCAA ticket, the loser will have a long wait until Selection Sunday.

Ohio State

The Buckeyes are not just the best team in the conference, they are the best team in the country. Ohio State’s offense comes into this game on fire, having scored 346 points over the last 251 possessions, a remarkable 1.38 points per trip. The rest of the conference better hope that the NBA rims in Conseco Fieldhouse affect Ohio State’s shooting stroke because not much else has worked lately.


Purdue entered last weekend with a chance at sharing the Big Ten title. All the Boilermakers had to do was beat Iowa and hope Wisconsin could upset Ohio State for a second time. The question is whether the Iowa loss was the wake-up call the Boilermakers needed or an ominous sign of things to come. Purdue will likely face a Michigan State team that they handled twice this season with relative ease.


Similar to Purdue, Wisconsin enters the tournament on the heels of a loss. However, the Badgers didn’t lose to a basement feeder – they got run over by Ohio State’s offensive juggernaut in Columbus. The real concern might be that the Badgers have struggled away from home with seven road/neutral losses and a couple of narrow road escapes (Iowa, Michigan). Jordan Taylor vs. Talor Battle could be one of the most exciting individual match-ups of the tournament, in what could be Battle’s last Big Ten game, barring one last bout of heroics.

NCAA Tournament Stakes:

With so many Big Ten teams on or around the bubble, there are strong NCAA Tournament implications with every result in Indianapolis. Here’s a rundown of what the Big Ten Tournament means for each school’s NCAA tournament prospects.

  • Ohio State: Likely has a No. 1 seed locked up, playing for the No. 1 overall seed.
  • Wisconsin & Purdue: Assuming both teams meet in the semi-finals, the winner likely earns the chance to play the first weekend in Chicago.
  • Illinois: The Illini have the strongest bubble resume and are likely in the tournament, even with a loss to Michigan.
  • Michigan: Michigan needs a win over Illinois to feel safe. A loss might not end their chances but it probably shifts the “best case scenario” to a trip to the First Four in Dayton.
  • Michigan State: A loss to Iowa would knock the Spartans out of the tournament but a win probably doesn’t officially punch their ticket. A quarterfinal win over Purdue would do the trick.
  • Penn State: The Nittany Lions might need to make it to Sunday to make the dance but wins over Indiana and Wisconsin would put them in the mix.
  • Must Win Tournament: Minnesota, Northwestern, Iowa, Indiana


Day 1:

  • Northwestern over Minnesota, Michigan State over Iowa, Penn State over Indiana

Day 2:

  • Ohio State over Northwestern, Michigan over Illinois, Penn State over Wisconsin, Purdue over Michigan State

Day 3:

  • Ohio State over Michigan, Purdue over Penn State


  • Purdue over Ohio State
  • ZRL

    Anyone catch the end of the Rutgers – St. Johns game? HALOL!!!!!! Of course Jim Burr is the official.

    • Azad

      I would say there were a legit 4 botched calls in the last minute, all going against Rutgers…that was unbelievably bad, wow

      • Tweeter

        botching the foul calls is one thing. I think everyone can live with officials not calling fouls that were close calls, but to miss a guy clearly out of bounds with 1.7 seconds left and also taking four steps before he throws the ball into the crowd, is inexcusable.

        • Azad

          Agreed; the final mistake was by far the worst. I think a couple of those foul calls weren’t even that close, especially the over the back on the free throw attempt that led to the out of bounds and SJU keeping the ball.

        • Kenny

          And the ref walks out the gym immediately. This is crime.

  • Tweeter

    5 minutes left. Lets Go Cyclones!

    • Tweeter

      up 5 at the under 4 timeout!

      • Tweeter

        eek, 1 point game with 2 minutes left

        • Azad

          Iowa State looks a lot better than a 3-13 conference team.

          • Tweeter

            uhh, that is not a good play. come on ISU

          • Tweeter

            arg, tie game 1:19 left and Colorado ball.

          • Tweeter

            damnit Colorado up two, iowa st ball

    • Tweeter

      so close. Iowa State just couldnt make the plays down the stretch

      • Kenny

        I think Colorado is in.

  • MiamiWolv

    Quarterfinal Picks

    Ohio State over Minnesota by 21
    Illinois over Michigan by 12
    Michigan State over Purdue by 3
    Penn State over Wisconsin by 10

    Ohio State over Illinois by 15
    Penn State over Michigan State bt 6

    Ohio State over Penn State by 22

    • Tweeter

      jeesh, aren’t u the optimist

    • YpsiTuckyBoy

      You, sir, are why Mr. Las Vegas is so rich.

    • Beast1530

      Penn State to Big 10 final? lol That’s funny.

  • MaceoBaston

    Dylan- Can you explain a little bit more about the efficiency ratings work? These are from Ken Pom, right?

    • gpsimms

      these are pretty straightforward. they are only total point margin divided by total possessions played (in conference games only).

      so, in a 50 possesions game that we win 55-45, we scored 1.1 points per possession, allowed .9 ppp, margin of victory is 10, and efficiency margin is .2

      The numbers above just come from adding all the results of conference play together.

  • AG2

    Perry Jones must have thought the season was over, because he hired an agent and now he can’t play for Baylor tonight.

  • KAB

    Wow, we want Baylor to lose!

  • JimC

    Dang! My new boss scheduled a meeting next Thursday 12:30 – 2:00.
    There goes my long sports bar lunch on the first day of the tourney!
    We better not play Thursday in the early slot.

    That’s right – no more talk of bubble.
    I ASSUME we are already IN.

  • KAB

    Oklahoma up 15 on Baylor.

  • KAB

    Baylor will join Nebraska in the NIT…

  • AG2

    Yep, Baylor does what all talented but poorly coached teams do, they quit.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      It’s also a bit deflating to have your best player suspended a couple hours before tipoff…

  • JimC

    In case you didn’t see it – a great read on M’s top 10 moments of the season, via Dylan’s Newsstand / ISportsWeb…


    • Giddings

      Definitely a fun read, but didn’t J-Mo’s 27 come against Northwestern and not Indiana? That’s the only thing that bugged me.

      • JimC

        I think you’re right.

  • jmblue

    It’s funny how we seem to play the same couple of teams in the BTT every year. We play Iowa and OSU constantly. Meanwhile, we’ve somehow never faced MSU – and probably won’t this year either.

    • Azad

      I think it’d be great for us to get another matchup with OSU prior to the tournament; have us go into the tournament with our last game (if we lose) before the tournament be against such an elite team, it’ll have us prepared for anything I think.

  • Brian W

    The refs who worked the St. John’s game are drawing the scrutiny of the NCAA’s head of officiating. Their reffing job at the end of the game could cost them some future work.


    • JimC

      Yeah looks like SJ should’ve got the technical foul, which would’ve allowed RU to tie it! Maybe it’s a good thing Rutgers is not on the bubble, or people would REALLY be going crazy.

  • Brian W

    Revere won its playoff game tonight 54-43. Larry Nance Jr. had 15 points. There was a tweet by an Ohio scouting service that UNLV was supposed to be at tonight’s game.


  • Mattski

    I’m going to pick Minnesota and Iowa to prevail tomorrow, along with PSU. I worry that the magic may run out and Michigan just come out and play a bad game one of these days soon. Just hope that that day isn’t Friday, and Beilein’s rep for great preparation holds at least one more time.

  • Fred_Ex

    People seem to be making a big fuss about the Illinois size advantage. But I don’t think Illinois 7 footers are really that tough down low. If we can deny the entry pass and the refs let the boys play I think we’ll be alright. Another thing is that McCamey is really inconsistent this year so, maybe we go in with same same game plan we had against MSU?

    • Tweeter

      i agree that none of there guys are that great on their own, but the problem for Michigan is that they can put multiple 6’10 and above guys out there. That allows them to high-low all day. No matter how tough Novak is, he cant stop a 6’10 guy from throwing an easy lob pass over his head and no matter how good Morgan is at carving out position, he can’t stop a 7’1 guy from catching an easy lob (most of the time).

      The key really becomes pressuring their bigs almost before they get the ball on the perimeter. You got to make them feel uncomfortable and not let them get a good handle on the ball. Michigan did a good job of this in the second half of the game against Illinois. Also against Minnesota, but its a little easier to do it against Minnesota since their bigs are such unskilled gomers that they can’t hurt you off the dribble. Whereas Mike Davis can occassionally put the ball on the floor.

      To make matters worse, normally when teams go big, Michigan gains a significant advantage at the offensive end, in that the opponents power forward has to chase around a guard. This has a big effect beyond just opening up shots for Novak. It also completely changes the way the team as a whole is used to defending. Normally a power forward can sag a little or is just defending down low so he is in a help position a lot. Against Michigan, he has to go out and find Novak. This means that he cannot help as easy and that other defenders have to be better on their man as well as hedging on drives, which opens up threes for other guys.

      However, with Mike Davis, Illinois has a guy that can play power forward at the college level but is really more of a three. His length allows him to challenge shots while not playing too tight, but he also has good quickness to recover to help on other drives.

      • Fred_Ex

        Good point. I think one of our biggest adjustments we made during this hot streak was the tightening up on defense. It seemed like the last game against MSU we did an excellent job double teaming the bigs down low and then getting back out on defense to contest jump shots by guards or whoever. My opinion is that if we can be successful doing that and force them to make lower percentage (longer jump shots) and keep our fingers crossed the inconsistent Demitri McCamey shows up. We should be in a relatively similar position we were in against MSU.

        Now, Illinois has more height and I agree with you about the lob pass, it seemed like it was there all day in our last meeting with Illinois. I remember thinking if I were the coach I would run the high-Low (lob pass) til the wheels fell off or til we could stop it. So you double team their bigs and make them shoot over two of our defenders, because that is really what they do, they don’t really work in the post. The shot goes up the same way the entry pass comes in, a lob over the top.

        About our offensive strategy and forcing a 4 to pop out on Novak. If I remember correctly, once at Minny and once against MSU, didn’t we draw to shooting fouls from behind the three point line? Right now I feel better shooting three free throws than taking a wide open three.

  • ZRL

    I’m watching West Virginia for the first time all year. It’s pretty ironic that in year 4 West Virginia still plays a ton of 1-3-1 while we barely use it.

  • Tweeter


    I found this article to be somewhat hilarious. Basically it talks up their system for picking upsets then goes on to say that teams that get a lot of offensive rebounds, don’t turn the ball over yet turn the other team over, make a lot of threes, and are efficient scoring, have a greater chance at pulling upsets. On top of that they say that teams that play tougher schedules are more likely to win. Wow. Just wow. So your saying that teams that are good at basketball have a better chance of winning.

    • gpsimms

      hm, so high oreb%, efg%, low to%, and force high opponent to%…i feel like there is one factor they are forgetting….what could it be, i swear i have read something somewhere about a fourth factor…

    • Joel

      Lol. Did they also find that the team with the most points at the end of the game usually wins?

  • Brian W
  • Section13Row15

    We need Smotrycz of Clemson and MSU home game to show up tomorrow as the “X” factor. I like how our defense has improved steadily this season and with Morris at the point, we’ll have a chance to win every game we play. Let’s hope Beilein rotates McLimans and Smotrycz in at the 5 so Morgan can stay out of foul trouble. We are a different team when Morgan is in the game. Go blue!

  • um basketball fan

    It’s official: Pat Forde is my new favorite ESPN commentator.


    Read: last line.

  • Josh

    Not that bracketology matchups really matter at this point, but Lunardi has us pitted against WVU in the first round.


    • um basketball fan

      Saw that, and was wondering if the committee considers the “drama” factor, so to speak. Would it bring ratings to slate that teams that way, or just be poor form?

      • um basketball fan

        (For the record, I would say poor form.)

  • bluerev

    Regarding efficiency margins, I’d like to know our numbers w/o the NW and Indiana games when we were in the deep funk… or our eff. margin the last 11 games. This team is much better than the -.02 suggests right now. Now we haven’t blown teams out even in our hot streak, but we don’t lose big either–to anyone (except the 2 aforementioned games).

    As far as it relates to conference tourney–I think Illinois’ +.05 is a reflection of who they are, but we are probably closer to that than the entire conference numbers reflected. Tomorrow’s game comes down to the final minute–the final possession if the leading team isn’t making freethrows.

    UM 68-64 (I think that’s the score I predicted elsewhere already).

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