2012 Big Ten Tournament Preview

Dylan Burkhardt

2012BigTenBasketballTournament[1]The Big Ten Tournament begins on Thursday with first round action before the league’s top four teams join in the fray on Friday. With three teams tied for the regular season championship and five teams among the nation’s top 15, this year’s tournament could be as exciting as fans have seen for years.

Ohio State and Michigan State appear to be the prohibitive favorites but all eyes will be on Northwestern as the Wildcats try to earn their first NCAA tournament bid in school history.

After the jump find our complete preview of the tournament including statistics, superlatives, predictions, scatter plots, drinking establishments and more.

Related: Full 2012 Big Ten Tournament Bracket with times and TV

Tempo Free Aerial

We posted a tempo free table earlier this week but the visual format might add a bit more intrigue before the conference finale.

The y-axis (reversed) measures defense and the x-axis measures offense which means that the best teams are in the upper right quadrant of the graph. Despite the league’s reputation as a defensive conference, you can see that only Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin managed to hold opponents under a point per possession. Indiana, Purdue and Northwestern loom large as teams loaded with firepower that struggle to stop anyone.

Log 5 Projections

Ken Pomeroy publishes yearly log5 predictions (explanation) for every conference tournament and they generally outperform seeds in terms of predictive ability. The formula uses Bill James’ log5 equation combined with the Pythagorean rating from Ken Pomeroy’s ranking system to estimate the winners for each league. The results aren’t all too encouraging for Michigan:

                Qtrs  Semis  Final  Champ
 3 Ohio St.      100   81.5   66.1   37.2
 1 Michigan St.  100   89.0   48.0   27.2
 5 Indiana      93.5   54.1   29.3   16.5
 4 Wisconsin     100   45.3   21.2   10.4
 2 Michigan      100   67.7   18.9    5.1
 6 Purdue       86.0   17.9    9.7    2.5
 7 Northwestern 52.1   17.3    2.9    0.5
10 Minnesota    47.9   15.0    2.4    0.4
 9 Illinois     56.4    6.8    1.0    0.2
 8 Iowa         43.6    4.2    0.5    0.07
12 Penn St.      6.5    0.6    0.1    0.01
11 Nebraska     14.0    0.6    0.1    0.005

Michigan is ranked 20th in Pomeroy’s ratings and Ohio State (2), Michigan State (3), Wisconsin (7) and Indiana (10), who is also given half weighted home court advantage in the calculations, all fall within Pomeroy’s top 10. Given that information it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that Michigan has just a 5.1% chance at winning the event. Michigan’s road to the final isn’t much easier with the tournament favorites looming in the semifinal.


Team with the most to play for: Northwestern

It’s simple. Win two games and Northwestern is in the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. Win one game and Sunday is going to be a very long day for the Wildcat faithful. Lose to Minnesota and the dream dies yet again. Northwestern has lost a seemingly endless number of close games this season and is finally down to its last chance.

Thursday team most likely to make a run: Indiana.

The Hoosiers always have somewhat of a home court advantage when the tournament is played in Indianapolis and this year they have the team and talent to capitalize. Indiana should cruise past Penn State and draws the No. 4 seed, Wisconsin, in the second round. After winning the tournament in 2008, Wisconsin has lost its first tournament game in each of the past three seasons. Tom Crean hasn’t won a Big Ten Tournament game but Indiana has broken plenty of streaks during Crean’s fourth season.

Biggest question mark: Michigan State without Branden Dawson

Michigan State will still be a great team without Branden Dawson. The Spartans are still more than capable of winning the Big Ten Tournament and mounting yet another Final Four run. However, the Spartan freshman had emerged as a major contributor down the stretch before tearing his ACL on Sunday. Dawson was the Big Ten’s best offensive rebounder in league games and scored an opportunistic 8 points per game while shooting 59% on twos. Joe Rexrode analyzes what exactly Dawson’s loss means to the Spartans in this piece, concluding that the injury is a major blow but not insurmountable.

Ready to steal the show: Tim Hardaway Jr.

Michigan’s sophomore scoring wing has struggled with his perimeter shot all season but he’s showing flashes of regaining his stroke. Hardaway has knocked down 7 of his last 10 triples after converting just 20 of his first 92 three point attempts in Big Ten games this season. Hardaway is the sort of player that has the ability to carry Michigan deep into the tournament if he gets hot from the perimeter.

Team on the rise: Purdue

Indiana and Michigan are both hot, winners of six of their last seven conference games, but Purdue has found quite a groove as well. The Boilermaker offense has found another new gear down the stretch in league play and played its way into the NCAA tournament. Just how good has Purdue’s offense been? The Boilermakers have scored 1.20 points per possession over their final eight league games. Purdue’s defense has been far from stellar but opponents likely can’t afford a cold shooting night against Matt Painter’s squad.

Team falling fast: Illinois

Losers of ten of their last 12, the season can’t end soon enough for the Illini. The pertinent discussion about Illinois isn’t who will play well in Indianapolis but who is in line to replace Bruce Weber at season’s end. That’s a bit shocking considering the fact the Illinois was in sole possession of first place mid-way through January. Illinois beat Iowa at home two weeks ago but Fran McCaffery’s young Iowa team should roll on Thursday.


Best Big Ten tournament coach: Thad Matta

Thad Matta is 14-4 in Big Ten Tournament games, the best record accumulated by any Big Ten coach in the tournament’s history. Matta’s Buckeyes have won back-to-back conference tournament crowns and have also knocked Michigan out of the last two tournaments. The Buckeyes have been up and down but have a nice draw, experience in Indianapolis and the talent to win this tournament.


  • Thursday: Iowa over Illinois, Indiana over Penn State, Northwestern over Minnesota, Purdue over Nebraska
  • Friday: Michigan State over Iowa, Indiana over Wisconsin, Michigan over Northwestern, Ohio State over Purdue
  • Saturday: Indiana over Michigan State, Ohio State over Michigan
  • Sunday: Ohio State over Indiana

Headed to Indianapolis?

Tickets are still available via Ticketmaster.com and buying tickets off fans of losing teams is generally pretty easy. Michigan fans will gravitate toward O’Reilly’s Irish Bar and Restaurant, the official Michigan bar of the weekend.

  • Mattski

    All reasonable, and projections seem quite possible, especially Indiana over MSU in the semifinals. But this is why they play the games!!!

    One of the conversations that always strikes me as useful before the NCAA tournament is about who is getting hot. You mentio, Purdue, Dylan, but Michigan might be there with them. If Hardaway and Smot are hitting through the middle of the year as they did at the beginning and end, Michigan is much closer to the right-hand side of that chart. The team seemed to fall back on the three-pointer a little late in the season, too, so maybe hitting from two will be a key. . .  Morgan’s play is also a big key, in my view. 

    • Kenny

      Morgan staying out of foul trouble is the key. I am not sure how much about Smot being less effective through middle of the season is caused by playing back up at 5 most of the time, but it certainly is a big factor. 

  • UM Hoops Fan

    Illinois could flame out, but I could also see it going the other way.  We know they have the talent, they already beat MSU once, MSU may have to adjust without Dawson, and Ill may have a no-pressure-now-four-days-can-undo-four-months attitude.  Like I said, they could also continue their downward spiral.  

  • jemblue

    I’m surprised how poor Purdue’s defensive numbers look.  They played great D in Crisler.

  • Fvsdevin

    First off, some one should suggest to Brian from MGoBlog that he stick to covering football.  I’m tired of his constant cynical comments about Michigan basketball.  Give this team some damn credit please. 

    Also, I don’t quite understand why everyone is sooo high on Indiana going into the NCAA.  I’ve been watching them all season long, and you can’t tell me I’m the only person who has noticed that they are not nearly as good away from Bloomington. 

    • Kokbear

      I think the idea is that the BTT is much closer to Bloomington than their away games are.

    • SamGoBlue

       I agree that MGoBlog is pretty poor at analyzing basketball and looking at plays, but there aren’t many sites that give very in-depth basketball analysis that I have seen that are team-specific as well. I love this blog mostly for its recruiting information, keeping me very up-to-date on the future, but there is not a ton of heavy analysis of plays and such. Also Brian clearly writes from a Michigan fan’s perspective, so I don’t think you can blame him for any bias while Dylan is extremely unbiased in his writing, sometimes even more so than what I would like to see from a Michigan blog.

      As for Indiana, they are playing well lately but I agree that they struggle more away from home. Let’s keep in mind though as Dylan pointed out that these won’t be away games for anyone and Indiana will have one of the bigger crowds in attendance, so I could see them springing an upset or two.

    • Kenny

      absolutely agree. I do not question Brian being a genuine Michigan fan, but he does have far more passion in football than basketball. He was never a fan of John Beilein, or his brand of basketball, and very possibly watches the successes of this program in a big dilemma as he never predicted such kind of successes and was calling for Beilein’s head 13 month ago. All such sentiment can be read from his writing about michigan basketball.

      • Jordan

        I think your criticism of Mgoblog is unfair – Brian loves Beilein. Brian’s initial concern with Beilein was that he would have a ceiling similar to what he accomplished at WVU given his past recruiting track record (finding hidden gems, but not landing the top-100 guys). Since that time Beilein has obliterated this concern with outstanding recruiting and we can all agree the future is very bright. Interestingly, this is a similar concern Brian had of Hoke, which has been similarly obliterated.
        Regarding Fvsdevin’s statement about Brian giving this team “some damn credit”, I think he has given credit by saying how they’ve overachieved given the make up of the current roster. People are upset here and on Mgoblog with Brian relying on Kenpom to point out that Michigan has been fortunate to win a share of the B1G given that they have only outscored opponents by .05 PPP while OSU and MSU have outscored opponents by .17 and .16 PPP, respectively. These are the exact same numbers that Dylan uses in this very post.

        In the end all that matters is W’s and L’s – anyone who says otherwise is missing the forest for the trees. You can call it luck, the will to win, or grit, but the bottom line is Michigan achieved the same number of W’s and L’s as MSU and OSU despite performing worse on per possesion basis than those two teams. That is a fantastic accomplishment. However, when predicting the repeatability of past events it is useful to look at these numbers and acknowledge that Michigan may have overachieved. I think some people interpret that as “not giving credit” for the great season Michigan has had.

        • Jordan

          All that being said, UMHoops is the gold standard for bball because Dylan expertly toes the line btwn tempo-free advanced stats and qualitative analysis. This post is a perfect example. He starts out laying out what the numbers predict based on past performance (tempo-free aerial, log 5, etc), then he outlines the intangible reasons why the future might not play out how the past stats predict (Branden Dawson’s injury, NW playing for their tourney lives, IU’s home crowd).

        • Kenny

          The fan base’s opinion on Beilein is far more polarized than what Hoke has received. Beilein is a much better known when he was hired, for both his strength and weakness, and received far more criticism during his tenure to this day, with Brian being one of the leading voice. Look, I love Brian for his confrontation with Rothenberg over the stretchgate and his play-by-play analysis on football is simply second to none among college sport blogs. But his writing on basketball was never of the same high quality and not even close. 

          Having Wisconsin rated among # 5 most of the season already expose enough weakness of Kenpom and so called tempo free statistics. And having memphis which has a 23-8 record and a #49 ranked SOS rated 9 spots ahead a team who has an identical 23-8 record and a #2 overall SOS and blew them out on a neutral court further expose the deficiency of the methodology.

          I am not sure if anyone has been tracking the performance of prediction using such numbers, and compute how “luck” a team would need for their achievement under the prediction model. if a lot of “luck” is needed, then there is some important factors that the model misses. 

          • serious

            Please don’t point to two teams’ ranking (out of 345!) in Kenpom that you disagree with and bring the whole system down with it. This is nonsense.

        • davis104

          I think the big part of Michigan’s success in close games this year is that they have two guards in Burke and Hardaway who have been excellent at the end of games in big close-out shots. TImmy who has struggled has hit some really clutch shots and Burke has been money at the free throw line.

  • BlueRoses

    If we do see a Michigan Ohio semi — will the local fans be rooting for Michigan because of Zack and Stu?

    • gpsimms

      the last few years I’ve been, the ohio turnout has been pretty strong.  Also, I was shocked how even though um basketball has been down the past 20 years, the general non-michigan big ten fan seems to be pretty strongly anti-michigan.

      so, no, i wouldn’t bet on it.

      • gpsimms

        moreover, i just remembered in bloomington, the students broke out into a “F*&# you novak!” chant after he took a foul.

        i was absolutely stunned.  why do they hate him so much?  it’s not like he spurned IU to come UM.  in fact, he asked if he could walk on to basketball by being on the baseball team at IU and they said ‘no thanks.’

        • a2sk

          Novak is hated at other B10 schools for the same reasons we love him.  He plays aggressive basketball, doesn’t shy from giving contact as well as taking charges, etc.  There was a play in the Indiana game (I think) at Crisler, when he flattened an IU player away from the ball after the two tangled arms under the basket (it was in one of the five key plays).  He may have felt justified in doing it, but it doesn’t go unnoticed by fans of the teams they play (glad the refs didn’t see it!).

          • gpsimms

            yeah i remember that play.  it’s just hard for me to imagine hating a dude, who would’ve given anything to play at your school.

          • Oldguyy

            He also injured Verdell Jones’ shoulder with an unsportmanlike hard foul when Michigan had a foul to give at the end of the first half.  No, not a lot of love in the league for a dirty player.

          • 1. That wasn’t Novak.
            2. That wasn’t an unsportsmanlike foul.
            3. It was Matt Vogrich, perhaps the least physically imposing player on Michigan’s roster.

      • BlueRoses

        Thanks for the feedback.  I guess we’ll just have to win anyway.

    • rlcBlue

      On the one hand, DeShaun Thomas was an Indiana Mr. Basketball (from Fort Wayne). On the other hand, Thomas chose to go to school out of state…

      But how many people show up at Conseco without a rooting interest? I would have thought not many. Granted, there’s not much strategic rooting to be done once your team is eliminated; you have to think the fans of whichever team won the first semi would be rooting for Michigan – because they’d think we’d be easier to beat…