Bob Asmussen: Michigan's the team to beat

Bob Asmussen: Michigan's the team to beat

THE SCHEDULE

Want to know which of this week’s games are worth your time? Here’s help from Bob Asmussen, who had his best week of the season after going 7-4. Asmussen promises another banner week of predictions. And if he does as well as he thinks, he plans to enter the Quicken Loans NCAA tournament contest. That will be $1 billion, please. Pay up, Warren Buffett.

SATURDAY
Indiana at Michigan
5 p.m., ESPN
Any hopes for the Hoosiers to earn an at-large NCAA berth ended with Wednesday’s home loss to Nebraska. The bigger goal now is to finish ahead of Illinois and Minnesota in the league race. And to get Noah Vonleh back on the court. The Wolverines want to give the selection committee more reasons to make them a No. 2. Asmussen’s pick: Michigan, 98-80

Illinois at Iowa
7:30 p.m., BTN
Iowa is trying to catch Nebraska for fourth place in the Big Ten. Why does it care? Because fourth place means taking Thursday off at the Big Ten tournament. We could all use some extra rest. Asmussen’s pick: Iowa, 87-78  

SUNDAY
Northwestern at Purdue
11 a.m., BTN
The battle for last place in the Big Ten wasn’t supposed to be between these two. Something has gone horribly wrong in West Lafayette. Somewhere, Gene Keady is shaking his head. Asmussen’s pick: Purdue, 65-56

Michigan State at Ohio State
3:30 p.m., WCIA (CBS)
When it scheduled this game way back when, the big shots at the network thought they were getting a potential title game. Michigan messed up that plan. Asmussen’s pick: Michigan State, 77-73

Penn State at Minnesota
4:15 p.m., BTN
This is a must-win for Richard Pitino and the Gophers. Past games that met that criteria have not gone well. Maybe this time. Asmussen’s pick: Minnesota, 80-70

Wisconsin at Nebraska
6:30 p.m., BTN
The formula for Nebraska is pretty simple: Beat the Badgers and you probably earn an NCAA bid. The win at Indiana was huge. Great run by the Badgers to move up the NCAA pecking order. Asmussen’s pick: Nebraska, 60-59

THURSDAY
Big Ten tournament
First-round games
8 seed vs. 9 seed, 11 a.m., BTN
5 seed vs. 12 seed, 1:30 p.m., BTN
7 seed vs. 10 seed, 5:30 p.m., ESPN2
6 seed vs. 11 seed, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2

FRIDAY
Quarterfinals
Michigan vs. 8-9 winner, 11 a.m., ESPN2
4 seed vs. seed 5-12 winner, 1 p.m., ESPN2
2 seed vs. 7-10 winner, 5:30 p.m., BTN
3 seed vs. 6-11 winner, 8 p.m., BTN

And the winner is ... Michigan.
Going into the final weekend of play, the Big Ten tournament seedings are a jumbled mess. But to quote the great Bill Murray from “Meatballs,” “It just doesn’t matter.” Why? Because the Big Ten champions are going to leave Indianapolis with another trophy. Just a hunch that Michigan wins each of its Big Ten tournament games by double figures. And that Nik Stauskas (above) is named the tournament MVP.

THE LISTS

ILLINOIS MVP

PLAYER    PREVIOUS
Rayvonte Rice    2
Kendrick Nunn    1
Nnanna Egwu    3
Maverick Morgan    —
Tracy Abrams    —

Bob Asmussen’s take: When you get blown out at home, nobody looks good. Nunn had eight points, six rebounds and four assists in the upset win at Michigan State, one of the most impressive games of the season for the Illini. Rice continues to lead the team in scoring by a wide margin. It has been a good first season for the ex-Charger, but 2014-15 figures to be even better. He played well against Michigan State, scoring 10 points with five rebounds and five steals.    
 
BIG TEN MVP

PLAYER    PREVIOUS
Nik Stauskas, Michigan    1
Terran Petteway, Nebraska     3
Gary Harris, Michigan State    2
D.J. Newbill, Penn State    4
Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa    5
Asmussen’s take: The list remains mostly unchanged except for Harris and Petteway swapping places. Nebraska wouldn’t be in the position it is in without the Texas Tech transfer. He figures to be a lock for the All-Big Ten first team. And Stauskas is close to a lock for Big Ten Player of the Year. He might have sealed it with the performance against Illinois, which clinched the outright Big Ten title for Michigan.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

ROOKIE    PREVIOUS
Kendrick Nunn, Illinois    3
Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin    5
Derrick Walton, Michigan    —
Troy Williams, Indiana    —
Noah Vonleh, Indiana    1
Asmussen’s take: Vonleh drops down after missing a couple of games because of injury. Williams stepped up in his place against Nebraska, scoring a team-high 18 points. Walton is coming off a nine-point, seven-rebound, five-assist effort. Where would the Wolverines be without their impressive rookies? Not at the top of the Big Ten standings.

COACH OF THE YEAR

LEADER    PREVIOUS
John Beilein, Michigan    1
Tim Miles, Nebraska    4
Bo Ryan, Wisconsin    3
Tom Izzo, Michigan State    2
Fran McCaffery, Iowa    5
Asmussen’s take: Because of the way these awards work, there is a good chance Miles will win. Voters love to reward people who do the unexpected. And Nebraska was picked to finish 12th before the season. Miles is exceeding expectations by a long shot. The amazing part: He is only in his second season at the school. Give the Nebraska administration a pat on the back for hiring  him. Of course, somebody was going to steal him away from Colorado State at some point.

DANCE CARDS

Teams in the NCAA field, or not
SCHOOL    STATUS
Michigan     Lock
Michigan State    Lock
Wisconsin    Lock
Iowa    Lock
Ohio State     Lock
Nebraska    Bubble
Minnesota     Bubble
Indiana    NIT
Purdue    NIT
Illinois    NIT
Northwestern    Next year
Penn State     Next year
Asmussen’s take: The Nebraska bubble is bigger and stronger than the one Minnesota sits on. Some bracketologists have Nebraska firmly in the field, while others are not so sure. Don’t buy into the winning conference record helping Nebraska lock up a bid. The selection committee members who talk about it always say the overall record and number of quality wins is most important. Conference record, good or bad, has little to do with teams that make the cut. Just to make sure, Nebraska and Minnesota can help themselves by advancing a round or two in Indianapolis. Remember, the committee will hang out nearby. That has to be an asset for the Big Ten next weekend. Purdue needs to win at least one more game to play in any postseason tournament.

THE STANDINGS

With Selection Sunday a little over a week away, copy editor David Burleson starts preparing basketball junkies for the Big Dance by telling us what the Big Ten teams would be if they were a popular move being busted at your cousin’s wedding reception:

Michigan:     Crank That Soulja Boy     Elite force getting motor primed for deep run

Wisconsin     Madison     Nothing flashy, but they get the job done

Michigan State:    Electric Slide     Everyone is back on floor and getting in sync

Nebraska:     YMCA     Fun time in Lincoln

Ohio State:    Loco-Motion     Buckeyes tend to get on track in postseason

Iowa:     Mashed Potato     Defense too soft

Minnesota:     Achy Breaky Heart     Probably will be a gopher’s tooth away from an NCAA invite

Indiana:     Hokey Pokey     Hoosiers all turned around

Illinois:    Bump     Goodbye Big Dance, hello NIT

Penn State:     Twerk     Like Miley, they look ridiculous

Purdue:     Limbo     How low can they go?

Northwestern:     Robot     Bunch of stiffs

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