I mentioned in my article about the ACC that it might be the cream of the NCAAM crop, but you could make an argument that the Big Ten is the best of the conferences. Last season, the Big Ten had the most teams in the March Madness tournament. I don’t think the eventual overall champion will come from the conference, but we can focus here on the conference champion.
Indiana is a bit of the hot pick and is currently listed as the favorite for the conference. I’m a little confused by it, but I think because they have brought back more than half of their team from last year, the expectation is that they will make a huge leap forward. They do have a couple of good incoming players that will likely make a difference for the Hoosiers. But, keep in mind they weren’t a very good team to start the year last year and needed to make a late run to get into the tournament – where they lost immediately. I’m not in any hurry to rush to the window for a ticket on them.
Michigan sits as the second favorite in the conference. If I recall correctly, everyone expected Michigan to be awesome last year. They ended the season much better than how it started after they made it to the Sweet 16. However, they lost seven players and are only bringing back two or three guys that made any real impact last season. I think this might be more of a nod to the school’s name and its head coach Juwan Howard. In order for Michigan to win, they will need a team approach because there isn’t much of a superstar on the team.
Illinois is the third favorite in the conference and I think it is a bit high because they’ve had so much turnover. I’m thinking they probably need this season to reinvent themselves. They do have a couple of incoming players that might be very good additions and keep them relevant, but I’m not sure that this team has enough to actually win the conference. There is some potential that everything clicks and that Illinois turns out to be a really strong defensive team, but I’m not thinking they are going to take it.
To be honest, this is the conference I’m looking to wait until the actual tournament to place a bet on. I feel like I need time to see where some of these questions get answered. If I needed to pick someone today, I’d probably take Iowa or Indiana. I don’t think there is much value on Indiana, but Iowa has a solid team and even with the loss of Keegan Murray, they have his brother, Kris Murray. They will struggle against good defensive teams.
Purdue and Michigan State are the other two teams worth a look here. Purdue will likely rely on their height advantage and need to rethink how they use their guards. If they get enough offense out of their newly inserted starters, I think they could be worth a shot at +650. As for Michigan State, I don’t count them out at any time mostly because of Tom Izzo. I think it will be a tough path, but they could get hot at the right time to steal the conference.
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