Purdue is favored, but odds say to expect a wide-open Big Ten tournament

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Purdue center Zach Edey (15) cuts between Illinois forward Coleman Hawkins (33) and guard Luke Goode (10) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in West Lafayette, Ind., Sunday, March 5, 2023. Purdue defeated Illinois 76-71. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The Purdue Boilermakers won the Big Ten regular-season title by a comfortable margin after going 15-5 in league play. No other team posted better than a 12-8 clip in conference action.

But don’t let that fool you, because the Big Ten was as unpredictable as ever with 10 different teams winning double-digit games. The Indiana Hoosiers and Northwestern Wildcats were 12-8 against conference opponents, but there wasn’t much separating them from the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and Wisconsin Badgers, both of whom went 10-10 in league play.

As a result, this year’s Big Ten tourney could be as competitive as ever if the reeling Boilermakers are unable to cut down the nets. Seven different teams are priced at 13/1 or better to win this year’s tournament, which is slated to begin on Wednesday and wrap up on Selection Sunday.

So who will prevail inside the United Center in Chicago this weekend? Let’s find out.

2023 Big Ten Tournament odds from FanDuel Sportsbook

  • Purdue +175

  • Indiana +450

  • Michigan State +650

  • Maryland +850

  • Northwestern +1100

  • Illinois +1100

  • Iowa +1300

  • Michigan +1500

  • Penn State +2500

  • Rutgers +4000

  • Wisconsin +5500

  • Ohio State +7500

  • Nebraska +8500

  • Minnesota +25000

Favorite: Purdue (+175)

Purdue is a deserving favorite, but a +175 price tag seems to be a bit steep for a team that has lost four of its last eight games. 

The Boilermakers will have plenty of motivation, as they are fighting for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They have the best player in the sport in Zach Edey, who is going to win National Player of the Year after averaging 21.9 points and 12.8 rebounds per game.

Purdue’s young backcourt remains a concern, which likely won’t be exposed early in this tourney. Purdue is slated to face the winner of Rutgers vs. Michigan on Friday for a spot in Saturday’s semifinal round.

Sleeper: Illinois (+1100)

Illinois has a case for being the most talented team in the league, but Brad Underwood’s squad rarely has played to that level. The Fighting Illini looked like a force when they defeated UCLA in a midseason tournament in Las Vegas, but they are the No. 7 seed in this tournament after losing two of their last three games in the regular season.

When they are on, it is tough to defend the likes of Terrence Shannon and Matthew Mayer. But counting on them to win four games in as many days could prove to be a problem, as Illinois ranks 332nd in the country with a 3-point percentage of 31%.

Illinois will face Penn State on Thursday to kick things off and could face a vulnerable Northwestern team on Friday in the quarterfinal round with a win. Ken Pomeroy projects Illinois to earn a 73-72 win over a hungry Penn State squad in the opening round.

Pick: Indiana (+450)

The Hoosiers are one of four teams who earned a double-bye in this event, and their draw was as good as you could get. Assuming Indiana opens with Maryland, that is an ideal start. The Terrapins have picked up 16 of their 20 wins at home this year but have been a completely different team when not playing in College Park.

Indiana will avoid a potential meeting with Purdue until the championship game, but Mike Woodson’s group has actually won both meetings against the conference frontrunner this year. The Hoosiers are lethal in the pick-and-roll with Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino, which gives them a good recipe to win meaningful games in March.

At +450 with a favorable path, Indiana has a chance to win its first tournament title this weekend.

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