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BIG 10 Championship Tournament Preview
Wednesday, 04/24/2013
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By Bobby Knight: The best in the Midwest ascend upon Columbus starting on Thursday and there is no doubt about it that the heavy favorite will be the host of this year’s tournament The Ohio State University which has won a staggering 167 straight matches at home.  The Buckeyes wrapped up its 8th straight regular season title with another undefeated campaign and they’ll be looking to win the conference tournament for a 9th time.  Minnesota and Michigan both finished 9-2 in conference play but the Gophers got the 2 seed due to beating Michigan 4-3 in Ann Arbor.  Illinois finished 8-3 in conference play and will be the 4 seed which could set up a potential semifinal showdown with Ohio State.  Northwestern, Indiana, and Michigan State each finished 6-5 in conference but the Wildcats get the 5 seed based off a tiebreaker with IU getting the 6 and Sparty getting the 7 seed.   Wisconsin comes in as the 8th seed after finishing 4-7 in conference, Purdue will the 9th seed after going 3-8, and Nebraska (2-9), Penn State (2-9), and Iowa (0-11) finish it out as the 10th, 11th, and 12th seeds. 

Tournament Bracket

Play gets underway on Thursday bright and early at 9am so follow along at the live scoring link and visit the B1G Tournament HQ for results throughout the day.

Weather Forecast for Columbus, Ohio: 
Thursday:  Mostly Cloudy & Windy – High 57
Friday: Partly Cloudy and 62
Saturday: Cloudy and 63
Sunday: Showers and 62

Let’s take a look at the schedule of play along with my predictions for each contest.

1st Round - Thursday:
#8 Wisconsin vs. #9 Purdue – 9 am EST – The Badgers won the regular season meeting 2 weeks ago in Madison by a 4-3 score in a match that saw Purdue jump out to a 3-0 lead before Wisconsin made a furious rally to win the final 4 courts with Oskar Wikberg providing the clincher at 3.  The Badgers only won once on the road (Iowa) so they won’t have the home crowd to energize them this time and I think Purdue gets its revenge and claims the doubles point then comes out strong in singles and captures 4 1st sets and manages to finish 3 of them off in straights.  Prediction:  Purdue 4-1 

#5 Northwestern vs. #12 Iowa 11 am EST – The Wildcats won the regular season meeting in Evanston back on March 10th by a 7-0 score and while Iowa showed some grit at times this year they won’t be any match for Northwestern.   NW takes the doubles point and picks up singles wins at 1, 2, and 6 to cruise into the Quarterfinals.  Prediction:  Northwestern 4-0

#7 Michigan State vs. #10 Nebraksa – 1:30 pm EST – Sparty won the regular season meeting in Lincoln on April 14th by a 5-2 score and I see very little chance of an upset here as Michigan State will claim the doubles point and pick up straight set wins at 1, 4, and 5 to move on.  Prediction:  Michigan State 4-0

#6 Indiana vs. #11 Penn State – 4 pm EST – The Hoosiers won the regular season meeting in State College on March 22nd by a 5-2 score in a match that only saw 1 singles match go to a 3rd set with the rest being rather lopsided.  IU’s strength all year has been the top of its lineup and I see Sam Monette, Josh MacTaggart, and Isade Juneau carrying the Hoosiers through to the Quarters.  Prediction:  Indiana 4-1 

Quarterfinals – Friday:
#1 Ohio State vs. #9 Purdue – 9 am EST – Ohio State won the regular season meeting in Columbus on March 22nd by a lopsided 7-0 score and the hosts probably won’t be too hospitable again.  Buckeyes roll in this one taking the doubles point and getting quick straight set wins from Peter Kobelt, Devin McCarthy, and Chris Diaz.  Prediction:  Ohio State 4-0

#4 Illinois vs. #5 Northwestern - 11 am EST – The Illini won the regular season meeting in Champaign on March 2nd by a 5-2 score in a match that didn’t have many competitive singles matches as the Illini won 4 courts and gave up only 5 games on average in each.  I think this one will be more competitive but Illinois will still be too strong in several spots and after claiming the doubles point will pick up wins from Jared Hiltzik, Stephen Hoh, and Farris Gosea to move on the semis.  Prediction:  Illinois 4-0

#2 Minnesota vs. #7 Michigan State – 1:30 pm EST – Minnesota won the regular season meeting in East Lansing on March 23rd by a 4-3 score in match that came down to a 3rd set at #1 singles which was ultimately won by the Gopher’s Rok Bonin 6-7 7-6 6-3.  Minnesota has had a stellar year but I think Michigan State is going to pull off the surprise of the tournament in this one.  I look for Sparty to take the doubles point to get the early lead and then I expect all the singles matches to be tight.  I like John Patrick Mullane and Gils Linders for MSU at 4 and 5 while I like Jack Hamburg and Leandro Toledo at 2 and 3 for Minnesota.  With Bonin and Pfister in another 3rd set at 1 I think Harry Jadun will clinch it for the Spartans with a 3 set win over Ruben Weber at 6 and the Spartans will be headed to the semifinals.  Prediction:  Michigan State 4-2 

#3 Michigan vs. #6 Indiana – 4 pm EST – Michigan won the regular season meeting in Bloomington on March 31st by a 4-3 score in a match that saw Shaun Bernstein come back from a 5-1 3rd set deficit to win 7-5 in the deciding match at 6.  While I think IU can keep this one close I don’t see it being as close as that previous encounter as Michigan will take the doubles point by winning at 2 and 3 and the Wolverines will get straight set wins from Evan King, Vlad Stefan, and Alex Buzzi.  IU will get on the board with Sam Monette winning and Isade Juneau will be close to a win but the match will get clinched before he can reach the finish line.  Prediction:  Michigan 4-1

Semifinals – Saturday:
#1 Ohio State vs. #4 Illinois – 9:30 am EST – Ohio State won the regular season meeting in Champaign on April 12th by a 4-3 score in a match that saw 2 of the doubles matches go to a tiebreak and 3 singles matches go to a 3rd set.  These 2 also met in the Big 10 Tournament finals a year ago and Illinois stunned Ohio State 4-3 which snapped the Buckeyes streak of 6 consecutive Big 10 Tournament Titles.  Of course both of these 2 previous meetings were in Champaign while this one will be in Columbus.  I see Ohio State taking the doubles point and then picking up straight set wins from Rola, McCarthy, and Diaz to send the Bucks on to the finals.   Prediction:  Ohio State 4-0

#3 Michigan vs. #7 Michigan State  – 1:30 pm EST – Michigan won the regular season meeting in East Lansing on March 14th by a 4-3 score in a match that saw MSU jump out to a 3-2 lead only to see UM come back to take both 1 and 2 singles in a 3rd set.   This has the makings of one of the better matches of the week.  I like Michigan to claim the doubles point and then get a win from Barrett Franks at 3 but MSU will answer with a pair of wins at 2 and 5 from Drew Lied and Gijs Linders before Michigan finishes it off with wins from Evan King at 1 and Alex Buzzi at 6.  Prediction:  Michigan 4-2

Championship – Sunday:
#1 Ohio State vs. #3 Michigan – Noon EST – These 2 met in Ann Arbor this past Sunday and Ohio State rolled to a 4-0 win to clinch the regular season title.  I look for Ohio State to make it 170 consecutive home wins as the Buckeyes take the doubles point and pick up wins at 2, 3, and 5.  Michigan’s lone point will come from Evan King.  Prediction:  Ohio State 4-1 

So after conquering the B1G once again the question is can Ohio State do what it hasn’t done before and go all the way and win the NCAA Championship? 

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