Busting Brackets

Big Ten Basketball: 2024 conference tournament preview and predictions

Purdue v Michigan
Purdue v Michigan / Mike Mulholland/GettyImages
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Key Teams

The favorite: Purdue

Purdue has dropped three games in conference  this season, but it’s hard to be too dissuaded on picking the Boilermakers to match their regular season title. That’s largely because of Painter’s efforts to add and develop dynamic support around Edey rather than hoping high talent pieces can fit together. Point guard Braden Smith may not be the level of player Jaden Ivey was in terms of athleticism or NBA talent, but the sophomore guard has become the perfect facilitator and spacer to play with Edey. Smith is averaging 7.2 assist per game this season to 2.7 turnovers. His perimeter shooting of 44.6% on 101 attempts highlights his ability to both play within Painter’s system and make defenses pay if they over-help in the post. Another key is the addition of transfer Lance Jones, who offers a speed and defensive athleticism that Painter’s teams have sorely lacked the last couple of seasons. If Painter is going to get over the hump of tournament mishaps, this is the season.

Biggest threat: Illinois

If the Illini can find a way, any way, to slow down Edey should they meet in the finals they’re a team with the offensive firepower and diverse skillset to give the Boilermakers trouble. Granted, their best chance of winning it all is that the Boilermakers don’t meet them at all during their run. Coleman Hawkins is an interesting big that can stretch the floor out with his shooting. Forcing Edey to extend his deffensive range is really your only shot to get even remotely decent looks near the basket. If you get Edey defending in motion maybe you can get Marcus Domask some decent chances attacking.

Keep an eye on: Michigan State

We’ve waited for months to see if the Spartans could reach the potential that their roster holds and it looks like we may never truly see it. Izzo’s team has their back against the wall as a buble team that needs to beat the teams seeded below them. As games slow down and possessions become more important, guard play becomes king. And Michigan State does have the talent in the backcourt to have an advantage against most teams throughout the country. If AJ Hoggard takes care of the basketball and Malik Hall is able to score within the arc the Spartans can be a feisty team despite clear flaws downlow. If Izzo can trust Carson Cooper to impact the boards and the Spartans limit opposing offensive rebounds, we might be asking how Michigan State pulled it off in March yet again.