Busting Brackets

NCAA Basketball: Buy or sell each Big Ten team in 2024 NCAA Tournament?

The Big Ten will send six bids to March Madness with hopes of crowning a champion for the first time since 2000.
Wisconsin v Illinois
Wisconsin v Illinois / David Berding/GettyImages
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Illinois Fighting Illini

As the three seed out of the East taking on Morehead State in the Round of 64, the 2024 Big Ten Tournament Champions are rolling thanks to an electrifying offense behind Terrance Shannon Jr. and Marcus Domask.

In the Big Ten Tournament, Shannon put up 28 points, 40 points and 34 points in three games, a staggering total of 102 points with a 34.0 PPG average.

Shannon’s presence alone makes Illinois that much more dangerous as his explosiveness in transition, high motor and ability to get to the free throw line generate high-efficiency numbers in Illinois’ offense despite his high volume of shots taken.

Although Illinois may have an exceptional offense, its defensive concerns have been the team’s Achilles heel. 

They stand at just 93rd in the country in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom, making them the Big Ten’s worst defensive team in the NCAA Tournament.

Buy or Sell the Fighting Illini?

Illinois is playing its best basketball of the year at the best possible time. Their offense is elite and although their defense has had issues this year, it’s hard to sell on this experienced-laden team.

Interestingly enough, their starting five consists of three fifth-year players (Domask, Shannon Jr., Guerrier), one true senior (Hawkins) and a sophomore (Rodgers).

Their path toward a Sweet 16 and beyond may be tricky as there is the possibility that they will face six-seed BYU, who was the 17th overall seed but was likely moved down a seed line because they cannot play on Sundays.

Is this the year Brad Underwood breaks through and gets to the second weekend? I believe so. The experience and explosiveness of this group will pay dividends down the stretch in March. Buy the Illini.

Purdue Boilermakers

Nobody was as dominant as Purdue was in Big Ten play. Standing at 29-4 on the year, the regular-season Big Ten champions will have their sights set on avenging their past March demons as the one seed from the Midwest.

Addressing the elephant in the room, the expectations for a deep March Madness run under Matt Painter are sky-high in West Lafayette considering their previous (and recent) disappointments and given the fact that this is the last time Zach Edey will sport the black and gold.

Is this the year the Boilermakers finally do it? Is this the year they break through to get to Phoenix?

Despite falling to Wisconsin in the Big Ten semifinals in heartbreaking fashion, it almost felt like a blessing in disguise for them. Sometimes, especially in the world of college basketball, it takes a loss to refocus on what’s ahead -- which is bringing home the national championship in Purdue’s case.

The key for Purdue to make a deep run doesn’t necessarily circulate Zach Edey. Zach Edey is, quite frankly, Zach Edey and will be a shoo-in for a 20+ point, 10+ rebound outing on a given night.

The key is their supporting cast. Can Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer, both a year older, handle the pressure and knock down enough shots? Can Lance Jones, who has given Purdue that “spark” offensively continue to provide that veteran presence? Can Trey Kaufman-Renn or Caleb Furst hold down the fort if Edey gets into foul trouble?

Buy or Sell the Boilermakers?

Although Purdue has struggled in March in the past, I believe this year is different for Matt Painter’s group. 

The Boilermakers received a favorable draw in their side of the bracket, taking on the winner of TCU/Utah State of the 8/9 game followed by a potential Sweet 16 matchup against Bill Self or Mark Few’s most vulnerable teams in recent memory. 

Another positive? They will play their first two games in Indianapolis, meaning there is no doubt Boilermaker faithful will be out in full force in the first weekend.

Ranking backcourts that could lead their team to the Round of 32 in the Midwest Region. Ranking backcourts that could lead their team to the Round of 32 in the Midwest Region. dark. Next

If Purdue wants to break through, this is the year to do it. Buy the Boilermakers.