Today’s hive will be a bit shorter than normal as I am currently in Washington DC on a trip to lobby congress members to continue, or preferabbly increase, funding for Astronomy research. It has been an interesting experience meeting with congressional staffers and telling them about the important benefits that federal funding of Astronomy can bring to their state and the United States as a whole. It is also cool to get a more inside look into the legislative process and how things actually work in DC. The downside is that it leads to a long, exhausting day and I think my feet may be bleeding from all of the walking.
Thursday marks the beginning of the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament and hopefully the men’s basketball team will fair better than the women’s team did last week. In anticipation of the start of the tournament, I take a look at the first day’s matchups and make a mostly poor attempt at predicting the winners.
8 seed Iowa vs 9 seed Illinois
The 8 vs 9 game is traditionally the best game of the first day and this game promises to be close though I cannot gurantee good basketball. Illinois has pulled off some big wins this season, beating both Ohio State and Michigan State but that was before the team fell apart; since the MSU game the Illini have lost 8 of their last 9 games and Bruce Weber has essentially become a dead man walking. The one Illinois win recently was a home game against the Hawkeyes who have pulled off impressive upset wins over Indiana and Wisconsin in the past month but also lost to Northwestern in that time period. Iowa is too inconsistent and Illinois will be playing in a futile attempt to save Weber’s job, the Illini win a close one.
5 seed Indiana vs 12 seed Penn State
It is a statement to the strength of the Big Ten this year that Indiana has to play on the first day, it is also a statement to the fact that the tournament was re-organized due to Nebraska joining. This game doesn’t require much analysis, Indiana has beaten great teams this year at home and Indy is essentially a home arena for them, as well as for Purdue. Meanwhile Penn State barely remembers they have a men’s basketball team, I think the Penn State women’s team could do better. The Hoosiers pound the Nittany Lions.
7 seed Northwestern vs 10 seed Minnesota
Both of these teams have had dissapointing seasons and need a deep run, if not the tournament title, in order to have a good hope of making the NCAA tournament. Northwestern has been better than their record indicates, beating Sparty at home and falling just short against Ohio State and Michigan. Minnesota has lost 6 of their last 7 games but most of those were to the top teams in the conference, they did upset Indiana earlier in the year. These two teams split their regular season meetings with the home team winning each time, neither will have the help of a home court here. I give the edge to the Wildcats who are playing for a chance at their first ever NCAA tournament berth.
6 seed Purdue vs 11 seed Nebraska
These two schools met in the championship game of the Women’s Big Ten Tournament with Purdue winning in double overtime, neither of these teams is likely to win the men’s tournament. The Boilermakers finished the season going 6-6 but all of the losses came at the hands of ranked team while Nebraska has lost 8 of their last 9 with their only winning coming against struggling Illinois. The Boilermakers show the conference newcomers a quick exit.