Perhaps the most compelling angle of the Big Ten Tournament is the high volume of teams sitting on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Coincidentally, nearly all of them -- Northwestern, Michigan State, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Illinois -- start play Thursday after receiving a single bye on the first day.
Popular sentiment suggests Northwestern has likely earned the first berth in program history, while Illinois is a prohibitive dark horse.
Even so, a team's March Madness stock can rise or fall rapidly in this meager sampling, which should make for intense games at the Verizon Center.
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Here arer the odds to win the Big Ten Tournament, courtesy of BookMaker.eu:
Michigan State +925
Ohio State +2700
Penn State +3300
THE FAVORITE: Purdue +170 (risk $100 to win $170): Led by potential national Player of the Year Caleb Swanigan, the Boilermakers (25-6, 14-4) were the top team in the conference from the opening tip. They won the regular season by two games over Maryland and Wisconsin, which tied for second.
Purdue overcame early-season issues with poise and execution in road games by winning four of its final five away from home. Perhaps its most impressive effort in that span was Sunday's 69-65 win at Northwestern. The Boilermakers didn't need the game, but they played with high intensity from the start.
Even so, I?ll pass on Purdue at this meager price because, in order to reach the final, it will need to win two games against opponents likely coming from the pool of those desperate to improve their profiles.
VALUE PLAY: Michigan State +925 (risk $100 to win $925): The Spartans (18-13, 10-8) stumbled down the stretch with three-point losses to Illinois and Maryland, putting them in position to need a strong run this week.
They are in position to do so, with a likely quarterfinal matchup against a Minnesota team they swept in the regular season. And they would no doubt relish a third chance at Purdue in the semifinals after getting swept by the Boilermakers.
LONG SHOT: Iowa +3,500 (risk $100 to win $3,500): Mired in inconsistency most of the season, the Hawkeyes (18-13, 10-8) finally showed their potential by winning their last four games.
They still probably need some help to reach the Big Dance, but it's not inconceivable that they could make a deep run. If they were to beat Indiana, a rematch looms with Wisconsin, which they beat on the road in the penultimate regular-season game.
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Iowa's offense is clicking and its defense and rebounding have improved, making this a viable long-shot wager.
PICK: Michigan State +925 (risk $100 to win $925): I expect the Spartans to do what it takes to ensure their inclusion in the Big Dance, and seeing them in Sunday?s title game would hardly come as a surprise.
They have a relatively favorable draw, and I like their chances against any opponent from the other side of the bracket. This is a strong overlay on a club that historically saves its best for this time of year.
Penn State opened as two-point underdogs to Nebraska, while Ohio State was favored by 7.5 over Rutgers. Both games tip on Wednesday from Washington, DC.
Michigan upended Illinois by 20, likely eliminating the Fighting Illini from NCAA Tournament contention. Michigan State, Indiana, and Northwestern all won by at least 20 points. No close games on Thursday.