Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Congratulations Iowa...
As I predicted, minus the opponent, Iowa clawed through a highly competitive Big Ten tournament to grab the crown. The Hawkeyes, who finished one game out of their first Big Ten regular season title since 1979, earned it with a nice win over a very good Ohio State squad. Here's hoping it carries the black and gold deep into March.

Let the Madness ensue...
As a die-hard college basketball fan, there is flat out no better time on the sports calendar than March. The madness starts with all the bubble talk and bracket projections, and only gets more deafening when the brackets are announced. So-called experts ridicule the Selection Committee in an annual rite of passage. And then, the games begin.

It would have been nice to get seven, but Michigan will have to carry the flag in the NIT. Not a bad deal. Heck, the Wolverines won it the last time they had their bubble burst, so who knows. They need a good run in Ann Arbor to feel better about where Amaker is leading the program. But I digress. We all know that the only tournament that truly matters is the NCAA Tournament. After all, it is a $6 Billion business!

With that, here is what I expect each team to do on the Road to the Final Four:

Illinois: The Illini slipped to a four seed and play the one team who's very existence in the tournament has been questioned by just about everyone - Air Force. The Falcons play a Northwestern/Georgetown/Princeton style on offense - one Illinois has played against a lot even this season. I like the Illini to take out the Fly Boys and advance to the Sweet 16 with a win over Utah State. Yep, there is one of your year-in-year-out 12-5 upsets. The run ends there as UConn, my pick to cut down the nets, nips the Illini in a close one.

Indiana: The Hoosiers definitely played their way in with a surge when it mattered most - late in the season. With nothing to lose, the Hoosiers are dangerous. But so is first round opponent San Diego State. Do the cream and crimson have enough gas left in the tank to make a run? I think they get past SDSU but fall to eventual Final Four team Gonzaga in the second round. Let the coaching search begin!

Iowa: I've heard more than one expert call an upset here, but I'm not buying it. Iowa is a tough tournament team. They have seniors. They can control tempo. They are playing really well right now. Northwestern State goes down with ease, but then it gets tough. West Virginia ran deep last year and is interesting this year too. Still, the Big Ten is too good to lose this game. Iowa gets to the Sweet 16 but loses to Texas in a heartbreaker.

Michigan State: The Spartans got a huge win with the quarterfinal victory over Illinois and almost made the Big Ten Tourney finals. That got them off the seven line and into the six spot. Allegiance aside, I like the draw. George Mason is good but without their best player after he got a little too personal with a player from Hofstra in the CAA Semis. North Carolina is playing well but has virtually no tournament experience. Tennessee is the most overrated two seed I can recall. Bottom line? I like Michigan State to get it together, like they always seem to do and run to the Elite 8 before a loss to eventual champ UConn.

Ohio State: You have to wonder had they won the Big Ten Tourney if the Bucks would be the 1 out west in place of Memphis, but they aren't so let's go with where they are. I like this team. A tough big man, a team capable of shooting lights out from three. Even on cold days, the scarlet and gray are capable of beating good teams. I like the Buckeyes to beat up on Davidson, squeak past the Hoyas, beat an athletic Florida team and then shut down Villanova to get yet another Big Ten team to the Final Four.

Wisconsin: The Badgers have the toughest first round contest but have the team and the coach to do some damage in this tournament. I expect an overtime win over Arizona and then an overtime loss to Villanova in round two. But, don't sleep on Bo Ryan's Badgers, because they could shock their way deep into the tournament a la 2000 if opponents aren't careful.

My Final Four is: Connecticut, Gonzaga, Duke and Ohio State.
My Title Game is: Connecticut versus Duke
My Champ is: Connecticut.


Dan Meyer said...

At the risk of making Big Ten Sports Fan look like Eeyore, my picks: Ohio State beats LSU for the title with Illinois and Memphis also in the Final Four. Michigan State makes the Elite Eight; Iowa and Wisconsin the Sweet 16 and Mike Davis has one win coming as well.

P.S. Congrats to the Gophers tonight!

felix said...

Realistically, I don't see any B10 teams making the F4. However, I'd love to be surprised.

Go Illini, go B10!

BigTenSportsFan said...

Wow, a simply splendid start for our beloved Big Ten Conference. Indiana and Illinois with compelling victories, and Michigan and Minnesota overcoming NCAA snubs to win NIT games. If not for the refs jobbing Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center the other night, we'd have an unblemished mark. Fight on Big Ten!

felix said...

Wow! That was over rather quickly.

After the huge disparity in free throws in both the Illini and Hoosier games combined (80-17)I am of the opinion the B10 needs to look at how we officiate games. Our teams are not ready for the eway games are called in the tourney.

I know at least for the Illini this has been the case for quite a few years but it also seems to be the case throughout the league.

During the 9 games played by the B10 during the tourney we had only three games where we had more free throws than (we won two of these games and lost one)our opponents and that by an average of 6 FT/g.

In the remaining 6 games(1 win and 5 losses) we were out shot at the FT line an average of 15 Fts per game.

My Illini were out shot at the FT line in both games, 14-18 and then 11-39. The pundits like to blame this on an over reliance of shooting 3s by the Illini but the facts despute this conclusion.

Against the Air Force the Illini shot 22, 3s, out of 50 shots (44%of the offense)from the field while the Air Force shot 27, 3s, out of 41 shots (66%of the offense). Despite relying more on the 3 for their offense Air Force shot more Fts (14 Ill-AF 18) .

In the game aginst Washington the Illini shot 18 3s out of 63 shots (29% of the offense)while UW shot 15 out of 45 (33% of their offense). Here agin the Huskies shot more Fts. This time by the astonishing margin of 39 to 11.

Either the officiating is very questionable in it's consistency (I don't doubt this) or our team's just don't know how to deal with the type of calls that will be made in the NCAAs. It may be both.

In the other 6 games

Dan Meyer said...

OOPS! Best not leave the day job to start a psychic hotline.