Let the Madness ensue…
If you’re at all like me, you are like a kid at Christmas time right now. Tossing and turning at night. Wondering to yourself if you picked the right (inevitable) early round upsets in your bracket. Going over the ways that your team can advance to college basketball’s holy land despite a less than ideal draw. Dreaming of buzzer beaters, bracket busters, Cinderella stories and a shifting of power in the world of college hoops (that is to say, down goes Duke!). Folks, there is no better sporting time of year than March. Let the madness ensue!
The Big Ten fared right on par with what I expected.
· OSU nabbed a one seed – though I cannot figure out why they got sent South (and Florida to the Midwest) or how they didn’t get the number two if not number one overall seed for the tourney.
· Wisconsin got a number two and gets to stay close to home. It was well earned though I had fear for the Badgers based on no Brian Butch for at least part of the tournament.
· The rest of the four in got the “Slurpee” seeds (thanks Dan) – that is 7 to 11 – except of course Illinois who got a 12. No arguments on any of the places Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State and Illinois landed but I wonder why Illinois ended up being so close to out in this field?
Speaking of Illinois, Bruce Weber and Co. should be sending flowers and thank you notes to the Selection Committee. Everyone knows that at least one number 12 seed make a serious run every year and with Illinois, we’re talking about a battle tested Big Ten squad. Sweet 16, here they come.
Indiana got a tricky draw. Gonzaga first, then a possible match-up with UCLA. Neither looks at all easy. But I like this Hoosier squad with Sampson at the helm more than I did those with Davis running the show.
Purdue gets a nasty opener with underachieving but powerful Arizona. Arizona is a team that early in the season looked to be a top three seed somewhere. Welcome back to the tourney Boilermakers!
Michigan State is in sort of the same boat, though any of the 7-10 or 8-9 match-ups work out this way. Teams from (mostly) major conferences that had decent but not great seasons fall into this area. What you get is 16 really hungry teams hoping to bust the brackets.
So, how do they fare?
Last year was one to forget for the Big Ten. There were no Big Ten teams in the Sweet 16 for the first time in recent memory. Iowa and Michigan State were upset in the first round. Wisconsin also lost in the opening round. Ohio State, Illinois and Indiana followed over the weekend. So, will that change this go around? Yes, it will.
Ohio State has a team built to make it to Atlanta. The odds are in their favor, but in the south bracket, I like the Buckeyes to get to the Elite Eight before dropping a thriller to Texas A&M.
Wisconsin is a team that has me on the fence. If the peripheral players step up while Brian Butch mends his elbow – this team stays very dangerous. If it becomes a stand around and let Alando carry us “fest” look out. I think the Badgers make it to the Sweet 16 where Notre Dame takes them out in a heartbreaker.
Indiana, as I noted above, has a tough, tough draw. Gonzaga might be a man down right now but seemed to rally around that factor late in the season. The Bulldogs are no stranger to the tournament and these teams did battle last year. As long as IU is hitting from outside and doesn’t forget DJ White, it makes some noise. Indiana gets to the second round before dropping to UCLA.
Purdue draws Arizona with Florida looming for the weekend. Arizona beat another No. 9 seed from the Big Ten last year (Wisconsin) and wants a shot at Florida. Purdue gives it a great effort, but Arizona has a lot of talent just waiting to wake up. Purdue bows out in the first round.
Michigan State has an equally daunting task as a nine, though against a Marquette team short the Big East Defensive Player of the Year and it’s second leading scorer. What makes MSU dangerous for Marquette and potentially UNC is the defense and rebounding. That plus a hot night from Neitzel gets State to the second round where the Tar Heels just have too much fire power and keep Izzo and his team out of the Sweet 16.
Illinois has the best draw of the so-called Slurpee seeds. Number 12s always do damage and I have not been impressed with the yo-yo season of the Hokies. Illinois beats up on Va Tech and then handles state-mate Southern Illinois before falling to the Jayhawks and former Illini coach Bill Self in the Sweet 16.
So, there you have it… one Elite 8, two Sweet 16s, two second rounders and an early ouster.
Congrats to phatsdawg for the best Big Ten Tourney performance (9-1). Buckeye Nation keeps it interesting by giving up two games of his three game lead to yours truly.
It gets tricky with the tournament, but let’s pick it like I did above. For every round you predict a team to get to, you get a win. If they exit earlier or later than predicted, that is a loss. So, based on the above, if it happens that way, I would go 15-0. If OSU makes it to the Final Four, I go to 14-1. Make sense?
1 – Buckeye Nation: 90-22 (.804)
2 – Gamm: 89-23 (.795)
3 – Dan Meyer: 88-24 (.786)
4 – phatsdawg: 86-26 (.768)
Coming soon, a look back at my preseason previews and how they compared with reality…