Dienhart: My Big Ten NCAA tourney predictions

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Dienhart: My Big Ten NCAA tourney predictions

With the regular season finished and the NCAA tournament upon us, experts from across the nation are offering their predictions. It’s a fun time, no doubt, and I decided to offer a few predictions of my own. Check out what I see when I look into my crystal ball in this post.

[ MORE: View the official interactive NCAA bracket ]

Which teams will make it to the second weekend of the tourney?
Without a doubt, Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan State should make plans to keep their suitcases packed. The No. 2 Wolverines will dump No. 15 Wofford and then knock off No. 7 Texas. The No. 2 Badgers will beat No. 15 American and then No. 10 BYU. No. 4 Michigan State will dump No. 13 Delaware and No. 12 Harvard. Everyone else will be back on campus by next weekend.

Will any Big Ten team be upset by a lower-seeded team in the opening weekend?
I think Iowa will lose to fellow No. 11 seed Tennessee in a first-round game on Wednesday. But I think every other Big Ten team will win its opening game. But they all won’t be so fortunate in the third round. I think No. 11 Nebraska will lose to No. 3 Creighton. And No. 6 Ohio State will fall to No. 3 Syracuse. The Buckeyes just don’t shoot well enough to take advantage of that Orange zone.

Any Big Ten teams primed to pull upsets?
Yes, but not until the second weekend. No. 4 Michigan State will take down No. 1 Virginia in the Sweet 16 and then No. 2 Villanova or No. 3 Iowa State in East Region final.

[ MORE: Polls: Vote for Round of 64 Big Ten winners ]

How many Big Ten teams will make it to the Final Four?
At least one. And that one figures to be Michigan State. And the Badgers may have a shot, too. Why? Each team looks to have a favorable region. Michigan? Not so much so, although it didn’t have a favorable draw last year and made it to the national final. Don’t sleep on Michigan. The No. 4 Spartans have perhaps the most favorable region, playing in the East with No. 1 Virginia, No. 2 Villanova and No. 3 Iowa State. That’s not much heavy lifting. Conversely, No. 2 Michigan is in a loaded Midwest with No. 1 Wichita State, No. 3 Duke, No. 4 Louisville and No. 8 Kentucky. No. 2 Wisconsin is in a West Region with No. 1 Arizona, No. 3 Creighton and No. 4 San Diego State. No too scary, huh?

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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