Merriman: Here's how I rank Big Ten's NCAA wins
There’s a reason they call it March Madness. No matter how hard we try to get it right every year, no matter how many times we pick a winner, change it, and then go back to it again, the NCAA tournament always leaves us with a bevy of unforeseen results. A 7 vs. 8 matchup in the championship game… Who could have possibly guessed that? But that’s what makes this tournament so enjoyable.
The 2014 tourney has been a memorable one for the Big Ten. While it will be 14 years now since the conference has produced an NCAA Tournament champion, Big Ten teams did post a solid 10-6 mark in the tourney and saw three teams make it to the Elite Eight.
Wisconsin was the last Big Ten team standing, losing a heartbreaking 74-73 matchup to Kentucky in the national semifinals. It was the Badgers’ first Final Four appearance since 2000 and the first during coach Bo Ryan’s 13-year career in Madison.
With that said, let’s take a look back at this year’s memorable tournament and rank the Big Ten wins, 1-10.
1. Wisconsin 64, Arizona 63 (OT) – Elite Eight. This was arguably the best game of the entire tournament, regardless of conference. Frank Kaminsky had one of the top individual performances of the tournament, scoring a game-high 28 points and grabbing 11 rebounds to lead the Badgers to a spot in the Final Four.
2. Michigan State 61, Virginia 59 – Sweet 16. If you’re not a fan of great defense, this game probably isn’t too high up on your list. The Spartans held No. 1-seeded Virginia to just 35 percent shooting from the field en route to a 61-59 victory and a spot in the Elite Eight. Brandon Dawson was outstanding in this one, posting a huge double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds and leading the Spartans to their eighth Elite Eight appearance in the past 15 seasons.
3. Michigan 73, Tennessee 71 – Sweet 16. The Wolverines appeared to have this one all locked up, but Tennessee’s suffocating defense limited Michigan to just one basket over the final 3:40 and forced four turnovers in the final 1:37 to get back into the game. The Volunteers had a chance to tie it or take the lead on the last possession of the game, but Michigan’s Jordan Morgan stood his ground and took a charge with six seconds remaining, which helped seal the two-point victory for Michigan and a spot in the Elite Eight. What a finish.
4. Wisconsin 85, Oregon 77 – Round of 32. Trailing by double-digits at halftime, the Badgers outscored the Ducks 48-28 in the second half en route to an impressive 12 point win and a spot in the Sweet 16. Ben Brust hit a 3-pointer with 1:07 left to put the Badgers on top for good in a game filled with huge runs. Frank Kaminsky led the way with a game-high 19 points, while Traevon Jackson added 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists in this offensive battle.
5. Michigan State 80, Harvard 73 – Round of 32. Harvard was on the verge of completing what would have been one of the top upsets in the tournament, but a late Travis Trice 3-pointer helped spark MSU’s offense as the Spartans closed out the game on a 20-11 run and avoid the upset. Branden Dawson was nothing short of outstanding in this one, shooting 12-of-15 from the floor en route to scoring a career-high 26 points.
6. Michigan 79, Texas 65 – Round of 32. The story of this game was Jordan Morgan’s ability to shut down Texas big man Cameron Ridley. The Wolverines’ senior captain held the 6-9, 285 pound Ridley to just six points and made sure that the Longhorns’ size advantage down low was not an issue in this game. Morgan added a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds en route to leading the Wolverines to a Sweet 16 date with Tennessee.
7. Wisconsin 69, Baylor 52 – Sweet 16. The Badgers were outstanding on the defensive end in this one, holding a talented Baylor team to just 32 percent shooting from the field. On the offensive end, Wisconsin shredded the Bears’ daunted zone defense, shooting 52 percent and hitting six 3-pointers in the win. Frank Kaminsky led the way with a game-high 19 points and an eye-popping six blocks in the win.
8. Michigan State 93, Delaware 78 – Round of 64. This game should be known as The Adreian Payne Game, as the Spartans’ big man was simply unstoppable in this opening-round matchup. Payne set a Michigan State tournament record with a career-high 41 points, which also marked the first 40-point performance in the NCAA Tournament since Steph Curry did it for Davidson back in 2008. As far as the game goes, it was never that close as the Spartans controlled this one from start to finish en route to an impressive 15 point win.
9. Michigan 57, Wofford – Round of 64. This one didn’t start off pretty, but the Wolverines relied on good 3-point shooting and defense to secure an opening-round victory over Wofford. Michigan held Wofford to a 34 percent shooting clip and a measly 1-of-19 mark from 3-point range. Nik Stauskas scored a team-high 15 points, while Jordan Morgan added a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
10. Wisconsin 75, American 35 – Round of 64. Despite the final score, American actually led 19-13 with seven minutes left in the first half. From that point on, it was ALL Wisconsin, which finished the game on a ridiculous 62-16 to make everyone forget about the slow start. Traevon Jackson scored a game-high 18 points and Ben Brust chipped in 17 points, 12 of which came from downtown.