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While the NCAA Tournament is without question a national treasure, the madness comes at a cost—sometimes, teams with a combined 18 losses will play for the right to credibly call themselves the best team in the country. For the most part we all play along, accepting that the bounces and breaks that necessarily play a large role in a single-elimination tournament do nothing more than lead us to the correct answer. It’s not random, it’s clutch. Or so we say.
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As the lone Big Ten team still standing, Wisconsin has finally broken through for its first Final Four under Bo Ryan. Can the Badgers keep it going? We’ll find out Saturday night as Wisconsin will take on Kentucky in a national semifinal.
Minnesota avoided a crushing end to the season by pulling out a tight win over Florida State in Tuesday’s NIT semifinal.
America’s High Five was locked out of the Final Four, as both Michigan State and Michigan fell in the Elite 8. And while each team lost for very different reasons, it was peculiar that both games came down to the other team scoring three points after the defense forced a contested heave from 23 feet.
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Up until Saturday, plenty of college basketball fans appreciated Bo Ryan’s coaching ability in a patronizing, half-insulting kind of way. Yes, he’s a fantastic Big Ten coach, that much is beyond dispute.
Michigan State arrives in the Sweet 16 on a five-game winning streak, with fans and analysts around the country espousing the Spartans as one of the main contenders for the national title. First things first – to reach the Elite Eight, Michigan State must defeat Virginia tonight at Madison Square Garden.
Wisconsin is one win away from Bo Ryan’s first-ever Final Four after destroying Baylor last night. The Badgers scored 1.11 points per possession, and frankly, it should have been higher. Baylor largely stuck to its zone all night long, but what a strange zone it was. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a zone where four players are on one side of the court—the side without the basketball:
Michigan has strolled into the Sweet 16 with nary a challenge, beating Wofford and Texas by a combined 31 points. The level of difficulty ramps up considerably tonight as the Wolverines take on Tennessee in Indianapolis. Casual fans may look at the seed matchup – a 2-seed against an 11-seed – and conclude that this will be a cakewalk for Michigan, but that’s nowhere near the truth.
Three Big Ten teams remain in the NCAA tournament’s Sweet Sixteen, with Wisconsin first taking the floor against Baylor on Thursday night.
Every Big Ten team remaining in the Round of 32 advanced to the Sweet 16, but it wasn’t easy for a couple of those teams. Wisconsin found itself in one of the most entertaining games of the Tournament thus far, but it did not look promising for the Badgers in the first half. Facing a team that could not miss, Bo Ryan’s team found itself in a 14-point hole just before the half. But Wisconsin came roaring out of the gate in the second half, and narrowed the gap to just one point by the first TV timeout. From that point on, it was a back-and-forth affair until the last minute or so.
Ohio State dropped a tight one against an in-state “Little Brother,” which had to make the loss all the more frustrating. There wasn’t anything especially unique about this loss—once again, Ohio State’s offense stalled out when it had to play in the half-court. The outside shooting was tepid (3 of 12 on 3s), and the ballhandling was suspect (the Buckeyes turned it over on 21 percent of their possessions; Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross each had five of their own). And on the 27 occasions when Ohio State had an opportunity to rebound one of its frequent misses, Thad Matta’s team came up with the ball just three times.
With the rest of the conference’s NCAA tournament teams already done with their first games, Nebraska will be the lone representative in action today. At 12:40pm ET, the Huskers will seek the first NCAA tournament win in program history as they take on 6-seed Baylor in San Antonio.
Michigan was rewarded for an excellent season with a 2-seed in Milwaukee, where the Wolverines will get their tournament started today against Wofford.
After an impressive run to the Big Ten tournament title, Michigan State became a trending pick to reach the Final Four. That journey starts today with a 4:40pm ET tip against Delaware. Do the Spartans have any reason to worry about the Blue Hens?
In a fitting end to a frustrating season, Iowa lost yet another close game to a good team, this time to Tennessee in overtime.
Today at 12:40pm ET, Wisconsin will begin its bid to get Bo Ryan that elusive Final Four appearance with a matchup against American. This one will be played in Milwaukee, so the crowd figures to include a heavy contingent of Badger faithful. That will help, but this is a game where Wisconsin doesn’t figure to need much of a boost.
Two teams whose campuses are a mere 75 miles apart will clash today in Buffalo, NY, as Ohio State takes on Dayton.
While I will always associate the initial Thursday and Friday games of the NCAA tournament with the term “first round,” the NCAA tournament’s first round officially will be played tonight and tomorrow in the form of the play-in games. On Wednesday night, a Big Ten representative will look to advance from Dayton, as Iowa takes on Tennessee in a battle to become the Midwest Region’s 11-seed.
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On Sunday morning, with just a handful of games left to be played, we took a last look at the Easy Bubble Solver. As a reminder, the Easy Bubble Solver involves adding together the KenPom rank and RPI rank for every team, then ranking them in ascending order. It’s a way to get a feel for which teams are in the field without spending all the time necessary to scrutinize every team’s resume.
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On Friday morning, we checked in with the Easy Bubble Solver, a quick and easy way to get the lay of the land as pertains to the NCAA tournament bubble. Two days later, the landscape has changed. Let’s reset the Easy Bubble Solver for one last look before the selection committee puts all speculation to rest this evening.
Michigan State rode some hot jump-shooting to an eight-point win over Wisconsin in Saturday’s second semifinal. Right out of the gate, the Spartans were deadly accurate with their perimeter shooting, and there was little the Badgers could do to slow them. Michigan State poured in 43 points in a 27 possession first half, and, when combined with some stout interior defense spearheaded by Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson, it gave the Spartans a 17-point halftime advantage.
Less than 24 hours after making a big comeback to send Nebraska packing, Ohio State nearly did the same to Michigan in Saturday’s first semifinal.
As expected, Michigan State had little trouble bumping Northwestern from the Big Ten tournament in Friday’s final quarterfinal.
There are some that read way too much into the first occurrence of something. Like the hubbub made over the choice of an opening day pitcher, or the superstition that you can tell how a season will go by the first play. We Geeks pride ourselves in believing no such thing. We value large sample sizes over the random outcome of a single event.
A central tenant of Nebraska’s offense under Tim Miles has been to embrace your inner ballhog (our words, not his). While this approach may not win you many friends at the YMCA, it’s a perfectly acceptable strategy in the world of college basketball. With fewer passes, you have fewer turnovers, and a low-turnover offense is in itself more efficient. Sure, you won’t shoot great percentages, and you won’t get many assists (Nebraska is near the bottom of DI in assists per made field goal), but I’d argue that this collection of Huskers just isn’t build to shoot high percentages anyway.