What’s the best part of the NCAA tournament? It’s the upsets. They are what we remember from year to year.
Many are picking the No. 11 seed Gophers to knock off No. 6 UCLA in the first round of their South Region clash. Yes, Minnesota is in a funk, losing three in a row and seven of 10. But this still is a talented, athletic and physical team that’s capable of big things with players like Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe, among others.
Bracket makers didn’t do Michigan State any favors, putting it in the Midwest Region—which most experts feel is the toughest with No. 1 overall seed Louisville sitting atop it. That said, the Spartans get to play the first weekend in Auburn Hills, Mich., and if they advance to the second weekend, they play in Indianapolis.
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Michigan guard Trey Burke is focused on the here and now, trying to net his first NCAA tourney win after the Wolverines were dumped in the first round of the Big Dance last season by Ohio. But Burke was asked where he’ll be playing next year. His answer: “I don’t know.” Let’s kick off daily links right there.
This team has a legit shot to advance to the Final Four and cut down the nets. It also has a shot to get dumped in its second game by the winner of the No. 5 VCU-No. 12 Akron game. Get by the first two games—including the opener vs. No. 13 South Dakota State–and No. 1 Kansas may be lurking in the Sweet 16 of this tough South Region.
Wisconsin may be under-seeded as a No. 5, but it could be pushed by No. 12 Ole Miss and Marshall Henderson in the opener. The Rebels are hot, coming off the SEC tourney title. This team can score. But good defense typically trumps good offense. And no one does defense like the Badgers.
The dust has settled after a fast and furious Selection Sunday. Do you have your bracket filled out? If not, there’s time. Until then, check out what some of the Big Ten’s leading pundits are scribbling about.
The NCAA bracket features seven Big Ten teams and that’s no shock to anyone following the conference. And the Big Ten’s power was reflected in four teams being seeded No. 4 or higher—No. 1 Indiana; No. 2 Ohio State; No. 3 Michigan State; No. 4 Michigan. Wisconsin just missed as a No. 5 seed.
And then there were two. No. 2 Ohio State and No. 4 Wisconsin will meet in the Big Ten tourney title game at 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday. The Buckeyes advanced to their fifth consecutive title game by topping No. 3 Michigan State, while the Badgers eliminated No. 1 Indiana.
The Badgers slowed down the prolific Indiana attack, keeping the Hoosiers under 60 points. And this was an Indiana squad that came in averaging 80.8 points in all games. Wisconsin did a great job denying entry passes to the post and rarely offered open looks from 3-point range. Bottom line: It was a textbook Wisconsin victory. You see, this is why Bo Ryan was the Big Ten coach of the year. And, that’s 12 wins in a row for Wisconsin over Indiana.
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Bill Carmody hasn’t gotten Northwestern to the NCAA tournament in 13 seasons on the job. And, he won’t get a 14th try. Today, the school announced Carmody won’t be back. I’m sure it was a difficult decision. But, it was the correct decision.
After a bruising and thrilling two days of basketball, the four top-seeded teams advance to Saturday’s semifinals of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament. No. 1 seed Indiana faces No. 4 seed Wisconsin, and No. 2 seed Ohio State faces No. 3 seed Michigan State.
The Spartans had lots of chances to fold but never did. They came out sluggish and fell behind quickly, ending the first half trailing, 30-20. Wait, it got worse. With 10:55 left in the game, Iowa had pushed its lead to 12 points, 45-33. That’s when the Spartans went to work, chipping away and refusing to buckle.
The Buckeyes needed a few punches in the nose to wake up. Once aroused, Ohio State took it to Nebraska. The Buckeyes shot a robust 59 percent, showing great marksmanship from beyond the arc in nailing 52 percent (9-of-17). The Huskers looked tentative after a good first 10 minutes, committing 15 turnovers. And Ohio State scored 21 points off of those turnovers to go along with 13 fast break points. Add it all up, and you can see why Ohio State won by 21 points.
The Badgers were able to dictate the pace, playing a low-scoring, grind-it-out affair. Michigan? It wanted to play this game in the 70s or 80s—but it never was able to get on track with its array of high-flying perimeter talent. Wisconsin shot just 38 percent but hit eight 3-pointers to Michigan’s three.
The Hoosiers came out playing rugged defense, forcing Illinois into myriad bad shots in limiting the Illini to 21 first-half points and 25.9 percent shooting and forcing eight turnovers. And that theme continued in the second half in a game that never really was that close, as Illinois shot just 34 percent and had 12 turnovers. Brandon Paul had 16 points but hit just 2-of-13 shots.
The opening day of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament in Chicago had its fair shares of thrills. Now that four teams are headed home and four others are headed on, let’s look at all four of Friday’s tournament matchups.
This was no shock, as Iowa was expected to take care of business vs. the Wildcats. And, it did with efficiency. The Hawkeyes overwhelmed an undermanned Northwestern team with a balanced attack. This is a team on a mission, as Iowa fights for its first NCAA bid since 2006. The Hawkeyes have won three in a row and four of five.
Time and again, Nebraska got right to the rim for easy baskets off of drives. Tim Miles’ squad shot 44.7 percent and hit 12-of-17 free throws. Conversely, Purdue shot 40 percent and hit just 7-of-14 free throws. That basically was the difference in a close game. The Huskers had a two-point halftime lead that they pushed to 11 at one point in the second half.
Penn State stunned Michigan in State College (84-78) and gave them a tight game (79-71) in Ann Arbor. But there would be no nail-biting for Michigan in this meeting. The Wolverines trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half and led by just two points at halftime. But Michigan broke open the game in the second half, shooting 33 percent from three-point range (6-of-18) for the game and hitting 19 free throws to Penn State’s five over 40 minutes.
The Fighting Illini didn’t shoot well (32 percent) but forced 19 turnovers and had 21 points off of those turnovers. Early foul trouble for Minnesota big man Trevor Mbakwe helped Illinois, as the sixth-year senior had just eight points and played only 27 minutes. The Gophers have now lost three in a row but still appear to be a lock for the NCAA tourney.
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Iowa is the school seemingly with the most on the line in the Big Ten tourney, as it is the lone Big Ten team on the bubble. Many seem to think the Hawkeyes need to win just two games to get an at-large berth. Meanwhile for Northwestern, speculation swirls about the job status of Bill Carmody. Could this be the last game he coaches for the Wildcats? Watch the highlight from their last meeting in this post. Thursday’s game starts at approximately 9 p.m. ET
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These squads met in the first round of the Big Ten tourney last season, when Purdue prevailed. And just like the 2012 tourney, this year’s winner will advance to play Ohio State. The Boilermakers bring plenty of mojo to the United Center and could be a dangerous team capable of a run, as Matt Painter’s team is playing its best basketball of the season. See the highlights in this post from the last time these two teams played. Thursday’s game starts at 6:30 p.m. ET.
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How cruel and tough is the Big Ten? When Jordan Morgan’s last-second put back rimmed out against Indiana on Sunday and Michigan lost to the Hoosiers, the Wolverines went from being co-Big Ten champs to being the No. 5 seed in this tourney and having to play an opening-round game. Penn State has no fear of Michigan, beating the Wolverines once and almost knocking them off another. See highlights of the last time they played in this post.
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Most every mock bracket already has these teams in the NCAA tourney. So, what are they playing for in Chicago? Probably just NCAA seeding. No doubt, more was expected from each team entering the season. So, the tourney is a new beginning and chance for redemption for these veteran teams that each went 8-10 in Big Ten action. Don’t be shocked if either one makes an extended run. See highlights of the last time they played in this post. Thursday’s game starts at noon ET and airs on BTN/BTN2Go.