Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, March 15, 2015
The 2015 NCAA tourney bracket is set. Let?s break it down, as the Big Ten looks to win its first NCAA title since Tom Izzo led Michigan State to the crown in 2000 in Indianapolis, which happens to be the site of this year?s Final Four.
[ MORE: Seven Big Ten teams make NCAA tournament ]
Overseeded: No. 10 Indiana. A case could be made for Purdue, a No. 9 seed in the Midwest, too. But the answer here is the Hoosiers, who many felt were on the bubble entering the Big Ten tournament and likely headed to a play-in game. Somehow, a victory over Northwestern in the second round of the Big Ten tourney jumped the Hoosiers all of the way to a No. 10 seed. Good for them.
Underseeded: No. 7 Michigan State. The Spartans aren?t playing like a No. 7 seed, winning 11 of 14 down the stretch and pushing Wisconsin to overtime in the Big Ten title game. Had MSU won the Big Ten title game, it possibly could have notched a No. 5 seed. Still, even with a loss to the Badgers on Sunday in Chicago, the Spartans have the look and feel of at least a No. 6 seed. So sorry, Sparty.
Best opening matchup: I like No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 10 Georgia. Some think MSU will ?destroy? Georgia. We shall see. The Bulldogs are one of the better teams in the SEC and gave UK a recent battle in the Athens. The Bulldogs played a tough schedule, can get after foes defensively and feature three seniors in Marcus Thornton, Kenny Gaines and Nemanja Djurisic.
Best chance for an upset: How about No. 10 Ohio State over No. 7 VCU? Both of these teams are athletic, but the Buckeyes have more size-and they also have a super star in D?Angelo Russell, who can win a game himself. Plus, I like Ohio State seniors Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson. VCU, coached by Shaka Smart, has a better seed than OSU but a worse BPI. This could be a shoot-em-up game with lots of points and full-court action.
Best chance to be upset: No. 7 Iowa needs to be careful vs. No. 10 Davidson in what should be an entertaining game with lots of points. The Hawkeyes are coming into the Big Dance on a bit of a downer, losing to Penn State in the Big Ten tourney. Iowa matches up well with Davidson, Steph Curry?s alma mater which is a well-coached team that has earned its first-ever at-large bid. Will Iowa be dialed in?
Toughest potential third-round game: There are plenty of doozies to choose from, but all pale in comparison to No. 9 Purdue vs. No. 1 Kentucky-David vs. Goliath. The lifting won?t get any heavy than this for any team, taking on a 35-0 monster that?s dancing with history. If the Boilermakers somehow win, it will be one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tourney annals. And a movie surely will be made about it.
Teams most likely to advance to Sweet 16: Gotta like No. 1 Wisconsin?s chances in the West with No. 16 Coastal Carolina and probably No. 8 Oregon as obstacles. (The Badgers beat the Ducks in last year?s Big Dance, 85-77.)
No. 4 Maryland, the next-highest seeded Big Ten team, can make it to the second weekend with games vs. No. 13 Valparaiso and No. 5 West Virginia, a rival.
Look at the potential third-round games for the remaining teams:
- No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Virginia
- No. 7 Iowa vs. No. 2 Gonzaga
- No. 9 Purdue vs. No. 1 Kentucky
- No. 10 Indiana vs. No. 2 Kansas
- No. 10 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Arizona
Best chance to reach the Final Four: This one is easy-Wisconsin, the No. 1 seed in the West. The Badgers open vs. No. 16 Coastal Carolina. Then-by higher seed-Wisconsin figures to face No. 8 Oregon to reach the Sweet 16. Then waiting figures to be No. 4 North Carolina and No. 2 Arizona. Beat the Tar Heels and the Wildcats, and Wisconsin figures to meet No. 1 Kentucky in the Final Four for a second season in a row. The Badgers lost to the Wildcats in last year?s Final Four, 74-73.
Sleeper: How about No. 7 Michigan State? As mentioned above, the Spartans feel a bit underseeded. This is a team that has found its groove, and while it does have a potential third-round matchup with No. 2 Virginia looming, many feel this isn't the same Cavaliers team as it was earlier this season. Also, physical teams that can rebound match up against Virginia, and that would describe Michigan State.
Best potential team matchup: We have a chance to see No. 1 Wisconsin take on No. 2 Arizona in the West Region final. Win that, and Midwest Region No. 1 Kentucky likely looms in the Final Four for the Badgers. Will Wisconsin have senior guard and big-shot maker Traevon Jackson back? He has been out since Jan. 11 with a foot injury, which required surgery on Jan. 15. Some think Wisconsin will try to keep Jackson out the first two games and bring him back in the Sweet 16. Stay tuned.
Best potential player matchup: Some good ones. How about Oregon guard Joe Young vs. Wisconsin?s Bronson Koenig? They could meet in the second round. Young was the Pac-12 Player of the Year. Koenig is a rising star who continues to get better and better since taking over for injured Traevon Jackson in January. We also could see the Badgers? Frank Kaminsky take on Kentucky big men Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns in the Final Four. Sweet.
Fun factoid: Michigan State is in the NCAA tournament for the 18th consecutive season, tying the Big Ten record (Indiana, 1986-2003). Not enough? It's also tied for the fourth longest such streak in NCAA history.
|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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