Why each Big Ten NCAA team should win, could lose tourney opener
With a No. 2 seed (Purdue), a pair of No. 3 seeds (Michigan & Michigan State) and a No. 5 seed (Ohio State), the Big Ten is expected to advance all of its teams to this weekend’s Round of 32.
Here are the stats for why each Big Ten team should win, and could lose.
12 South Dakota State vs 5 Ohio State
Why Ohio State should win
- Keita Bates-Diop is the Big Ten Player of the Year. He’s averaging 19.4 PPG, 8.8 RPG and 1.7 blocks per game this season. His length in the matchup with Summit League Player of the Year Mike Daum could be a determining factor in an Ohio State win.
- The Buckeyes are 1 of 10 teams nationally to rank in the Top 30 in offensive and defensive efficiency
- Ohio State outrebounds their opponents by 5.3 boards per game. Meanwhile, South Dakota State is 294th in offensive rebounding, which means the Buckeyes should be able to limit the Jackrabbits to 1 shot.
- Even though the Buckeyes don’t have a lot of tournament experience, Chris Holtmann does. He won at least 1 tournament game in each of his previous 3 seasons (all at Butler), including a Sweet 16 appearance last year.
- Ohio State’s offense should be fluid throughout. South Dakota State is 148th in defensive efficiency nationally and they doesn’t force turnovers much, ranking 347th out of 351 in turnover percentage.
- Ohio State wants to play slow. South Dakota State wants to play fast. If the Buckeyes control tempo, their talent level should win out and they should get the shots they want at their pace.
How Ohio State could lose
- South Dakota State shoots the ball well from 3-point range and from the free-throw line. It is 26th nationally, shooting 39.2 percent from deep and over 76 percent from the line. It has made 361 3-pt FG, which is the 6th-most in D-I.
- South Dakota State plays fast and it is efficient offensively. It averages just under 85 points per game, which is the sixth-most in D-I and it ranks just outside the Top 40 in efficiency.
- The Jackrabbits are the best team in the nation at protecting the ball, turning it over on fewer than 14 percent of their possessions.
- Mike Daum is one of the best players in the nation. He’s the two-time Summit League Player of the Year and has already scored over 2,200 points in just three seasons. Over the last two seasons, he’s averaged 24.4 PPG and 9.2 RPG while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range. He’s at 23.8 PPG and 10.4 RPG this season, becoming one of eight players in the last 20 seasons to average 23 points and 10 rebounds in a season.
- South Dakota State is a team full of experience in the NCAA Tournament. This is the Jackrabbits third straight year winning its conference tournament. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes players lack NCAA Tournament appearance. Jae’Sean Tate is really the only player on the team that played extensively in their last NCAA Tournament, which came in 2015. He started both of those games, playing 60 minutes. The rest of the roster has a combined 38 minutes of NCAA Tournament experience.
13 Montana vs 4 Michigan
Why Michigan should win
- This is easily John Beilein’s best defensive team with the Wolverines. They rank 5th in the nation in defensive efficiency after never finishing higher than 37th previously.
- Beilein has been a very good tournament coach. Michigan has won at least one game in each of their last four NCAA Tournament appearances, which is the longest active streak in the Big Ten.
- Michigan enters this game playing its best ball of the season. It has won nine straight games, with six coming by double digits; it is averaging nearly 77 points per game during its win streak; and it has outscored opponents by nearly 13 points per game in that stretch.
- The Wolverines tempo could frustrate Montana. The Grizzlies like to play fast on offense but Michigan will likely play at its own pace, which is pretty slow (Top 20 in terms of slowest tempo teams in nation)
- Upsets usually rely on teams making 3s. Montana doesn’t shoot it well from deep, shooting 34 percent as a team, which ranks 217th nationally. Only 21 percent of its points come on 3-pointers.
- Montana fouls a lot, ranking 315th nationally in opponents free throw rate.
How Michigan could lose
- If the game is close, Michigan’s free throw woes could be a problem. They shoot 65.7 percent from the line, which ranks 329th nationally.
- Montana is pretty good defensively, holding teams to just 46 percent from 2-point range, which ranks in the Top 40 nationally. It ranks just outside the Top 70 in defensive efficiency as well.
- The Grizzlies like to create havoc on defense. They are in the Top 30 nationally in forcing turnovers, doing so on more than 21 percent of opponents possessions. They also rank in the Top 25 in steals.
- Montana usually does a pretty good job on the glass as well, landing in the Top 35 nationally in offensive rebounding and in the Top 75 nationally in defensive rebounding.
- Montana has two guards that can really score: Ahmaad Rorie and Michael Oguine combined to score 125 points in 3 Big Sky Tournament games. Oguine is also the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year.
- The Grizz have continuity. They are just one of two teams to have the same starting 5 in every game (Central Michigan)
15 Cal State Fullerton vs 2 Purdue
Why Purdue should win
- Purdue has one of the best offenses in the nation. It is second nationally in efficiency and second in 3-point shooting, making 42 percent as a team. It also ranks in the Top 25 in fewest turnovers and Top 35 in 2-point shooting.
- Purdue’s defense isn’t too shabby either, ranking in the Top 30 in efficiency. It ranks in the Top 20 in 2-point defense (allowing 45 percent on 2-point shots) as well.
- Even though Purdue isn’t a good rebounding team, Fullerton is even worse; the Titans are 191st in defensive rebounding and 247th in offensive rebounding.
- Upsets usually rely on teams making 3s, and Fullerton doesn’t shoot it well from deep, shooting 34 percent as a team, ranking 206th nationally. Only 21 percent of its points come on 3-pointers.
- If the refs swallow their whistles, it could be a long day for Fullerton. The Boilers are seventh in opponents free-throw rate, while Fullerton gets to the line more than any team in the nation.
- Fullerton turns the ball over on nearly 21 percent of its possessions, which is outside the Top 300 nationally.
- The Titans don’t guard the 3 well, allowing teams to shoot over 36 percent from deep. They also foul a lot, ranking 217th in opponents free-throw rate
- 2 seeds usually don’t have much trouble with 15 seeds, winning 120 of 128 all-time matchups.
How Purdue could lose
- The Boilers aren’t playing their best ball right now. They’re just 5-4 after winning 19 straight games.
- Cal State Fullerton is the best team in the country at getting to the line (free throw rate of 46 percent) and they convert often. Nearly 25 percent of its points come on free throws, which is the third-most in the nation.
- The Titans are pretty good defensively inside the arc. Teams shoot just 45 perncet against them from 2-point range, which is 21st nationally.
- Fullerton has a couple of good guards in Kyle Allman Jr. and Khalil Ahmad. Allman led the Big West in scoring at 19.4 PPG and has scored at least 20 points in 10 of his last 13 games. He also shoots 43 percent from 3-point range. Ahmad has scored at least 20 points in 10 games this season. The duo combines to average just under 35 points per game.
14 Bucknell vs 3 Michigan State
Why Michigan State should win
- The Spartans join Duke as the only teams in the nation that are in the Top 10 nationally in offensive and defensive efficiency.
- Michigan State is the fourth-best 3-point shooting team in the nation, making more than 41 percent of its attempts. They also rank in the Top 25 in 2-point shooting and make 75 percent of its free throws.
- The Spartans have the second-best 2-point defense in the kenpom era, allowing teams to shoot just 38 percent from inside the arc. They also block nearly 19 percent of opponents shots, which leads the nation.
- Michigan State should be able to control the glass. Bucknell ranks outside the Top 100 in offensive and defensive rebounding. The Spartans are the fifth-best offensive rebounding team in the nation.
- Michigan State has a tendency to turn it over. However, Bucknell doesn’t really force many turnovers, ranking 256th nationally in turnover percentage (17.1 percent).
- Bucknell plays fast, which could play into Michigan State’s hands. The Spartans played a lot of slower tempo teams down the stretch, scoring fewer than 70 points in six of their last nine games. Bucknell’s tempo could allow Michigan State to find opportunities in transition.
- This should be a home game for Michigan State. Detroit is about 90 miles from campus. The Spartans were 17-1 in games played in Michigan this season, including a game in December in Detroit against Oakland.
How Michigan State could lose
- Michigan State turns the ball over on more than 19 percent of its possessions, which ranks 236th nationally. They are also one of the worst teams at forcing turnovers. Only nine teams in the country force fewer turnovers.
- The Bison won’t be scared of the moment. They were a 13 seed a year ago and nearly upset 4 seed West Virginia, only losing by six points. They played at North Carolina early this year and trailed by 5 with fewer than six minutes to go in the game. They return all five starters from last year’s team, and four of them average between 11 and 16 points per game.
- Bucknell is 13th nationally in free-throw rate, plus it’s pretty good on offense, shooting nearly 56 percent from 2-point range, which ranks 23rd nationally.
- Bucknell is one of the hottest teams in the nation, winning 18 of its last 19 games, with five of the last seven wins bring by at least 19 points.
- Zach Thomas and Nana Foulland are the last two Patriot League Players of the Year. Thomas, a 6’7 forward, has scored at least 30 points four times this season and led the conference in scoring (20.3 PPG) and rebounding (9.2 RPG). Foulland, a 6’10” center who has 212 career blocks, also made 60 percent of his shots this season and is averaging 15 points and 7 rebounds.
- Bucknell is solid defensively, ranking in the Top 100 in effective field goal percent (47.6, 34th), 2-pt FG % (46.5%, 49th), and 3-pt FG % (33.2, 70th)