Five Bold Big Ten Predictions For the NCAA TournamentPosted by Ryan Terpstra on March 14th, 2012
It’s my favorite sports time of year! The NCAA Tournament is here!!! While we all feverishly try and figure out with first round upset to pick, I have some thoughts on how the Big Ten will perform. Will the best conference in the country find success in the Big Dance? Here are Five Bold Predictions…
#1 – Hello, Big Ten. Allow me to embrace you: The Big Ten was the best conference in college basketball this year, and while the league only got six teams into the Tournament, it has five teams seeded as a #4 seed or higher. Purdue is the only seed not “favored” in their game, but don’t be surprised if Purdue is favored in Vegas against St. Mary’s. If you are participating in a pool in Big Ten country, don’t listen to those who call you a homer. All six Big Ten teams will win in their opening game matchups, and I believe that two of them are headed to the Final Four.
#2 – Don’t buy all this Memphis stuff when it comes to MSU: Michigan State earned its #1 seed with a great Big Ten tournament performance, and now everyone’s feathers are all ruffled because they think Memphis could upset the Spartans early. I watched Memphis play earlier this year when they lost to Michigan, and did not come away impressed. They have great athletes, but I have no faith in Josh Pastner as a big-time coach. When it comes to quick turnarounds, no one can scout and adjust like Tom Izzo. It’s almost an art form how well Izzo and his staff prepares MSU for their next NCAA game in less than 48 hours. Finally, Conference USA is no Big Ten, and when Memphis played outside of their conference they lost to Georgetown (twice), Murray State, Louisville, and Michigan. Their best win over a tournament team is against Xavier. Michigan State, meanwhile, just won the Big Ten tournament by beating Wisconsin and Ohio State, two wins much more impressive than anything the Tigers have on their resume. Why should the Spartans be scared again???
#3 – Everyone picking Michigan to go down early is also dumb: Remember last year when Michigan had “no chance” against Tennessee? Yeah, how’d that work out? John Beilein is a solid NCAA Tournament coach, having won a game each time Michigan has made the tournament, and his crew took #1 seed Duke to the limit last year. The Wolverines probably should have been a #3 seed, but in the Midwest Region they actually benefited from a #4. Ohio is much worse team than Belmont, who #3 seed Georgetown drew in its first game. Michigan will take care of the real “Ohio,” and then face defensively-challenged Temple in the next round. I think Michigan can get to the Sweet Sixteen, where they’ll face a North Carolina squad that is just too talented for them to handle.
#4 – Purdue is Kansas’ worst nightmare in the Round of 32: Purdue is a veteran squad that is tough, well-coached, and has a star in Robbie Hummel. They are battle-tested and upped their play late in the Big Ten conference season. This is just about the worst-case scenario for a team like Kansas who, while very talented, is basically just two big stars and then role players. If the Boilermakers can stretch the Jayhawk defense with their shooters, it could be a very tough 2-vs-10 match-up for Rock Chalk.
#5 – Michigan State and Ohio State will make the Final Four: The path is blazed for the Spartans. Missouri could present a challenge in the Elite Eight because the Tigers can score on anybody in the country, but will they get that far? Missouri doesn’t play very good defense, and that makes them susceptible to an upset. Michigan State, meanwhile, just needs to stay balanced and keep playing the same game that won the Big Ten Tournament. Izzo has the team prepared for the Big Dance, and the loss of Branden Dawson seems to be alleviated by the improved play of Brandon Wood and Adreian Payne. Meanwhile, Ohio State has the best talent of any Big Ten team in the Tournament, and I believe the sting of their defeat at the hands of MSU in the Big Ten Tournament championship is enough to motivate the Buckeyes all the way to New Orleans. Jared Sullinger is now stepping outside and hitting the three, adding a new dimension to his game. William Buford has a chance to redeem himself from a poor Tournament last year, and Thad Matta certainly has something to prove after not being able to reach the Final Four as a #1 seed. I say the Buckeyes add focus to their considerable talent and find a way to get to the Final Four this year.