Weekend Wrap: Buckeyes to the Final Four; Spartans, Hoosiers, Badgers FallPosted by jnowak on March 25th, 2012
Four teams enter, one team leaves. The Big Ten had four representatives advance to the second weekend of NCAA Tournament play, but just Ohio State — considered by many to be the toast of the league for much of the season before Michigan State emerged as Big Ten Tournament champions and the conference’s lone #1 seed — will be suiting up in New Orleans next weekend. Here are a few thoughts from the weekend’s action:
- Tom Izzo was right — The esteemed Michigan State coach, who knows a thing or two about getting through March, has recognized all along that this is not his most talented team but it had as much capability as any other because of its intangible qualities. Because of this, Izzo has also said all along that the group’s margin for error was smaller than maybe ever before. That came to fruition against a red-hot Louisville group on Thursday, as the Spartans turned in one of the worst offensive performances of the tournament. The Cardinals never allowed the Spartans to get into a rhythm and it led to an early exit. If it’s any consolation, Michigan State has been eliminated by a Final Four team in six of the last eight seasons.
- Does Ohio State have what it takes? — The Buckeyes are Bourbon Street-bound, but can they win two more games? They wouldn’t have to play the top team in the tournament (Kentucky) presumably until the national title game, and have shown that they can keep finding ways to win. They did it without Jared Sullinger for most of the first half Saturday, and William Buford and Deshaun Thomas were both pretty quiet. If everything clicks for this group, they can certainly hang with anybody.
- Wisconsin: Underachievers? Overachievers? Somewhere in the middle? — Before Syracuse fell to Ohio State, they snuck by another tough Big Ten foe in Wisconsin on Thursday. The Badgers have had ups and downs this season, including a puzzling three-game losing streak that included two straight home losses, but basically finished the year right about where you’d expect to see a Bo Ryan club. With the departure of some veteran leaders last season, there was a lot of pressure placed on Jordan Taylor. But he got help from role players like Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren, and Josh Gasser. Nobody will be sleeping on this group next year.
- All in all, a fantastic year for Indiana — In all reality, we could have seen this coming a year from now. But probably not this season. Tom Crean has had the Indiana program on a slow upswing since he arrived in Bloomington, but he took a larger step this year than he has in each of his previous seasons at Indiana combined. The Hoosiers burst back onto the national scene with offensive firepower, tenacity and a rowdy basketball environment back on campus. If Cody Zeller sticks around for at least one more season, the Hoosiers will be able to sustain this level of excellence and, this time, they won’t be sneaking up on anybody.