Early Reactions to the Big Ten’s NCAA Tournament DrawsPosted by jnowak on March 17th, 2013
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. It’s Selection Sunday, and the 2013 NCAA Tournament bracket has just been released. Seven Big Ten teams are dancing — Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois — and plenty have a strong chance of advancing deep into the bracket. We’ll have plenty of time to break it down further in the next few days, but here are a few kneejerk reactions to each team’s draw:
- Indiana (No. 1 seed in East Region) — The Hoosiers missed out on the overall No. 1 seed (which went to Louisville, which opens in Lexington and would advance to the Sweet Sixteen in Indianapolis), but they may have found themselves with a better opportunity to make it all the way to Atlanta via this route instead. Rather than being in a region that has No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Michigan State and No. 4 St. Louis, the Hoosiers would have a second weekend group consisting of Miami, Marquette and Syracuse. It’s no picnic, but it’s an easier road than the Midwest. The winner of Temple and NC State winner will be no cupcake, either.
- Ohio State (No. 2 seed in West Region) — It looks like that Big Ten Tournament championship gave the Buckeyes a big boost, and rightfully so. They weathered the storm that is the Big Ten field this weekend in Chicago en route to the school’s third tournament title in four years. They entered the week widely considered somewhere in the #3-#4-seed range, and played their way into #2 seed this weekend. And to think, two months ago, this team hardly had a quality win to its name. Now it’s the hottest team out of the country’s toughest conference. But how will the grueling weekend factor into their opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament? And could they get past #3 seed New Mexico, a trendy Final Four pick?
- Michigan State (No. 3 seed in Midwest Region) — While the Spartans could have been a Final Four pick in other regions, they’re not likely to be a favorite coming out of this one. Their tough draw could start with Memphis — undefeated in conference play — in the third round, and then a Sweet Sixteen match-up with Duke, who many thought deserved a No. 1 seed. Beyond that, No. 1 overall seed Louisville. The good news for the Spartans (beside the fact that they have Tom Izzo on their side)? The first two games would be at the nearby Palace of Auburn Hills, and the second weekend just a few hours away at Indianapolis. Both locations have been very kind to the Spartans in years past.
- Michigan (No. 4 seed in in South Region) — Not an easy draw for the Wolverines, who have been sliding the last few weeks. Michigan has lost three of its last six games, including a first-round exit in the Big Ten Tournament against Wisconsin. For that, they slipped from being in the conversation for a No. 1 seed all the way to a #4, and draw Nate Wolters and South Dakota State in the first round. It’ll be a terrific match-up of two of the best point guards in the country, and if the Wolverines make it through, they’ll get Shaka Smart and VCU. Tough draw, indeed. But the Wolverines, like their rivals down the road, get to play the first two games at the nearby Palace of Auburn Hills and should have plenty of fans behind them. It’ll be supremely interesting to see the dynamic of MSU and Michigan fans in the house, and what teams they latch onto when their respective schools aren’t on the floor.
- Wisconsin (No. 5 seed in West Region) — Could a Big Ten Tournament championship game rematch with Ohio State be looming in Los Angeles? It wouldn’t be until the Elite Eight, but it’s a possibility. But first, how about the possibility of having Bo Ryan and Ole Miss‘ Marshall Henderson in the same interview room? The two couldn’t be any more dissimilar, and should be a treat for reporters in the second round. Should the Badgers advance, a possible match-up with former Illinois coach Bruce Weber would be on the horizon. All told, this is the weakest region in the tournament, and it leaves the door wide open for Ryan’s team to keep on overachieving.
- Minnesota (No. 11 seed in South Region) — This is not a fun draw for UCLA, which won the the Pac-12 this year. The whole year has been about Minnesota’s potential, and if it can be unleashed, the Gophers could help the Big Ten flex its muscles by advancing past UCLA and Florida, which both come from weaker overall conferences. Or we could see the same Minnesota we’ve seen the last few weeks, falling flat on its face in the clutch.
- Illinois (No. 7 seed in East Region) — The Fighting Illini will be a trendy upset pick, if you can call them that, coming up a Colorado team that is as good as any No. 10 team in the bracket. Plenty of really good guard play on display in that game.