Big Ten Breakdown: NCAA Tournament Round Of 64Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 19th, 2013
Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.
Under the assumption that a #16 seed won’t make history this year by beating a #1 seed in the round of 64, the Indiana Hoosiers should be able to handle the game against the winner of LIU-Brooklyn and James Madison. Ohio State was rewarded with the #2 seed out west because it won the Big Ten Tournament and should also be able to win its first game against Iona. The Gaels’ Lamont Jones (23.0 PPG) is a dynamic scorer whose impact should be mitigated by Aaron Craft’s superb on-ball defense. Even though the Hoosiers and the Buckeyes are clear favorites in their first game, the other five Big Ten teams – Michigan, Michigan State, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin – will have their work cut out for them on Thursday and Friday. The following are some key thoughts around each team’s first match-up in the NCAA Tournament.
- Michigan vs. South Dakota State: This could be a trendy upset pick because the Jackrabbits’ Nate Wolters has been one of the hidden gems of the college basketball season. Wolters is more than just a scorer because he gets his teammates involved and will force the Wolverines to play effective defense. But let’s not forget that he will be exposed on the defensive end when guarding Trey Burke and as a result won’t be as fresh offensively. The Wolverines will benefit from playing in Auburn Hills where they will have a decent amount of support and it should help them beat the Jackrabbits to move into the next round. After playing teams very physical teams like Wisconsin and Michigan State, John Beilein’s team should be rejuvenated to play a team outside of the Big Ten who won’t necessarily try to slow down the pace of the game. If the Wolverines are allowed to run, they will take care of business comfortably on Friday.
- Michigan State vs. Valparaiso: Like the Wolverines, the Spartans will have a healthy amount of green and white represented in Auburn Hills for their game against the Crusaders. Bryce Drew’s team won’t necessarily wow you with its athleticism but the Crusaders score very well in the half-court. They have two versatile forwards – Ryan Broekhoff and Kevin Van Vijk – who can spread the floor, but the Spartans have the personnel to lock them down defensively. Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne are versatile enough to defend Valpo on the perimeter and can dominate the boards which will make a big difference in the game. It’ll be interesting to see if Keith Appling can get some of his confidence back because assuming they move onto the Third Round, Tom Izzo will need him to be very effective in the final minutes.
- Wisconsin vs. Mississippi: Even though the Rebels sealed the deal against the Gators in the SEC championship game, they almost coughed it up at the end when Marshall Henderson was pestered by two Florida defenders after he caught the in-bounds pass. Henderson raised his arms in frustration because he thought he was fouled even though Gators’ fans would argue that he couldn’t handle physical defense. If the referees in this game let the Wisconsin backcourt of Traevon Jackson and Ben Brust play their usual bruising style of defense without calling too many ticky-tack fouls, then the Badgers will hound Henderson throughout the game. If that were to happen, Henderson, who gets frustrated very quickly, could become impatient and take way too many poor shots — a perfect scenario for Bo Ryan’s team. Expect the Rebels to get off to a slow start, and Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker hits a handful of big shots, then the Badgers should easily move into the Third Round of the Tournament.
- Illinois vs. Colorado: One of John Groce’s motivational tools during the preseason was to make every one of his Illini players wear a rubber bracelet with the first day of the NCAA Tournament printed on it. This ploy was supposed to remind the players that they would make a return to the Big Dance this season, and it clearly worked as the Illini picked up a #7 seed on Sunday evening. The pace of this game may favor the Illinois guards because Colorado’s wings, specifically Spender Dinwiddie (15.6 PPG), prefers to play up-tempo. DJ Richardson is a solid defender but he had trouble keeping Michigan’s Trey Burke and Purdue’s Terone Johnson from getting past the first layer of defense off the pick-and-roll during conference play. Expect the game to be close but if Brandon Paul is as smart with his shot selection as he was against Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament, the Illini will move into the Third Round.
- Minnesota vs. UCLA: Speaking of the Gophers, they back into the NCAA Tournament with three straight losses to end the conference season. Their offense has been terrible lately but that could be the bright side against the Bruins. The Gophers are due for a good shooting day and after a week to think about their recent slump, they may be able to break out against a UCLA squad that won’t have its second best scorer, Jordan Adams. Shabazz Muhammad will be the best offensive player on the court but if the Gophers can double-team him during key possessions, they will have a good chance to pull off the upset (at least in terms of seeds). Trevor Mbakwe could be the difference in the game because the Bruins may not have seen a physical forward with his stature so far this season and he should dominate the offensive glass.