NCAA Tournament Instareaction: Big Ten TeamsPosted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on March 16th, 2014
Six Big Ten teams got into the NCAA Tournament; that’s not too bad. Compared to last year’s seven bids, the conference’s representation seems just OK this year. Over the next two days, debates will rage about which teams were penalized too harshly and which teams were slotted in favorable draws by the NCAA selection committee. Here are a few initial thoughts about the six Big Ten teams in this year’s NCAA field.
- Tom Izzo is smiling again after winning the conference tournament. Three up and three down: the Spartans won the Big Ten Tournament convincingly to prove that when they are healthy, they are one of the best teams in the country. Their potential match-up against Virginia in the Sweet Sixteen should be an excellent game, but more importantly, a game that they can win. There is no team in their region — Iowa State and Villanova included — that has more talent than the Spartans.
- It isn’t surprising to see Minnesota left out of the final 68. There was nothing special about the Gophers’ resume this year outside of their win over Iowa. They won the games that they were supposed t0, but never really impressed the committee with any big wins. Plus, their thumping loss (83-57) to the Badgers in the Big Ten Tournament certainly didn’t help their case. Regardless of the final outcome, Richard Pitino did a fine job leading the Gophers to 20 wins in his first campaign, especially considering that Andre Hollins was dealing with injuries for most of the conference season.
- Upon further review, Ohio State’s #6 seed doesn’t seem unreasonable. One could argue that the Buckeyes were seeded too low in this bracket, but similar to the Gophers, their resume was only good-not-great. Their big wins included close games over the injury-plagued Spartans, the slumping Badgers (in January) and the defensively-challenged Hawkeyes. The Buckeyes finished last week as a member of the Top 25, but that ranking is a bit deceiving because they were ranked too highly in the preseason and their non-conference schedule was relatively easy. They rode the inertia from their performance of the first two months, but they didn’t deserve a higher seed than this one
- Iowa’s slump was taken very seriously by the committee. Losing five out of its last six games heading into the Big Ten tournament and losing to a subpar Northwestern team when Iowa arrived there really hurt its seed, as the Hawkeyes were dumped into the play-in game against Tennessee. Fran McCaffery’s team needs to dig itself out of this hole, but even if they did win on Tuesday night, they will face an underrated Massachusetts team in the second round. Just a month ago, the Hawkeyes were eyeing a protected seed, but clearly, getting beat regularly and handily due to sloppy defense in the Big Ten did not do them any favors.
- If the Badgers want to prove that they can score at the national stage, they will have their shot against Oregon. All season long, we’ve talked about Wisconsin’s dynamic offense – specifically, the effectiveness of Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker with the ball in their hands. They will need every one of their starters to bring their A-game offensively because the Ducks can fill up the scoreboard, as indicated by their 1.09 points per possession on the season. While the Badgers are excited about their team’s ability to score against superior defenses, they will need their old-school defensive attitude back because they need to find a way to stop Oregon’s offense.