How The Remaining Big Ten Teams Can Make the Elite EightPosted by Brendan Brody (@berndon4) on March 27th, 2014
Three Big Ten teams have been eliminated and three are still standing after one of the most memorable second and third rounds in NCAA Tournament history. It’s obvious that the three teams that are still around took my expert advice, so here’s some more for Bo Ryan, Tom Izzo and John Beilein completely free of charge. Michigan, Wisconsin, and Michigan State can all very well reach the Elite Eight but they are facing really good teams that are playing some of their basketball of the season. Here’s how they can get the best of each of those teams and continue to move forward in the bracket.
- Michigan needs to spread the floor and crash the boards to beat Tennessee: Michigan does a good job with this but they need to make either Jeronne Maymon or Jarnell Stokes guard someone on the perimeter. Tennessee has a clear-cut size advantage, but Michigan presents its own set of unique match-up problems with their skill on the wings. Glenn Robinson III has to have a big game for the Wolverines to advance, as he will have to mix it up down low at times. But he also can utilize his quickness and mid-range game to take one of Tennessee’s big men off the bounce and pull one of the two out of the paint. Robinson and Caris LeVert have to make rebounding a priority against the fourth-best offensive rebouding and 18th-best defensive rebounding team in the country. If they can combine for 12-15 rebounds between the two of them, and Jordan Morgan continues his outstanding play down low, Michigan has a great chance to beat a team quite similar to the Texas team it just defeated.
- Wisconsin needs to contain Brady Heslip and Kenny Chery to beat Baylor: It’s going to be vital for the Badgers to keep Cory Jefferson, Rico Gathers and Isaiah Austin from killing them in the paint. An underrated part of Baylor’s absolute throttling of Creighton was the fact that Chery and Heslip combined to go 9-of-12 from three-point land. Everyone is quick to trumpet the various problems that the Bears’ size and zone defense creates when teams play them, but they are also shooting the ball at a near-lethal rate. Keeping those two from getting clean looks will go a long way toward managing this one. Baylor will get points in the paint simply from their distinct size advantage, but if Wisconsin can limit its outside opportunities, they’ll have a much better chance to hold an offense that just put up 1.42 points per possession against Creighton somewhat in check.
- Michigan State needs easy points in transition to beat Virginia: Everyone knows Virginia likes to slow things down and play deep into the shot clock, but they also do a decent job contesting threes and not letting perimeter-oriented teams bombard them from the outside. They make teams take a bunch of threes with their Pack-Line defense clogging the driving lanes so that this is often the only option teams think they have. This can be reduced in impact, however, if Sparty takes advantage of their elite athleticism. The Michigan State fast break was a thing of beauty in the early parts of the season and it needs to come back in full force against Virginia on Friday night. If the Spartans can get out and run from time to time, Virginia will be forced to play at a tempo they aren’t quite as comfortable with. Easy dunks and layups in transition will negate Virginia’s stinginess when it plays defense in the half-court.