What Are Big Ten Teams Seeking This Weekend?

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 19th, 2015


While it’s unlikely that all seven Big Ten teams will still be around at the end of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, each has something to gain from even just one win. None of the matchups on Thursday and Friday are overly imposing, and in actuality, many of them seem to be pretty equal. The Round of 32 could be a different story, but here’s what each team has on the line with a quality opening weekend performance:

Troy Williams will need to play well for IU to advance.   (Chris Howell/Herald Times)

Troy Williams will need to play well for Indiana to advance. (Chris Howell/Herald Times)

  • Indiana: This NCAA Tournament appearance is all about showing that the program hasn’t hit a wall under head coach Tom Crean and it’s about quieting the critics that have been out in full force this year. A win over a Wichita State squad with plenty of excellent experience in four starters who made the Final Four two seasons ago would be a nice victory for a team with no seniors and almost no size. Winning a second game against fellow blue-blood Kansas would give the Hoosiers valuable March experience to build upon with a great majority of the team scheduled to return next season.
  • Iowa: Iowa can regain some of the credibility it lost from last season’s nosedive. The Hawkeyes still have some problems with consistency although they’ve been slightly better in closing out the 2014-15 campaign. Fran McCaffery‘s team avoided the First Four this time around but it still has a difficult opener against the Atlantic 10 regular season champion, Davidson. Just being back in March Madness, though, isn’t good enough for Hawkeyes fans. Mostly the same cast of characters played significant minutes in last season’s opening round loss to Tennessee, so winning a game or two here will show that this talented crew didn’t underachieve during its time in Iowa City. McCaffery doesn’t have to face the same amount of pressure that someone like Crean does at Indiana, but losing early in March once again won’t exactly help him either.
  • Maryland: The Terrapins were ranked for most of the season, eventually making their way into the top 10 at the end of the year. Despite how Maryland fared in the polls, they ended up with only a #4 seed and have a challenging road to the Sweet Sixteen. This means that they need to get to the second weekend to show the committee and others that they were justifiably ranked where they were. They were the second best team in the conference for much of the season, but an early flame-out in March would give the critics of Big Ten basketball plenty of ammunition in saying that the league didn’t deserve seven bids. The Terps need to avoid the upset bug and make a solid run.

  • Michigan State: The second conference team that ended up with a #7 seed, Sparty can erase some of the doubts that have emerged about Tom Izzo losing his recruiting touch with another deep run. If Michigan State doesn’t make it to Indianapolis, Branden Dawson and the other seniors will be the second straight class under Izzo to not make it that far. While it’s doubtful that the Spartans have the firepower this time around, Michigan State beat #1 seed Virginia in the Sweet Sixteen last season. Getting past the Cavs again would put them in position to show that Izzo is still one of the best coaches in the business, someone who can take most any of his teams deep into the Tournament.

    Tom Izzo

    With this guy on the sidelines, its never time to count out Sparty. (Getty)

  • Ohio State: This is all about the legacy that the Buckeyes’ senior class wants to leave. Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson and Amir Williams have all had inconsistent tenures in Columbus, and they’ve become secondary options this year to freshman D’Angelo Russell as he has emerged as a legitimate All-American. Each senior has had his moments over the years, but none of them have ever fully put it together. If each of this trio brings their best efforts and can collectively string together some quality play this week and beyond, their legacies will end up in a much better place than if they lose in their first game in the Tourney for the second year in a row.
  • Purdue: After the program swooned considerably in the wake of losing Robbie Hummel, Jajuan Johnson, and E’Twaun Moore, this year’s postseason is about showing that the program is back to being an annual contender in the Big Ten. Winning a round of 64 game before playing Kentucky would make the 2014-15 campaign a successful one. Even with a loss to the Wildcats, center AJ Hammons can play himself into the NBA Draft’s first round with a big game against Kentucky’s lottery picks. Furthermore, gaining some March experience will help this squad going forward, as many of the key contributors are expected back in West Lafayette next season.
  • Wisconsin: “Final Four or Bust” has to be goal for the Badgers here. They ended up with the #1 seed they felt like they deserved and simultaneously avoided the same region as Kentucky. Losing early to Oregon or Oklahoma State would be fairly shocking and would represent a huge disappointment for this group. Getting Traveon Jackson back and ready to play will help Bo Ryan’s squad as the team moves forward, so contributions from the senior guard and the rest of his limited bench are important if they advance to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond. The non-starters will need to contribute more the further the team advance toward Indianapolis.
Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at brendan.brody@gmail.com, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

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