NCAA Tournament Instareaction: Big Ten Teams

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 11th, 2018

Below is a review of how the selection process concluded for each Big Ten team and what they should expect in the first few rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Can Michigan stay red-hot in the Big Dance? (

  • Purdue, #2 seed, East Region. Fatigue played a role in Purdue’s late-season slide, which makes its first-round draw — a Friday match-up against Cal-State Fullerton — especially beneficial. While the Titans are the most aggressive squad in the country, scoring nearly 25 percent of their points at the free throw line, no team in the NCAA Tournament surrenders fewer points at the charity stripe than the Boilermakers. Isaac Haas and the rest of his front line should have no problem limiting Fullerton’s paint production. A potential second-round game with Arkansas could be a different story. The Razorbacks play an uptempo brand of basketball and have the size up front — 6’11” freshman Daniel Gafford (11.9 PPG, 2.1 BPG), in particular — to compete. Still, whether it winds up being Arkansas or Butler, expect Purdue to reach the East Regional in Boston.
  • Michigan State, #3 seed, Midwest Region. Despite a 29-4 record and regular season Big Ten title, Michigan State fell to the #3 line because of its dearth of Quadrant 1 wins. As a consolation prize, the Spartans get to play in Detroit, where they’ll take on Patriot League champion Bucknell. The Bison are a balanced, cohesive group that nearly upset #4 West Virginia in last year’s Dance. They also have size up front (namely 6’10” all-league center Nana Foulland) and considerable depth. Michigan State’s size and talent should ultimately overwhelm the Bison, but a harder-than-expected match-up could make the Spartans’ Second Round game a bit more interesting. Arizona State and TCU are two of the best offensive units in the country, while Syracuse boasts the tallest lineup in college hoops.

  • Michigan, #3 seed, West Region. Few teams in the country enter the NCAA Tournament as hot as Michigan, which handled both Michigan State and Purdue en route to last weekend’s Big Ten Tournament title. The Wolverines were rewarded with a #3 seed — something that seemed unfathomable just a few weeks ago. In Montana, they’ll take on the only #13 or #14 seed ranked inside the KenPom top 75. The Grizzlies are a balanced group that does not rely heavily on three-pointers, as nearly 80 percent of their points are scored from inside the arc or at the free throw line. Unfortunately, many of those points come off turnovers, and the Wolverines (13.9% TO Rate) simply do not cough it up. It’s hard to envision Montana generating enough half-court buckets against Michigan’s elite defense. A potential second-round game with #6 Houston, though, could be interesting. With wins over uptempo Arkansas and grind-it-out Cincinnati, the Cougars have proven capable of beating good teams of any style.
  • Ohio State, #5 seed, West Region. After losing three of its last five games to end the season, Ohio State looks to hit reset button in the Big Dance. With South Dakota State looming on Thursday, that will be easier said than done. Not only are the Jackrabbits among the 50 most efficient offenses in college basketball, they boast one of its most gifted offensive players in Mike Daum (23.8 PPG, 10.4 RPG), who ranked sixth nationally in scoring this season. San Diego State is also the only team in America with a lower turnover rate than Michigan. While the Jackrabbits should be able to score, the question is whether they can also slow down Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop, an offensive superstar in his own right. Even if the Buckeyes avoid the upset, the payoff — a likely matchup with red-hot Gonzaga (#8 in KenPom) in Boise — would be less than ideal.
Tommy Lemoine (246 Posts)

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