The Big Ten earned six bids into the tournament, but failed to earn a #1 seed. There are several teams though that are poised to make a splash and show that the rigorous conference schedule has prepared them for these types of difficult games.
– Michigan: The Wolverines earned a #2 seed in the Midwest bracket. They have a tough road ahead of them with a possible 2nd round matchup against Texas and Duke right after them as a possible Sweet 16 matchup. Duke was projected as a #1 seed a couple weeks ago and will be a very difficult challenge. The Midwest bracket is incredibly deep as they also include reigning champion Louisville, freshman loaded Kentucky, and undefeated Wichita State. If the Wolverines plan on making it back to the Final Four they are going to have to play lockdown defense and Glenn Robinson III is going to have to show up for entire games. They have been overachievers all season long so why not now?
BOLD PREDICTION: Michigan is going to sail past Wofford and handle Texas, but are going to struggle shutting down Jabari Parker and will make an exit in the Sweet Sixteen.
–Wisconsin: The Badgers earned a #2 seed in the West bracket. They have a fairly manageable schedule, and have the best chance of any to make it to the Final Four. First round matchup with American should be a breeze followed up by a mediocre Oregon team. Creighton is the 3 seed that would present a challenge, but the key to beating them is shutting down McDermott and Bo Ryan loves that challenge. The top half of the bracket includes #1 seed Arizona, but they have struggled defending outside shooting teams and when the Badgers are at their best that is exactly what they are. The scoring droughts are going to have to be limited though as evidenced by the Badgers defeat against Michigan State last weekend.
BOLD PREDICTION: Wisconsin is going to skate into the Sweet 16 before knocking off Creighton in a defensive battle. Oklahoma State is going to knock off Arizona with Marcus Smart quietly walking off the court. Wisconsin will then slow down the Cowboys and earn Bo Ryan’s 1st Final Four Birth.
–Michigan State: The Spartans earned a #4 seed in the East bracket. Sparty is finally healthy and are playing their best basketball of the season. The problem for them is a possible Sweet 16 matchup against one of the hottest teams in America is on the horizon. Virginia not only won the conference regular season title, but ran through the conference tournament as well to earn the #1 seed. Another tough test is going to be up against the hard-nosed Cincinnati Bearcats. They play as physical as any team in the nation and that may pose a problem for Michigan State.
BOLD PREDICTION: Michigan State will impose their will over an under-rated Delaware team and will sneak past Cincinnati before entering their matchup with Virginia. Virginia will throw some punches, but Michigan State is going to withstand them and pull off the upset. Then enters the #3 seed Iowa State Cyclones who are going to run past Michigan State and gain the Final Four birth.
–Ohio State: The Buckeyes earned a #6 seed in the South bracket. This team has been up and down most of the season and face in-state rival Dayton in the 1st round. This game is going to be a good one, and could pose a problem out of the gate. The offense is going to have to wake up for this team to make some noise. LaQuinton Ross has been streaky for most of the Big Ten season and this is going to have to stop.
BOLD PREDICTION: I think Aaron Craft will pull out one more tournament win before meeting Syracuse in the 2nd round and being shut down by Jim Boeheim’s zone defense. And in a shocking post game interview Aaron Craft announces that he will be returning for a 9th season with the Buckeyes…not really, but it does seem like he has been there forever!
–Nebraska: The Huskers earned a #11 seed in the West bracket. This teams has NEVER won a NCAA Tournament game in their history. In order to knock off first round matchup Baylor they are going to have to force Baylor to play a slower tempo. This team likes to get out and run. Nebraska has some athletes, but not with the same skill as Baylor. Terran Petteway is going to have to play his best game of the season and is going to need the Shavon Shields that showed up against Wisconsin to help.
BOLD PREDICTION: The Huskers are going to put up a fight, but Baylor is going to be just enough to knock off Tim Miles team. Moral victories sometimes sound insulting, but this team should take pride in what they accomplished this season. They are going to return a lot of talent next season, and they will win a game next season in the tournament.
–Iowa: The Hawkeyes earned a #11 seed in the Midwest bracket. Along with their 11 seed comes a play in game against Tennessee. This team is playing their worst basketball of the season, and this is not the time for that. The fire is gone from this team that knocked off Michigan and Ohio State. They have lost 6 out of 7 games and their only win was against lowly Purdue. Aaron White has to show up with Roy Marble to have a chance to knock off Tennessee and play 6 seed Massachusetts.
BOLD PREDICTION: I have stuck my neck out for this team all season, and they have let me down. This is your last chance Iowa to prove that you are a Top 25 team and not the team that has been playing the last month of the season. Roy Marble will play a great game, but Tennessee will continue the trend and knock Iowa off sending the Hawkeye nation into a frenzy.
ELITE EIGHT PICKS:
West Region: Wisconsin Badgers over Oklahoma State Cowboys
South Region: Syracuse Orange over Florida Gators
East Region: Iowa State Cyclones over Michigan State Spartans
Midwest Region: Louisville Cardinals over Duke Blue Devils
FINAL FOUR PICKS:
Louisville Cardinals over Wisconsin Badgers
Syracuse Orange over Iowa State Cyclones
Syracuse Orange over Louisville Cardinals