The Big Ten, widely claimed to be the best basketball conference in America, now has a chance to prove it. Seven schools got bids from the conference to the NCAA Tournament, with Indiana as a no. 1 seed, Ohio State a two seed, Michigan State a three seed, Michigan a four seed, Wisconsin being a five seed, Illinois a seven seed and Minnesota rounding out the field as a no. 11 seed. Iowa was left out, as they were expected to be.
Some quick thoughts on Big Ten seedings:
Some teams moved up to get their seedings and others slid back. Most notably, Ohio State moved all the way up to a no. 2 seed, after a big weekend at the Big Ten tournament. The Buckeyes land themselves in arguably the easiest region, the west, with Gonzaga as the no. 1 seed in that region. While the committee may have been wooed by the Buckyes’ strong finish, I think that a no. 2 seed is a bit generous. They take on Iona, who scored the second most points in the country. With such a high octane offense, you have to give them a shot, especially against a potentially overhyped Buckeye team.
It will be interesting to see how Michigan State and Michigan will fare as no. 3 and 4 seeds respectively. The Spartans play Valparaiso, while Michigan will take on South Dakota State. Both teams looked like they could have been no. 1 or 2 seeds at some point in the season, but ended up slipping a line or two. At the end of the day, does the difference between being a 2 seed and a 3 seed really make a huge difference, in terms of making it deep in to the Tourney? I doubt it, as the top four seeds in each region all seem capable of making Final Four runs. There is so much balance at the top that I don’t think the difference at the top is very big.
Farther down the bracket lines sit Illinois and Minnesota. The Fighting Illini and Gophers both have experienced late season collapses, and find themselves in dire straights. Both teams’ offenses look broken and while Illinois cant rebound for their lives the Gophers love to turn the ball over. Illinois will play Colorado in their first game, a team that is solid but far from scary. Minnesota is matched up with UCLA. The Bruins lost one of their best players in Jordan Adams to a broken foot in their win over Arizona on Friday. How much they will miss Adams is hard to know, but that has to help Minnesota. It will be interesting to see how well these spiraling teams play in their opening games.
The Big Ten has a 1, 2, 3, 4 5, 7 and 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament this year. I think five teams are capable of elite eight runs and there are a few title contenders. It should be fascinating to see how the best conference in America fares in the big dance.