The NCAA tournament bracket has been laid out so that teams from the Big Ten conference will be making some deep runs into the tourney.
The Big Ten has undoubtedly been the best conference in the NCAA this year. With four teams ranked in the Top 10 in the latest AP Poll, it’s quite clear that this conference is the real deal.
The way the bracket is set up, these B1G schools will be turning some heads in the next few weeks.
In the Midwest, Michigan State holds the No. 3 seed. With a first game against Valparaiso and, if they win, a game against the winner of Memphis vs. St. Mary's, the Spartans have a relatively easy track into the Sweet 16.
The play of Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix will be vital after the first two rounds, as the Spartans will likely be playing the Duke Blue Devils. They will need to work on containing Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, who are tremendously talented scorers. Luckily for the Spartans, Nix and Payne are solid scorers as well, combining for 19.9 points per game and well over 50 percent shooting.
It’s a tougher road for the Spartans than most teams, but they have a shot at heading to the Elite Eight.
In the South, Michigan and Minnesota will be making big pushes. Michigan will be able to advance as long as Trey Burke keeps playing like the potential National Player of the Year. He’s been fantastic all year, averaging 19.2 points, 6.7 assists and 3.1 rebounds all season. They will have some tough games as well; likely playing VCU and Kansas in their second and third games, but the Wolverines stars will be able to help them push through the tourney.
For Minnesota, it has a tough road with the No. 11 seed. However it is talented enough to upset UCLA, who will be without Jordan Adams. Trevor Mbakwe will be an important player to watch for the Gophers, as he can take over the frontcourt in any game. While they may stall after upsetting UCLA, they can at least say that they won a game in the tournament.
Indiana and Illinois sit in the East region, with the Hoosiers enjoying a No. 1 seed. A team that averages 80 points a game should be able to make a deep run, even if that means going against Syracuse and possibly Miami. If the Hoosiers play the Orange, Yogi Ferrell will need to step up and contain Michael Carter-Williams, who is one of the best point guards in the country.
The Fighting Illini are in a tough situation. They play Colorado in the second round, but will then likely play Miami in their next game. The Hurricanes are a great team, and guys like Brandon Paul and Tracy Abrams will need to play solid in the backcourt for the Illini to pull off a big upset.
The final region is the West, which features Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes have a No. 2 seed and one of the most aggressive defender in the country in Aaron Craft. His aggressive play has frustrated opponents all season, and his 2.0 steals per game are a good indicator of that. The Buckeyes’ road isn’t too difficult, with teams like Notre Dame and New Mexico in the way before the Elite Eight.
Wisconsin’s position in the bracket is probably the most interesting. Despite having a No. 5 seed, it is a team that steps up against good opponents, as seen against Indiana and Michigan. Its defense only allows 55.9 points per game, and that kind of tenacity could be what helps them knock off teams like Kansas State and Gonzaga.
The Big Ten has seven teams in the tourney, and that is what makes a conference a true powerhouse. Look for more than a few of these teams to make deep runs.
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