Big Ten Basketball Tournament 2011: 5 Teams That Can Upset No. 1 Ohio State
Well, we've FINALLY reached the time of the year in college basketball where we can look back on the regular season and form a reasonably educated opinion on who the best teams in the country are.
And at this point, I think it would be fairly difficult for anyone to argue in favor of a team other than Ohio State or Kansas as the best team in the country as of March 10th.
That's not to say this won't change by April 4th, but as of today, those two teams have separated themselves from the pack and will be playing this weekend for the number one overall seed in the tournament.
We're here to talk about Ohio State and the Big Ten so let's dive in a little further with the Buckeyes.
It's pretty simple when you look at OSU's resume, 29-2 overall with both losses coming on the road to teams listed in the top 10 of both the Sagarin and Pomeroy Ratings (the only two rankings that truly matter along with the semi-flawed RPI rating system).
OSU went 9-2 against the Jeff Sagarin's top 50 teams and their strength of schedule is ranked as the 20th most difficult according to Ken Pomeroy.
There is nothing to argue here, they have it all, beginning with a dominant post player in freshman Jared Sulinger. And the big freshman is surrounded by upper class elite talent.
David Lighty is a fifth year senior who has won more games than any other player in the history of Ohio State basketball.
I discovered another fun fact about Lighty as well: he trails Deon Thompson of North Carolina (2006-2010) for the most games played in NCAA history by one, 152-151.
How about that for some senior leadership/big game experience?
If you remember, Lighty was a freshman on the 2006 OSU team led by Greg Oden and Mike Conely that reached the Finals of the NCAA Tournament.
Lighty can score from anywhere on the court and is considered to be one of the elite perimeter defenders in America.
On to another senior, Jon Diebler, who owns a few records himself, including most three-point field goals in Big Ten history.
He also enters postseason play on a ridiculous hot streak, combining to go 17 for 20 from long distance over his last two games.
Has anyone ever made 17 three-pointers over a two game stretch in NCAA history? Not that I'm aware of.
Let's move on to William Buford, a 6'5'', 205 pound junior with a prototypical NBA wing body.
Buford enters the tournament averaging just under 18 points per game over his last four contests.
Talent-wise, this fab four matches up with any group in the country, and that's without mentioning a pair of diaper dandies in Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas, who will be leading this team next season in Columbus.
So enough about the Buckeyes, let's take a look at the top five teams in the Big Ten that have a chance to pull the upset in Indianapolis this weekend.
The Fighting Illini landed in the number five spot on our list simply because they have the talent to hang with the Buckeyes.
Bruce Weber's team is led by point guard Demetri McCamey, who after a mid-season slump, has turned it on to average just under 18 points per game over his last six contests.
The Illini also boast a pair of athletic big men in Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale to go along with a talented trio of young guards led by Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson and Jereme Richmond.
This group of six has already proven once they can play with OSU, losing a highly competitive battle in Champaign earlier this season 73-68.
If the Illini can get past Michigan on Friday (another team on our list), they will likely face the Buckeyes in the first semi-final game this Saturday.
Chances of pulling the upset: five percent.
4. Michigan State
It wasn't easy putting the most disappointing team (by far) in America on here, but we had to give Tom Izzo one last chance as a result of my calendar telling me it's March.
The Spartans glimmer of hope lies with senior point guard Kalin Lucas.
Lucas appears to finally be recovered from the ruptured Achilles tendon injury he suffered last season.
Over his last 11 games, Lucas has been playing as well as any point guard in the country, averaging over 21 points per game.
The Spartans will go as far as their floor general will take them and they likely need to beat Iowa today and keep it close with Purdue tomorrow just to get a ticket to the Big Dance.
MSU will also be counting on junior point forward Draymond Green and senior guard Durrell Summers to finally reach the level of play both displayed during last year's Final Four run.
The Spartans will have to win three straight games to meet OSU in the Big Ten Finals on Sunday.
Chances of pulling the upset: five percent.
If there is one team no one wants to face right now it's John Beilein's Wolverines.
A trendy pick by many analysts to upset OSU and win the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan is in the tournament as of today, but will have to beat Illinois tomorrow to avoid going back on the bubble for Selection Sunday.
The Wolverines have been playing at a high level down the stretch, winning eight of their last 11 games.
The three L's were the result of a miracle buzzer beating three at home against Wisconsin, a two point setback at Illinois and a loss at No. 1 Ohio State.
Michigan is led by a pair of young guards in Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway Jr., who combine to average nearly 29 points per game.
The Wolverines are winning with defense too, allowing only 62.8 points per game, good for fourth in the Big Ten.
Chances of pulling the upset: 20 percent.
Having won four straight before heading into their rematch with the Buckeyes in Columbus last weekend, the Badgers had a decent shot at grabbing the number one spot on our list.
One 93-65 beat down later, they fall to number two on the list.
The Badgers are led by one of the best point guards in the country in Jordan Taylor, who is averaging over 20 points per game over his last nine contests.
Senior forward Jon Leuer makes up the other half of one of the top duos in America, averaging 18.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
At 6'10'', Leuer can also knock down the three ball, averaging 1.7 threes per game while shooting 39.5 percent from behind the arc.
Wisconsin was one of two teams to beat Ohio State this year so it's not too far fetched to think they could take out the Buckeyes once again in the Big Ten Tournament Finals.
Chances of pulling the upset: 30 percent.
The Boilermakers entered last Saturday's matchup at 10th place Iowa as one of the hottest teams in the country with an outside shot at a No. 1 seed in the tournament.
Those hopes came crashing back to earth as the Boilers were upset by the Hawkeyes 67-65.
Purdue had won seven straight up to that point including back-to-back wins at home over Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Despite the setback, the Boilers remain one of the most dangerous teams in America because of their ability to take teams out of their offense as a result of their defensive intensity, particularly on the perimeter.
They like to make the opponent extremely uncomfortable by forcing them to run their offense from much further out than what they are accustomed to.
Purdue is led by potentially the best duo in America, Big Ten Player of the Year JaJuan Johnson, and fellow first team all Big Ten performer E'Twaun Moore.
The two combine for nearly 39 points per game and will leave Purdue as the two winningest players in the history of the school.
Led by national coach of the year candidate Matt Painter, the Boilers have already beaten Ohio State once this year, 76-63.
If they can get past Wisconsin in the semis, they will have a significant home court advantage in the Finals considering Conseco Fieldhouse is just 60 miles south of West Lafayette.
Purdue is 7th in the Sagarin Ratings and 4th in the Pomeroy Ratings.
Chances of pulling the upset: 40 percent.