The brackets have been set for both the NCAA tournament and the NIT and the Big Ten will send a total of nine teams to the postseason this season. While six teams will participate in the NCAA tournament, the other three programs will do their best to represent the conference and hopefully win the NIT championship in New York City.
The most surprising team of the season in the conference, Michigan State, received a No. 1 seed in the West region after defeating Ohio State in the conference tournament championship game on Sunday.
With the NCCA tournament and NIT getting underway on Tuesday evening, the Big Ten has its best chance at producing a national champion since 2000, when the Spartans last won a national championship. Here’s a detailed list of each team’s chances of advancing in the postseason, their first round opponent and seed.
No. 1 seed Michigan State (27-7) vs. No 16 Long Island University Brooklyn (25-8): The Spartans have a no. 1 seed, something not many people would have expected before the regular season. Michigan State will begin play in somewhat familiar territory in Columbus, Ohio. The Spartans look to have a favorable road to reach the Sweet 16 in Phoenix. If they can get past LIU Brooklyn, Michigan State will face the winner of Memphis/Saint Louis and could possibly meet New Mexico, Louisville, or Davidson in the Sweet 16.
No.4 Indiana (25-8) vs. No. 13 New Mexico State (26-9): Another team in the Big Ten that had a surprisingly remarkable season, the Hoosiers will head to the NCAA tournament after an impressive run this season under head coach Tom Crean. Indiana will need to be weary of this 4 vs. 13 matchup as it has upset special written all over it. The Hoosiers will most likely face VCU in the third round as I predict they will upset Wichita State, the winner of 2011 NIT championship.
No. 2 Ohio State (27-7) vs. No. 15 Loyola Maryland (24-8): The Buckeyes had the No. 1 seed last season but were upset by Kentucky in the Sweet 16. This season however, the Buckeyes will have an even harder road to the Final Four as they are in a region that includes Syracuse, Kansas State, Cincinnati, Florida State, Gonzaga, and West Virginia. This may be the toughest region in the tournament and the Buckeyes will need a better effort to have a chance at reaching the Elite 8, something they haven’t done since 2007. What could be interesting for the Buckeyes would be having to go through seldom-played in-state rival, Cincinnati, to get to the Elite 8.
No. 4 Wisconsin (24-9) vs. No. 13 Montana (25-6): The Badgers once again make another NCAA tournament appearance, not surprising, and will have hard time trying to advance to the Sweet 16 as they could possibly face SEC tournament champion Vanderbilt in the third round. Even if the Badgers make a Sweet 16 appearance, that could be their final stop as they would most likely face Syracuse or Kansas State.
No. 4 Michigan (24-9) vs. No. 13 Ohio (27-7): The Wolverines make their second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance and will look to do better than last year. Michigan will face the Bobcats from the MAC and could possibly see their chances at making the Sweet 16 end in the third round if they face Temple. The Midwest Region appears to have an easy road to the Final Four but Michigan isn’t a championship caliber team in my opinion.
No. 10 Purdue (21-12) vs. No. 7 St. Mary’s (CA) (27-5): I don’t think the Boilermakers will be able to avoid losing to the Gales. St. Mary’s not only has been a solid team this season, they finally beat in-conference rival, Gonzaga for the WCC Championship. Purdue, losing to Ohio State in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament, won’t be able to contain a Gales team that was tops in the WCC in scoring defense, giving up no more than 62.4 points per game.
Northwestern (18-13) vs. Akron (22-11): The story that never happened. The futility that continues and the season that needs to end in Madison Square Garden is what this means for Northwestern. The Wildcats failed to reach the NCAA tournament once again and need to finally win the NIT to possibly get over that hurdle. The last Big Ten team to win the NIT was Penn State in 2008. Northwestern can ill-afford their season to end in anything else but an NIT Championship. Last year the Wildcats were defeated in the Quarterfinals to Washington State. Northwestern won’t have an easier opportunity to get to New York City however as they’re in the same bracket with Washington (21-10), Oregon (22-6) and Iowa (17-16).
Iowa (17-16) vs. Dayton (20-12) : The Hawkeyes lost their chance at reaching the NCAA tournament when they were ousted by Michigan State. Iowa will face Dayton with the advantage of a home game. The Flyers won’t be able to play at home even though they’re a no. 2 seed because their home arena, UD Arena will be used by the NCAA for the First Four. The Flyers won the NIT in 2010 and will look to win their fourth championship in program history.
Minnesota (19-14) vs. La Salle (21-12): The Golden Gophers will face the Explorers on the road after they saved their postseason with a victory over Northwestern last week. La Salle shouldn’t be taken likely as they’re the sixth A10 team in the postseason with three each in each the NIT and NCAA tournament.
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