B1G NCAA Tournament notebook: League looks to rebound after rough Day 1
On Day 2 of the NCAA Tournament, the Big Ten will focus on its recovery.
Because on Day 1, the league suffered a gut punch, seeing two of its teams — and two that many had picked for deep tourney runs — ousted from the field.
No. 2 seed Ohio State was upset by No. 15 Oral Roberts, becoming only the 9th No. 2 to be beaten in the first round in NCAA Tournament history. And No. 4-seeded Purdue was knocked out by No. 13 North Texas, sending the Boilermakers packing earlier than expected. It also eliminates the only program from the state playing in an NCAA Tournament played exclusively in Indiana.
The Buckeyes and Boilermakers join Michigan State as Big Ten teams that have left early, after the Spartans lost to UCLA in the First Four late Thursday night. Their opponents all needed overtime to get the job done.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Big Ten on Day 1.
No. 1 seed Illinois raced by an overwhelmed 16 seed Drexel 78-49, while No. 9 Wisconsin straight up pummeled North Carolina 85-62 and No. 10 Rutgers held on for a 4-point victory against Clemson.
Until the Badgers smoked the Tar Heels, it looked like Mackey Arena might not be a welcoming place for Big Ten teams, much the same as in the regular season. Ohio State played the early afternoon game there — Michigan State had lost there the night before, running its losing streak to 6 consecutive on the home court of the Boilermakers — and found out immediately that Oral Roberts was game for the upset. The lead exchanged hands 9 times before the Golden Eagles wrestled control in overtime. It looked like a second overtime might be needed, but Duane Washington Jr.’s 3-pointer from the top of the key caromed off the rim.
Before its game Friday evening, Wisconsin had been only 4-45 all-time in Mackey Arena, an astoundingly dismissal number for a basketball program that has established consistent success over the last couple of decades. But that didn’t matter against the Tar Heels, particularly with UW senior Brad Davison knocking in shots from all over the court. The pesky guard scored a season-high 29 points, tied for the second-most ever by a Badger in an NCAA Tournament game.
“Extremely special,” Davison told media in a Zoom afterward. “That’s why you come to Wisconsin, not only to compete for championships in the Big Ten but to make a run in March in the NCAA Tournament, especially having that opportunity missed out on last year.
“This is so special.”
Following is a glance at Saturday’s matchups:
No. 16 Texas Southern vs. No. 1 Michigan
Time: 3 p.m.
Location: Mackey Arena
The Storyline: The Wolverines are a massive favorite because they’ll likely be able to beat up on TSU in the half court. The Tigers, the winners of the SWAC, want to be able to get out and run, and perhaps that worked against other mid-major opponents, but it’s unlikely to be the case against the bigger and more physical Wolverines. UM might face challenges ahead, and soon, without versatile wing Isaiah Livers, but those challenges won’t come today.
No. 15 Grand Canyon vs. No. 2 Iowa
Time: 6:25 p.m.
Location: Indiana Farmers Coliseum
The Storyline: The Antelopes will try to upset the Hawkeyes in Round 1 by grinding the game to a halt. It’s been an effective measure against Iowa this season, but Iowa will counter by trying to do the opposite, getting out in transition and finding its many 3-point shooters. It’ll be an intriguing matchup on the inside, with Iowa star Luka Garza vs. the two big guys for Grand Canyon, in 7-footer Asbjorn Midtgaard and Alessandro Lever.
No. 10 Maryland vs. No. 7 UConn
Time: 7:10 p.m.
Location: Mackey Arena
The Storyline: The Huskies rallied at the right time this season, winning 6 of their last 7 games to get into the NCAA Tournament. They could present major issues for the Terrapins because they have a deep and talented roster that embraces the defensive style that Danny Hurley wants to play with. Maryland will need to get hot offensively, which it’s shown flashes of being able to do this season, but only flashes. That inconsistency could be deadly.
Liddell: ‘I’m human’
After Ohio State was beaten, star forward E.J. Liddell shared messaged from a couple of fans who had sent him threatening messages.
One called Liddell a “disgrace,” who should never show his face on the Ohio State campus again. “We hate you. I hope you die I really do.”
Liddell responded on Twitter by saying in part, “Comments don’t get to me, but I just wanna know why. I’ve never done anything to anyone in my life to be approached like this. This is not me saying anything negative about Ohio State fans. I love you all dearly and I’ve felt nothing but appreciated since the first day I stepped on campus.
“What did I do to deserve this?” he added. “I’m human.”