Breaking down the bracket: How the opening games set up for each Big Ten team
INDIANAPOLIS — The good news, from a Big Ten perspective, is that all 9 B1G teams that had a chance to make this year’s NCAA Tournament will be there.
But it isn’t exactly all peaches and cream for those 9, with several teams getting challenging draws and no one in the league getting better than a No. 3 seed.
Here’s a look at what each team has ahead of it.
No. 12 Indiana vs. No. 12 Wyoming
Tipoff: Tuesday, Dayton
We now know that beating Illinois in the Big Ten quarterfinals was absolutely essential to Indiana making the NCAA Tournament.
Personally, I feel the Hoosiers and Michigan should have swapped spots here. But I am not on the selection committee, which doesn’t seem to put much value into conference tournaments.
Indiana bigs Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson will be challenged against Wyoming’s front line. Jeremiah Oden, Hunter Maldonado and Graham Ike are all 6-7 or taller, and they’re a big part of the reason the Cowboys are 32nd nationally in 2-point shooting percentage.
The winner goes to Portland to play St. Mary’s. This pod feeds into the East Regional in Philadelphia.
No. 11 Rutgers vs. No. 11 Notre Dame
Tipoff: Wednesday, Dayton
A pair of former Big East members renew acquaintances, with the winner heading all the way out to San Diego to play Alabama.
Notre Dame is one of the country’s worst offensive rebounding teams (334th), which is where the Scarlet Knights will have a chance to win this game. But they won’t be able to win that battle if the Fighting Irish don’t miss. Notre Dame is 19th in 3-point shooting and can make up for its primary weakness.
No. 11 Michigan vs. No. 6 Colorado State
Tipoff: Thursday, Indianapolis
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The Wolverines are living a charmed existence, both avoiding the First Four and getting a short trip against a superior seed that has to move up 2 time zones.
These teams are virtual mirror images — Michigan is 19th in offensive efficiency and 91st in defensive efficiency, and Colorado State is 20th in offensive efficiency and 83rd in defensive efficiency.
Feels like this is a toss-up. Which, again, is a nice position for an 11-seed to be in.
No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 10 Loyola (Chicago)
Tipoff: Friday, Pittsburgh
The Buckeyes slumped their way through the final 2 weeks of the season, and now they pay the price with an unfavorable first-round matchup. Just ask Illinois, which saw its season end against the Ramblers in the second round of last year’s Tournament.
With EJ Liddell and Malaki Branham, Ohio State has as much ceiling as any Big Ten team in this tourney. But drawing a team that’s been there and done that is most unfortunate.
No. 4 Illinois vs. No. 13 Chattanooga
Tipoff: Friday, Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh will be a Big Ten hub next weekend with the Illini joining the Buckeyes.
Motivation certainly won’t be a factor for Illinois, which is still stinging from last year’s elimination to Loyola.
The Illini should be able to get past the Mocs, but beware if Chattanooga leads in the final minute. The Mocs are 28th nationally in free-throw shooting and unlikely to brick this away.
No. 5 Iowa vs. No. 12 Richmond
Tipoff: Thursday, Buffalo
The Hawks should be a No. 4 seed after winning the Big Ten Tournament. According to the NCAA’s NET rankings, Iowa is a spot ahead of Illinois, which did earn a 4-seed.
But as the selection committee demonstrated, little of what happened in the conference tournaments actually seems to matter.
But that’s OK. Iowa was somewhat rewarded by getting the weakest 12-seed in the field. The Spiders were the 6th-seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament before reeling off 4 straight wins. Unless Richmond takes the air out of the ball and makes those few shots, Iowa should roll.
No. 3 Wisconsin vs. No. 14 Colgate
Tipoff: Friday, Milwaukee
The Badgers weren’t the same team with an injured Johnny Davis in the past 2 games. He missed the majority of a disappointing loss to Nebraska, then was an ineffective 3-of-19 from the field against Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament.
Fortunately, Wisconsin gets both an extra day of rest for Davis and a virtual home game at Fiserv Forum. Other than Michigan, no Big Ten team was done more favors in its bracket than Wisconsin.
No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 14 Yale
Tipoff: Friday, Milwaukee
Purdue seems to have paid a heavy price for losing the Big Ten Tournament title game, getting sent to Milwaukee instead of Indianapolis. Which, again, Michigan got sent to after going 0-1 in the Big Ten Tourney.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this matchup is that it features Ivey (Jaden) versus Ivy (League champion).
No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 10 Davidson
Tipoff: Friday, Greenville, S.C.
The Spartans eliminated Brad Davison from the Big Ten Tournament. Now they’ll look to eliminate Davidson from the NCAA Tournament.
Somewhat surprisingly, tiny Davidson is pretty much guaranteed to have more fans at this game than Michigan State. Greenville is only 1 hour, 49 minutes from Davidson’s North Carolina campus.
Why Michigan State gets a tougher destination as a 7-seed than Michigan as an 11 is, yet again, anyone’s guess. This absolutely feels like an upset waiting to happen.