NCAA Tournament: Assessing Big Ten draws, outlooks

    With the NCAA Tournament upon us, here's an assessment of the Big Ten draws, outlooks and predictions for the teams.

    March 15, 2016

    With the NCAA Tournament upon us, here’s an assessment of the Big Ten draws, outlooks and predictions for the teams.


    With every Selection Sunday comes great debate – who got in and who was left out, and whether or not the committee made the right decisions with seeding.

    Consider the teams of the Big Ten among those who might have a collective gripe. After winning the conference tournament, Michigan State was seemingly a lock for a No. 1 seed. The Spartans ended up as a No. 2.

    Though six others from the Big Ten saw their ticket punched, no team was awarded higher than a five-seed. Not Indiana, conference champions of the regular season; not Purdue, who played toughly against Michigan State in the conference final; not Maryland, a team that at the beginning of the season was considered to be among the nation’s best.

    So perhaps as tournament play begins, Big Ten teams will come out with something to prove. Here’s a closer look at each team’s draw.

    Michigan State Spartans (2) vs. Middle Tennessee (15) in the Midwest

    If it’s March, chances are Tom Izzo has his team ready for a long and prosperous tournament run. This year’s team, led by senior guard Denzel Valentine (19.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg and 7.6 apg) has it all—overall talent, the ability to defend, depth, and a knack for shooting the lights out. Look for Sparty to send top-seeded Virginia home for the third consecutive season on its way to Houston for the Final Four.

    Purdue Boilermakers (5) vs. Arkansas-Little Rock (12) in the Midwest

    Purdue came in at 13th in the last AP rankings. Coupled with a strong showing in the Big Ten tournament, it’s a bit of a mystery why they weren’t awarded a higher seed. There are certainly not questions about the Boilermakers’ size—their top four scorers are all listed at 6-foot-7 and above. A.J. Hammons, a 7-foot-0, 261-pound senior center averaging 14.9 points and 8.0 rebounds, is the best of the bunch. If the guards come to play, Purdue can get past a potential meeting with Iowa State in the second round and give Virginia all it can handle.

    Maryland Terrapins (5) vs. South Dakota State (12) in the South

    Expectations were high for the Terrapins, which trailed only North Carolina and Kentucky in the preseason rankings. Maryland never established itself as one of the country’s elite teams, failing to record a signature victory and suffering some bad conference losses along the way – most notably at Minnesota on Feb. 18. Sophomore guard Melo Trimble (14.4 ppg and 5.1 apg) provides a steady hand and freshman center Diamond Stone possesses the size, strength and skill that makes pro scouts’ ears perk up. There will be a lot of talent on the floor if a second round matchup with California ensues, with the winner most likely getting a shot at Kansas.

    Indiana Hoosiers (5) vs. Tennessee-Chattanooga in the East

    A last-second loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals was enough to convince the committee the Hoosiers weren’t worthy of a top four seed. While Indiana excelled at home, they were quite average elsewhere, suffering costly losses to UNLV, Penn State and Wake Forest. Senior guard Yogi Ferrell (17.0 ppg and 5.5 apg) will get Indiana to the second round, where a delicious matchup with fourth-seeded Kentucky could await. That will be the end of the road for the Hoosiers, as the Wildcats are peaking at the right time.

    Iowa Hawkeyes (7) vs. Temple (10) in the South

    Once upon a time, Iowa was near the top of the national rankings, dreaming of a no. 1 seed and opening round games in Des Moines. Then the wheels fell off. The Hawkeyes dropped six of their last eight games, including a loss in the conference tournament to lowly Illinois. Though they’re favored by over Temple, the Hawkeyes would be an extreme long shot to get past second-seeded Villanova in the second round.

    Wisconsin Badgers (7) vs. Pittsburgh (10) in the East

    The Badgers were trending up entering the Big Ten tournament. That was before an underwhelming performance to Nebraska in which they shot a mere 30.2 percent from the field. Greg Gard has done an admirable job since stepping in for the retired Bo Ryan, and Wisconsin notched five wins in 11 games against teams in the RPI’s top 50. Pittsburgh is certainly beatable, but Wisconsin will be hard pressed to get past second-seeded Xavier in the second round, should they meet.

    Michigan Wolverines (11) vs. Tulsa (11) in the First Four/East

    As one of the last four in, Michigan is among the First Four when tournament play begins. The Wolverines would be NIT-bound if not for the unlikely win over Indiana in the conference tournament. While Tulsa’s NCAA resume is shaky, a victory over the Golden Hurricane would mean a first round matchup against Notre Dame. The Wolverines won’t likely be dancing for long.

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