NCAA Tournament 2013: Previewing Big Ten Matchups


With Minnesota and Illinois each hanging on at the end of the season after some conference stumbles, the Big Ten has seven teams dancing in the NCAA Tournament this season. It’s an impressive number, but perhaps even more impressive is that five Big Ten teams hold top-5 seeds. After capturing the Big Ten Tournament championship on Sunday, Ohio State saw its seed rise by a few lines and it seems like the Buckeyes are currently playing their best basketball of the season. Indiana and Michigan State are both coming off painful semi-final losses in the conference tournament — the Hoosiers were able to maintain a 1-seed but lost possession of the No. 1 overall seed, now claimed by Louisville. The top four seeded Big ten teams have drawn favorable locations, with Michigan State and Michigan playing down the road in Auburn Hills and Ohio State and Indiana nestled away in Dayton. After beating up on each other all season, it’s time to see what the Big Ten — widely recognized as the nation’s toughest conference top-to-bottom — can do in the tournament. Here’s a glance at the round of 64 match-ups for each Big Ten team after the jump.

No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 16 LIU-Brooklyn/James Madison (Dayton, Friday 4:10 TBS)

Ken Pomeroy has the game between Long Island and James Madison as a virtual toss-up. Honestly, it doesn’t much matter which team Indiana plays; the Hoosiers will certainly run them out of the building with their combination of aggressive, attacking offense and suffocating defense. Both Long Island and James Madison are winless against RPI top-100 teams and have little chance at upsetting Indiana, but depending on who wins the play-in game the Hoosiers will be facing a much different offensive attack. James Madison likes to slow the pace, averaging fewer than 65 possessions per game, while Long Island will push the ball and averaged the 29th-most possessions per game at almost 70. Long Island’s style will certainly play right into Indiana’s frenetic hands, while limiting possessions would be a good idea for James Madison. One newsworthy note: James Madison forward Rayshawn Goins was arrested Sunday night in Harrisonburg on suspicion of disorderly conduct and obstructing justice. James Madison coach Matt Brady suspended Goins for the first half of the play-in game against Long Island. UM Hoops pick: Indiana

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Iona (Dayton, 7:15 CBS)

Ohio State is rolling, and that’s bad news for Iona. The Buckeyes have won their past eight games, including an upset of Indiana on senior night near the end of the regular season and blasting through Michigan State and Wisconsin on their way to a Big Ten tournament title. Thad Matta’s club is peaking at the right time and look to be in excellent position for a deep tournament run — especially having been placed in Dayton. For its part, Iona enters the tournament having won the MAAC conference tournament, but the Gaels had a rough conference season. They lost six of their final nine games to close out the regular season before making a run in the conference postseason. Iona will attempt to push the pace against Ohio State, but they do so at their own peril. With solid offensive execution of late and the half-court mastery of Aaron Craft and DeShaun Thomas, the Buckeyes will most likely want to keep the pace slow — but with athletes like LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson, and Craft distributing, they can run with the Gaels if they wish. Kenpom: Ohio State 83, Iona 67 UM Hoops pick: Ohio State

No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 14 Valparaiso (Auburn Hills, Thursday 12:15 CBS)

After losing three in a row going into March, Michigan State needed some answers. The Spartans appeared to have found them in the form of a surprisingly easy win against Wisconsin at home, but the same questions reappeared in the Big Ten tournament. Michigan State squeaked by Iowa after a complete come-apart by the Hawkeyes in a game that arguably could have vaulted them into the NCAA tournament, and then the Spartans experienced a bit of a come-apart of their own against Ohio State, making some astoundingly bad plays down the stretch that cost them the game. Can Keith Appling produce consistently? Can Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne avoid foul trouble? How healthy is Gary Harris? These are all questions that remain to be answered, but once again Michigan State finds itself with a high seed and the distinct possibility of a deep run in the tournament. Standing in its way is Valparaiso, a team that hasn’t lost in about a month. The Crusaders lead the Horizon league in offense, and their effective field goal percentage of 56% is 4th in the country. Clearly this is a team that is well-coached and on a roll. That being said, the only time Valpo faced a team that has a defense anywhere near Michigan State’s is when it played Nebraska at the beginning of the season — and failed to score 50 points. If Michigan State plays like it did the majority of its game against Iowa, the Spartans might be in trouble. Chances are, they won’t. Kenpom: Michigan State 70, Valparaiso 61 UM Hoops pick: Michigan State

No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 13 South Dakota State (Auburn Hills, Thursday 7:15 CBS)

This game is currently being exhaustively dissected on this site, but we’ll throw in the basics here, anyway. Michigan is, in a sense, limping into the NCAA tournament, having gone 6-6 in its final 12 games. The Wolverines can’t seem to find consistency on defense, and when they can’t get out and run their vaunted attack stalls at times — just watch their most recent game against Wisconsin for proof of that. That being said, Michigan still has one of the best players in the country in Trey Burke and one of the more talented rosters in the tournament. Not only that, they are playing close to home in Auburn Hills, which is especially paramount for a team that struggles on the road the way Michigan does. The Wolverines are facing a team that is remarkably similar to them, offensively. South Dakota State also boasts one of the best point guards in the country in Nate Wolters, they also are very efficient on offense, they also hardly ever turn the ball over and they also don’t get to the free throw line often. Defensively, however, the Jackrabbits will be one of the worst Michigan has faced all season. And if the non-conference season taught us anything, the Wolverines are really, really good at exposing so-so defensive teams. Expect South Dakota State to stick around through its offensive attack, but Michigan’s offense should wear the Jackrabbits down enough by the end of this one to win comfortably. Kenpom: Michigan 78, South Dakota State 65 UM Hoops pick: Michigan

No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Ole Miss (Kansas City, Friday 12:40 truTV)

It’s tough to think of a program as antithetical to everything Marshall Henderson represents as Wisconsin. The, ahem, “colorful” guard is one of the more intriguing players in the country and one of the reasons that this match-up is so interesting. Ole Miss plays fast but smart, averaging over 70 possessions per game with a turnover percentage of just under 16. Wisconsin is also extremely disciplined, with a turnover percentage that ranks two spots ahead of Mississippi’s nationally, but of course the Badgers play slower. Much. Slower. The Rebels have played good defense out of conference, but in the SEC they struggled to keep opponents from hitting shots, ranking 11th in the SEC in effective field goal percentage allowed. This was partly due to a non-conference schedule that wasn’t exactly punishing, with only two teams in the RPI top-100. If Wisconsin can dictate the pace of this game and find some offense from its outside shooters, the Badgers will win. But this is an exceedingly tough draw against a team that just beat Florida for the SEC tournament championship. Kenpom: Wisconsin 67, Ole Miss 62 UM Hoops pick: Ole Miss

No. 7 Illinois vs. No. 10 Colorado (Austin,  Friday 4:40 TNT)

Boy, did Illinois’ win over Gonzaga end up appreciating, huh? After the topsy-turvy Big Ten season the Illini had, it turns out they had just enough big wins to dance. With two wins over fellow tournament team Minnesota and one apiece over Ohio State and Indiana, along with the aforementioned early-season victory over the Zags, it’s tough to argue otherwise. The Illini will have their hands full against a Colorado, a team out of the weaker Pac-12 that still has some solid wins on its resumé. The Buffs defeated Oregon — a team that just won the Pac-12 tournament and is considered vastly underrated by nearly all analysts — twice in the regular season, and would have beaten 6-seed Arizona twice as well had the referees not temporarily lost their minds at the end of the two teams’ first meeting, waving off a 3-pointer Sabatino Chen clearly got off before the buzzer. Both teams play at a similar pace and both will rely on guard play. Illinois is utterly dependent on making 3-pointers, and if DJ Richardson and Brandon Paul have an off night (with the two guards shooting 32 and 33 percent from beyond the arc, respectively, it’s a distinct possibility), it could spell doom for the Illini. Both teams have average offenses and good defenses, and the game will likely depend on which team makes more big shots. Kenpom: Illinois 65, Colorado 64 UM Hoops pick: Colorado

No. 11 Minnesota vs. No. 6 UCLA (Austin, Friday 9:57 truTV)

In what is perhaps the most obvious upset special in the tournament besides the poor saps at Oklahoma State who got matched up with Oregon as a 12-seed, Minnesota will take its vaunted rebounding attack to Texas to face off against UCLA, who likely will not put up much of a fight on the glass. The Gophers are the nation’s best offensive rebounding team, with an offensive rebounding percentage of just over 44. The Bruins? They rank 246th in defensive rebounding. UCLA can take heart in the knowledge that Minnesota has lost seven of its last 10 games after suffering a demoralizing first-round exit in the Big Ten tournament. Not only that, but rebounding isn’t the only factor relevant to winning. Minnesota turns the ball over consistently, and if UCLA forces turnovers and gets out in transition, the Bruins have the horses to orchestrate the kind of offense they like to. The Gophers also can’t shoot 3-pointers very well, and if they have trouble finding opportunities inside they just might fall into the trap of shooting too many. That being said, Kyle Anderson and the Wear twins, good luck containing Trevor Mbakwe. The Minnesota star is experienced, athletic and mean and will most likely be able to get what he wants in the paint; especially in what could be the last weekend of his college career. This match-up is so favorable to Minnesota it feels like picking the higher seed is the real upset. Kenpom:  Minnesota 70, UCLA 67 UM Hoops pick: Minnesota

  • Erob

    I hope to see all the B1G teams advance far in the tourney to prove once and for all that we are the best conference in the country this year.

    • Mattski

      It’s okay with me if IU and MSU lose, but I am cheering for the rest of the conference.

  • gpsimms

    Disagree about Wisconsin. I think they’re playing pretty good basketball right now. Evans had a very solid tournament, and the bigs hit 3s. Maybe it was just an anomalous performance, but I think they’re hitting their stride and are primed for a run. (Not that I don’t think Mississippi could be a tough draw, and is also hot at the moment…I just think the SEC is as weak as advertised.)

    • rlcBlue

      It’s all about 3 point shooting for the Badgers. Their defense is very consistent, but their offense is awful when they don’t hit the three-ball. Case in point: the two halves they played against us in Chicago.

      The battle between their perimeter defense and Marshall Henderson should be entertaining.

      • gpsimms

        Yeah, I agree. I don’t really get the hate for Bo Ryan out there. When they have Leuer level talent, I think their offense is pretty friggin awesome to watch.

        Their current bigs are not Leuer level talent, but if they continue the shooting from the weekend, I think they’re in the Elite 8. (against OSU, who will beat them again.)

  • Devin

    LIU-Brooklyn is going to shock the world.


    • benchwarmer32


      • Devin

        Haha, really going out on a limb there huh benchwarmer ;)

      • Devin

        I guess LIU is shocking the world by losing to James Madison without their leading scorer in the first half HA.

  • rlcBlue

    According to KenPom, that Minnesota-UCLA game is the most egregiously misseeded game of the first round – by his rankings, the Gophers should be the 6-seed and the Bruins should be a 12. I imagine a lot of brackets have Team Tubby advancing out of that one, but we’ve all learned that you never know which Minnesota squad will actually show up.

    Other tidbits from KenPom’s view of the universe:

    The SEC is being disrespected. Not only should Kentucky have been included in the field (but would they have shown up for their game?), but Florida, Missouri, and Ole Miss are all badly underseeded – by 2, 4, and 3 slots respectively.

    The Bobinski conspiracy theories are true: The Atlantic-10 is massively overseeded – St Louis is right on, but VCU is one line too high, Butler should be in the play-in game, and LaSalle and Temple should be playing NIT games in Philly.

    The committee likes Indiana more than Gonzaga or Louisville: Every team in IU’s bracket is overseeded, except the correctly placed Hoosiers and Syracuse. In Louisville’s bracket, 1-5 are all seeded correctly, but the lower half of the bracket has Creighton, Missouri, Colorado St and St Mary’s underseeded by 2 to 6 lines. Gonzaga’s bracket has overseeded teams at 3 and 4 in New Mexico and K-State, but a slew of underseeded teams lower down, including KenPom wet dream Pitt playing in the 8-9 game.

    Michigan’s regional should be good basketball: The South is headlined by a 1 (Florida), a 2 (Kansas), and two 3s (Michigan and Georgetown). If all four make it to through to the second weekend, it should be a fun little tournament down in Arlington.

    • Devin

      Sorry, but I find this rather funny, You are making huge assumptions here. First off, explain to me how New Mexico is overseeded, then please explain to me how St. Mary’s is underseeded.

      New Mexixo won the regular season and tournament titles outright from the nations #1 RPI conference. If anything, New Mexico has a better resume then Gonzaga.

      I do agree with you that Louisville’s region is much tougher than Indiana’s.

      Also, please explain to me how Florida should be a 1 seed. The SEC is being disrespected because they had a truly poor out of conference slate. Both the A10 and Mountain West showed this year that they were stronger conferences than the SEC.

      I also do agree that Butler was overseeded.

      • Devin

        The SEC’s #2 seeded team just lost to Robert Morris last night in the first round of the NIT…

        • Devin

          Wow, and the ‘bubble’ team Tennessee just lost a home game to Mercer in NIT first round.

          • rlcBlue

            Does make it hard to take them seriously, doesn’t it?

      • rlcBlue

        It’s entirely based on the rankings from I thought the phrase ” tidbits from KenPom’s view of the universe” was a bit of a tip-off…

      • Devin

        So you’re not saying this is your opinion, just what the KenPom #s suggest?

        Then I have to respectfully disagree with KenPom, based on the eye test.

        • rlcBlue

          Yes, there’s no way I could have that detailed an opinion on all those teams. I’m a blowhard, but even I have my limits :)

          Actually, I barely have an opinion on which teams are better among the top dozen or so – it seems like so many of the outcomes will depend on matchups, how the game is played and officiated, and luck.

          The danger with the eye test, though, is that you only have two eyes and there are 347 teams that each played 30-some games. Very difficult to see enough of the teams in enough different circumstances to get a real firm grip on them.

          F’rinstance, if New Mexico is better than Gonzaga, and South Dakota State beat New Mexico in Albuquerque, we’re in trouble…