With only four teams making the Big Dance, the Big Ten will have to rely on quality rather then quantity if it wants to start getting some positive attention on the national stage. A sure sign that Ohio State was in trouble came early on Sunday's selection show. Indiana came up a #8 seed in the first sequence of brackets shown. I was stunned at how low the Hoosiers were seeded, and this seemed quite excessive for some mild struggles down the stretch. Some of this likely had to do with fallout from the Kelvin Sampson fiasco, but more ominously it was a sign that the Big Ten was not going to get respect and the Buckeyes didn't have any cushion to give. Phillip Wilson of The Indianapolis Star notes that Big Ten bashing is in vogue, regardless of the sport.
Indiana's draw pairs them up with Arkansas. It's an ironic matchup for this writer--In 1989 I was accepted to go to school at Arkansas, but was waiting on IU before making a final decision. As late as July, I thought I'd be Little Rock bound, where I'd have no doubt become a Clinton supporter and an apologist for Jerry Jones after he bought the Cowboys a year later. The Indiana admissions department saved me from such a fate. If the Hoosiers win this game, they draw North Carolina. This would be another ironic matchup, although for reasons actually known to people besides myself. IU stunned Carolina in a regional semi back in 1984. The hero of the game? Dan Dakich, who held Michael Jordan to 13 points. We can be sure to see the highlight clips of that '84 game in Atlanta if the Hoosiers & Heels play this weekend.
Wisconsin has a chance to make up for last year's disappointing second-round exit. In '07, the Badgers had a reasonable excuse--Brian Butch was out and UNLV was a very tough opponent. This time around, UW is healthy and on a roll going in. They'll still have a tough second-round fight, and will get one of two superfrosh---either O.J. Mayo at USC or Michael Beasley from Kansas State. The Badgers need better production from Trevon Hughes. Although Mark Stewart of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that the point guard has been successful in cutting down his turnovers.
Michigan State is in the South bracket and matches up with Temple in the opening round, a rematch of a regional final from 2001. Presuming the Spartans take care of this one, they would likely play Pitt in round two. This is a good draw for Tom Izzo's club. While Pitt is hot from winning the Big East tournament, playing four games in four days in a tough tournament like that is bound to drain you, and it's hard to see the Panthers having enough gas in the tank to survive this coming weekend. Shannon Shelton of The Detroit Free Press says MSU is ready to put the torments of Big Ten play behind them.
And Purdue ended up a #6 seed in the West. They'll have a lot of travel on their hands if they keep winning. The Boilers opening round "pod" is scheduled for Washington D.C., and if they win this weekend, they'd then go to Phoenix for the regionals. Baylor and then probably Xavier await them. Jeff Washburn at Boiler Station has a look.
Two Big Ten teams open NIT action tonight. Ohio State hosts UNC-Asheville and Minnesota hosts Maryland. The NIT is seeded into four eight-team quads. The Buckeyes got a #1 seed, so they will have three home games on the way to Madison Square Garden. Intriguing matchups ahead include a possible second-round game with Steve Alford's New Mexico. And in the quarters, there is either a state showdown with Dayton or a battle with Illinois State, two teams that have the strongest argument for being in the NCAA.
The Gophs are a #4 seed, and surviving the Terps means a probable trip to the Carrier Dome to play Syracuse.
There is also a new tournament created, called the College Basketball Invitational. It's 16 teams and its unique twist is that the final round is best-of-three. It's mostly mid-majors with a few names like Virginia, Cincinnati and Washington mixed in. No Big Ten teams are playing in this event.