The Big Ten gets center stage--or at least close to center stage starting Friday night, when both Michigan State and Wisconsin look to move on to San Antonio. Wisconsin is at the Midwest regionals in Detroit's expansive Ford Field, while MSU is down in Houston where the South championship is being settled.
Wisconsin seems to have the sea opening up in front of them, as they get to play 10th-seeded Davidson in the 7EST time slot. When the Badgers made their 2005 run to a regional final they cashed in a similar break at this round of the tournament. Top-seeded Kansas awaits on the other side, but the Jayhawks have to deal with 12th-seeded Villanova first. The 'Cats are a team that's stronger then their seed, although I think UK should survive it. Kansas coach Bill Self has done an outstanding job here, and in his previous jobs at Illinois & Tulsa, but there is one common thread--he's lost regional finals at all three places and has yet to get to the Final Four. His team is not an overwhelming #1 seed to begin with, and if Bo Ryan's team turns a potential Sunday game into a bump-and-grind battle, it could add to the tension the Jayhawks may be feeling.
While the rest of us watch the games, the players still have to study. Mark Stewart of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel takes a look at how the kids are adapting to the twin pressures.
Michigan State is also looking to recapture the spirit of '05. That year saw the Spartans march all the way to the Final Four. They did it in the South bracket and they had to take out a #1 seed (Duke) in the Sweet 16, and a #2 seed (Kentucky) in the final to get there. A similar path awaits, as they face off with top-seeded Memphis in Friday's late time slot and a potential date with second-seeded Texas would lie ahead on Sunday. Don't sleep on Tom Izzo's team. Memphis is young and doesn't shoot its free throws well, and the Spartans have already beaten Texas this year. If MSU finds its December form, they will be returning to the Lone Star state next weekend. The Detroit Free Press has a brief transcript of radio comments from Izzo's on Friday's game.
Congratluations to Ohio State! The Buckeyes beat Dayton last night and will advance to the semifinals of the NIT at Madison Square Garden. Ohio State will play Ole Miss next Wednesday. And if they win? Then we can't seem to escape Ohio State-Florida championship showdowns. The Gators are in the other semi against UMass.