So far so good for the best conference in America. The B1G has certainly looked the part in the Big Dance thus far, with 4 (nearly 5) out of 6 teams advancing to the Sweet 16. Had Purdue hung on they would have made the 5th team. They led the entire game against the #2 seed Kansas Jayhawks, that is until the 3:00 mark towards the end of the game. That’s when Kansas took their 1st lead of the game and barely hung on to beat the Boilers, a win the Big 12 desperately needed to keep any sort of identity alive in this year’s tournament.
The 2 B1G teams now absent from the tournament are Michigan and Purdue. Purdue, after an impressive 1st round victory over Saint Mary’s, lost (as mentioned above) in the 2nd round to Kansas on Sunday night. Michigan, losing in the 1st round to the Ohio Bobcats, had to be the biggest disappointment from a conference point of view, as they never really got going in their opening round debut. They did however manage to keep it close as they only lost by 5 points, but still ended up the loser to Ohio, who just might be the biggest surprise team to advance to the Sweet 16.
The four teams from the B1G still alive are Indiana, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State. Of these I would say Wisconsin is the biggest surprise to see still going, but Bo Ryan always seems to have his guys prepared and they have looked good thus far. I honestly didn’t think they would make it past Vandy, but we’ll find out soon enough how much gas is left in the tank for the Badgers as they get the second overall #1 seed Syracuse next.
Indiana will try to do the unthinkable, beat Kentucky for a 2nd time this season. The Hoosiers managed the monster upset earlier this season when they knocked off the Wildcats with a last second buzzer beater which gave Kentucky their one and only loss during the entire regular season beating them 73-72. You can be sure that this Kentucky squad remembers that game all too well and will be relishing their shot at redemption in a rematch, on a neutral floor none-the-less.
The Michigan State Spartans, despite the loss of Branden Dawson have looked their typical part this post-season, although they did get a scare from St. Louis in round 2. The Spartans get Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals next in what should be an interesting match-up. Louisville has had a solid showing so far in the tournament with wins over a pretty good Davidson team in round 1 and another impressive performance beating Steve Alford’s New Mexico Lobos in round 2. That said I still like this Michigan State team to advance and look forward to a potential Elite 8 match-up with Marquette in what I feel would be a fantastic game. Could Michigan State be bound for yet another Final Four? I don’t think anyone would be surprised, and it just wouldn’t feel like a true Final Four without them.
The Ohio State Buckeyes are the 4th and final team to represent the B1G in the Sweet 16 as they will face the Cincinnati Bearcats. Cincinnati was one of the hottest teams coming into the tournament and are still riding that hot streak. This is a big physical team that actually matches up pretty well with Ohio State. That said, I just don’t think they have the horses to run with the Buckeyes for an entire game and see Ohio State advancing on to meet the winner of Syracuse/Wisconsin. An Ohio State/Syracuse matchup would be a dandy, but of course I have to root for an all Big Ten Elite 8 matchup instead.
All in all it has been a very impressive showing for the Big Ten Conference this year in the tournament, and hopefully the best is yet to come. While I do have Kentucky and North Carolina winning my tournament pools respectively, that ship has pretty sailed as my bracket is beyond damage control at this point. Could this be the year that Ohio State actually plays up to their potential and wins the whole thing? Could Sparty advance past the Final Four and bring home their 1st title since 2000? We’ll just have to wait and see.