Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On the Tournament and Big Ten Selection

In seed order, I wanted to take a look at the relative outlooks for the Big Ten teams in the tournament and in some cases how close they were to other seeds.

Michigan State, 2 Midwest
In the short term, I am going to go on record as saying Michigan State is pretty safe this weekend. Robert Morris isn't awful, but they have much of a chance of putting up a big fight. USC is probably their biggest roadblock to the Sweet 16.

As far as their seeding goes, it's hard to tell from the bracket how close they were to a 1 seed. While they got the geographically favorable Midwest region assigned to them, it's possible another team was the #5 overall seed and they would not have been able to balance the regions if the best 1 and 2 seeds were in the same bracket. Oklahoma, assigned to the south, may have been the top 2 seed in the committee's eyes, especially since they received consideration for a 1.

Purdue, 5 West
It worries me a bit that some people who's opinions have been proven wrong time and time again are hyping Purdue as a sleeper. However, this is a team that, when fully healthy, is much better than a 5. The presumptive second round match-up with Washington in Portland is potentially problematic, as they would likely have something of a home court advantage. Connecticut, the lowest seeded 1 seed and missing guard Jerome Dyson, likely awaits the winner. If there is a vulnerable 1, it's Connecticut. I'm cautiously optimistic.

Illinois, 5 South
The loss of Chester Frazier is somewhat overstated. He is solid defensively and his loss definitely hurt the Illinois some on Saturday. However, he turns the ball over way too frequently and we saw them run a perfectly efficient offense against Michigan without him Friday. In short, I don't think he'll be missed too much this week. The big difference between Illinois' draw and Purdue's is in the first round. Western Kentucky poses a bigger upset threat than Northern Iowa. Also, while Purdue is a slight favorite against Washington, Illinois comes in as a definite underdog to Gonzaga, while also playing an essential road game if it gets that far.

Ohio State, 8 Midwest
A bittersweet draw for the Buckeyes. On one hand, they probably deserved at least a 7 seed, so they have every right to feel slighted. On the other hand, they get a virtual home series this weekend in Dayton. They will start as favorites against an overrated Siena team. Should they advance, they will get a prime shot at an upset against top seeded Louisville. While people will point to the fact that Louisville is also within driving distance, you need to consider the fact that the whole state of Ohio is obnoxiously obsessed with their beloved Buckeyes. There will be a partial crowd in Dayton, and that could help Ohio State do the unthinkable.

Michigan, 10 South
Given how much the committee looked at quality wins when considering bubble teams, Michigan can thank their wins over Duke, UCLA, and Purdue. Ed Dechellis, in particular, should take note of John Beilein's non-conference scheduling. Their wins over Duke and UCLA and their close loss at Connecticut, combined with Beilein's history of NCAA success make Michigan a trendy cinderella pick. Combine that with the fact that I felt Oklahoma and Clemson were likely upset victims before the bracket was announced, and I think Michigan has a good chance to surprise some folks.

Minnesota, 10 East
Probably seeded below Michigan because of the head to head sweep, Minnesota probably has the worst chance of any Big Ten team to reach the Sweet 16. The first round presents an interesting match-up with a Team in Texas that is so inconsistent from game to game. If they get past them, I'm not sure Minnesota can handle presumptive second round opponent, Duke.

Wisconsin, 12 East
A common misconception about Wisconsin is that they were the last team in, because of their seed. I'm not so sure this is true. Let's take a walk in the committee's shoes, assuming that Wisconsin was a true 10 seed, ranked below Minnesota, Michigan State, and Maryland.
  • 10 Midwest, Minneapolis: Wisconsin cannot be placed here, because it would set up a second round rematch with Michigan State. Conference foes cannot face eachother until the Elite 8.
  • 11 Midwest, Minneapolis: The most geographically favorable 11 seed for Wisconsin, they cannot be placed here because of Michigan State's presense in the same half of the bracket.
  • 11 West, Kansas City: An 11 seed in the west would have matched the Badgers with Marquette. No regular season rematches are allowed in the first two rounds of the tournament.
  • 11 South, Kansas City: Michigan's presence as a 10 seed here means Wisconsin can't be placed here.
  • 11 East, Greensboro: Minnesota is the 10 here. Wisconsin cannot be here.
When all is said and done, Wisconsin clearly got bumped down to the 12 line. The same can be said for Arizona, as there were Pac 10 teams preventing them from getting an 11 seed. There is simply no way that Wisconsin was seeded behind the likes of VCU and Temple. I would go so far as to say that Dayton could have been the lowest seeded at large team.

While you can argue that Wisconsin gets hurt the most from this, the true loser could be Florida State, who now does not get to play a true 12 seed in their first round match-up. In fact, Wisconsin could be the favorite, not only in their first round game, but also in their entire "Pod." It's a true toss-up between Florida State, Wisconsin, and Xavier.

Penn State and Northwestern, NIT
It would be safe to say that Penn State was one of the teams bumped out by USC, Mississippi State, Cleveland State, and Temple stealing bids. Certainly, their fate this year will be a lesson for a team when they think about scheduling New Jersey Institute of Technology.

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