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2012 Big Ten Men's Basketball

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Some interesting matchups await Big Ten members in the First Round


Note: I realize that calling it the “First Round” is technically incorrect as that name has been given to First Four games in Dayton. But seeing as that basically indicates that 60 of the 68 teams are receiving a bye to the “Second Round,” I’m just plain not going to call it that. Moving on!

The 68 team bracket has been filled. The meticulously chosen field has been seeded and paired. The teams know their destination and (in most cases) who they will play when they get there. That can only mean one thing, folks: It’s time for the NCAA Tournament.

The Big Ten will be represented strongly in this year’s Dance, sending a high quality group of six teams. Proof of the its’ strength can be seen throughout the entire bracket as the conference boasts a No 1 seed in Michigan State, a No 2 with Ohio State, three No. 4’s between Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin, and a No 10 seed in Purdue that is actually favoured in their first round matchup. With that said, all six have drawn very unique first round matchups and subsequent paths to the Final Four. Let’s see how the Best in the Midwest stack up.


1 Michigan State vs. 16 LIU-Brooklyn - Northeast Conference Champions

In my opinion, Michigan State got the toughest opening game draw of the four No 1 seeds. Since no 16 has ever beaten a 1, that statement might appear to be of little relevance, but LIU is by far the most dangerous 16 seed in the field and has the ability to hang a ton of points on anyone, which is not something power conference teams like to see in their first game.

Michigan State’s Draymond Green and Keith Appling might contest this claim, but it’s entirely possible that LIU will have the best player on the court in stud forward Julian Boyd. This guy has been getting looks from the NBA as his size and raw athleticism -not to mention his 17.4 ppg and 9.5 rpg - have some pro scouts very intrigued.

Michigan State will win this game, because that’s simply what happens when 1’s play 16’s. However, do not be surprised if the Blackbirds hang around in this one for a lot longer than Sparty would like.



2 Ohio State vs 15 Loyola (MD)- Metro Atlantic Athletic Association Champions

The Buckeyes come into this one fresh off of a heartbreaking loss to the aforementioned Spartans in the Big Ten title game on Sunday. This team enters this tournament with a bit of a chip on its’ shoulder after failing to claim an outright regular season championship or the postseason tourney crown. Loyola, I don’t like your chances here.

With that said, the Greyhounds did win the MAAC, a league that produced an at-large team in Iona (who will play BYU in a First Four game) and had another very talented squad in Fairfield.

Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos is getting rave reviews from media members for his reputation as being a memorable quote. Unfortunately for him (and the media, I guess), he'll only get the chance to be quoted after one game. Ohio State will roll.


4 Wisconsin vs. 13 Montana- Big Sky Conference Champions

Bo Ryan and his plodding style will face a very dangerous 13 seed in Big Sky champ Montana. Both of these teams like to play very methodically in hopes of shortening the game. As always, Wisconsin boasts one of the most impressive defenses in the country, but has been known to go cold for long stretches at the other end of the floor. Teams like this are every bracket-picker's nightmare.

Montana comes in after beating Weber State in their conference tournament final. Weber boasted one of the nation's top point guards in Damian Lillard, but was still not able to get the job done against the Grizzlies. Their best payer is guard Will Cherry, as the guard from Oakland has averaged 16 ppg, 4 rpg, and 3.4 apg on the year. If he gets hot and Wisconsin goes cold, the upset alert warning will be going off with 2 minutes left in the game, I assure you.


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4 Michigan vs. 13 Ohio- Mid-American Conference Champions

Michigan is surely hoping to get the awful taste out of its mouth caused by the pounding it took from Ohio State in the Big Ten semi-finals. It seems rather fitting that they would get the chance to do it against their rival state's name bearing school, MAC Champion Ohio.

This is not a typical power conference vs. mid major matchup when it comes to the players' size. Michigan's rotation is relatively small in stature, giving up the height advantage that most of their big school brethren enjoy in their opening games of the tournament. This could open the door for Ohio's star players (DJ Cooper and Walter Offutt) to cause all sorts of first round misery as they will not have to deal with a rotation of intimidating shot blockers they are not used to going up against. However, what Michigan lacks in size up front is more than compensated for with their extremely talented backcourt. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr are a deadly combo that can beat you from anywhere on the floor, and are complimented by dead-eye upperclassmen shooters Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, and an emerging Matt Vogrich.

Michigan should and probably will win, but fans in Ann Arbor and across the Big Ten probably won't be comfortable until the final buzzer sounds in Nashville.


10 Purdue vs. 7 Saint Mary’s- West Coast Conference Champions

Any loss in this tournament for Purdue means the end of the Robbie Hummel Era will finally become a reality. After what seems like a nine year college career, Hummel will look to extend it at least two more days by beating Saint Mary's in the opening round. Looking at their records and seeds, Saint Mary's obviously looks like the favourite. Interesting, then, that Las Vegas bookmakers have actually favoured the Boilers in this one.

The NCAA Tournament is all about matchups, and quite frankly a higher seeded team from a mid major conference with a similar lack of frontcourt competence is exactly what the doctor ordered for Purdue. Saint Mary's is a solid squad with an outstanding point guard in Aussie Matthew Dellavedova, but except for combo forward Rob Jones (who qualifies as much more than competent, it's the rest of the frontcourt that's lacking) the Gaels will not be able to take advantage of Purdue's much maligned frontcourt. This means if Hummel, DJ Byrd, and Ryne Smith outplay Saint Mary's perimeter, than the Robbie Hummel Tour has a very good shot at lasting to the weekend.



4 Indiana vs 13 New Mexico State - Western Athletic Conference Champions

Tom Crean's quest to become King/Emperor/President of Indiana will get even more legs if he's able to get his Hoosiers past a tricky New Mexico State squad in a very interesting 4-13 matchup.

Indiana has had a fabulous return to relevance this season after toiling in obscurity during the last three seasons. It's just one of those programs that's supposed to be in the field every year, so some order was finally restored when their name was called on Selection Sunday. Cody Zeller has been one of the top three or four freshmen in the entire country and has been a big reason for the Hoosier's turnaround. But as important as the in-state big man has been, upperclassmen like Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls, Tom Pritchard, and Matt Roth (as well as injured guard Verdell Jones) have been paramount in getting their team back to The Tournament. This group has had to endure arguably the darkest stretch in Indiana basketball history, and are getting rewarded with their first taste of post-season play.

New Mexico State has flown under the radar all season, sneaking into the field after WAC favourite and regular season champion Nevada bowed out in the conference semi-finals. Big man Wendell McKinnes' sensational 18.8 ppg and 10.8 rpg lead the plucky bunch from Las Cruces. The Aggies like to get up and down the floor, so look for a potential shootout between two teams that have the ability to fill it up in a hurry.


By Scott Capron
DFN Sports Staff Writer



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