In the non-conference season, wins that Big Ten teams earned on Friday would not be a very big deal. However, at this time of year, nothing can be taken for granted, because every season we see multiple major conference powers get caught off guard by lower-seeded opponents.
That didn't happen on Friday, as Ohio State, Wisconsin and Indiana all made short work of their second round opposition to move one step closer to college hoops glory.
Ohio State 78, Loyola 59
Deshaun Thomas showed that as long as he sticks around for next season, he'll be a candidate for first team all-conference. The sophomore forward was 13 of 22 from the field for 31 points and 12 rebounds. Said borderline crazy Loyola boss Jimmy Patsos, "I said I was worried about . Jimmy doesn't just bartend. Jimmy knows basketball, too."
Maybe Jimmy should have used his hoops wisdom to find a way to actually slow down Thomas.
One thing Patsos did do well was pressure Ohio State into committing and uncharacteristic amount of turnovers.
Against Loyola's pesky full-court pressure, Ohio State (28-7) committed 18 turnovers -- one shy of their season high -- with nonchalant, careless passes. Though news of Fab Melo's suspension for top-seed Syracuse has critics dubbing the East Region to be Ohio State's for the taking, the lackadaisical attitude that has pervaded the club manifested itself through rocky turbulence the entire 40 minutes.
Also for the Bucks, William Buford was 3 of 7 from beyond the arc en route to 17 points, while Jared Sullinger grabbed 11 rebounds and handed out 5 blocks despite only scoring 12 points on 4 of 11 shooting.
Wisconsin 73, Montana 49
Although he has struggled from the field at points during this season, Badger point guard Jordan Taylor was all good in this one. The senior knocked down 3 of 5 three-pointers and 3 of 5 two-pointers, grabbed 8 rebounds, dished out 6 assists, scored 17 points and did not turn the ball over even once. Woo. It was like 2011 Taylor all over again.
Taylor made it sound easy when he spoke to reporters after the game.
"I'm just coming out trying to do anything I can to help my team win," said Taylor after the victory. "I felt like I got some open looks there, especially in the first half. It's the same for me as it is for everybody else. If you get an open look, you've just got to step in and knock it down."
As usual, the Badgers made defense a focus in this one, limiting Montana's best scorer Will Cherry to 9 points on 3 of 14 shooting.
Said Bo Ryan after the game, "We just made sure that we tried to run him off the 3-point line and tried to get some help to him and squeeze the court, make the driving lane smaller."
Indiana 79, New Mexico State 66
As usual, Indiana's defense wasn't amazing, as they allowed the Aggies to shoot 55.1% from the field. However, Tom Crean's team shot 59.3% themselves to roll to the victory. The Crimson Quarry notes just how great of an offensive performance it was for the Hoosiers.
Indiana marked its return to the NCAA Tournament with one of its best offensive performances of the season, and never trailed against New Mexico State, winning 79-66. Indiana's offensive efficiency of 1.23 points per possession was the eight best of the season and IU's effective field goal percentage of 65.7 was the third best of the season. Much as in the Michigan State win of a couple of weeks ago, IU neutralized NMSU's typical advantage on the boards (IU had an offensive rebound percentage of 30 compared to 33 for NMSU) and outplayed the Aggies in every other aspect.
Jordan Hulls was particularly outstanding, with 22 points on 4 of 6 three-point shooting. Will Sheehey, Christian Watford and Cody Zeller each scored 14 points a piece, with Zeller leading the team in rebounds (6), assists (4) and steals (6!).
"Well, I was just getting up with my teammates, whether it was the ball screen, or coming off the ball screens," said Hulls after the game, "But I hit the first shots, so then started feeling a little better once it started leaving my hands and I was able to knock down some shots. But I got the majority of my shots from my teammates just setting up good ball screens for me."
Tomorrow in the 3rd Round, Ohio State faces Gonzaga at 2:45 on CBS, then Wisconsin play Vandy at 6:10 on TNT and Indiana goes against everyone's favorite Cinderella VCU at 7:10 on TBS. All those times are Eastern.
Today, on the schedule are Michigan vs. Ohio (7:20, TNT), Purdue vs. Saint Mary's (7:27, truTV) and Michigan State vs. LIU (9:20, TBS). Also, don't forget about Northwestern in the NIT! The 'Cats are playing at Washington at 10 PM on ESPNU.