The Big Ten had an impressive three teams in the elite eight, but two of them suffered losses that round, leaving Wisconsin the lone B1G squad in the Final Four. Here the BTP staffers take a look at the Big Ten's three elite 8 teams, the meaning of the Minnesota Gophers' NIT title, and the incoming stars who played in the McDonald's All-American game.
1. Wisconsin's in the Final Four!!!! How will they fare in North Texas?
Andrew Emmer - Hey guys, this is my first round table! Anyway. I think the Badgers and Wildcats are a fascinating matchup. Two very different styles of play and program building, but I tend to think Kentucky pulls this one out. Their athleticism is overwhelming as the game goes on and while I think the game is close the whole way, but by the last five minutes Wisconsin just might be beaten down. If...IF...they can get past Kentucky, I would like their chances against either UConn or Florida.
Drew Hamm - First of all WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Second of all, I think Wisconsin can hang with Kentucky if the Badgers can keep the UK guards from slicing through the lane like a knife through brie (cheese, Wisconsin, ehh??) The last game of the regular season against Nebraska is a prime example of big, athletic guards embarrassing the Badgers perimeter defense. I think this is the key matchup in the game, and whichever team wins will end up winning the game. I don't know how they'll fare, but let's just assume I pick them to beat the Sixers in a best of three series.
Jason Dorow - I think Wisconsin falls in the national title game. They have a tough matchup with Kentucky, given the athleticism and strength of the Wildcat lineup. It will be interesting to see if the Badgers can keep UK off the offensive boards and limit easy buckets. Wisco's greatest advantage is passing their patient offense and ball movement. Bo Ryan is going to draw an offensive scheme that will confuse the UK defense. I think the Badgers will get Kentucky out of their element and make it to the national championship, but Florida will simply be too talented and balanced for the Badgers.
2. Michigan State was considered one of the best teams in the country going into the tourney. Did Sparty choke?
Andrew Emmer - Absolutely not. I can't say that any one possession game in the final minute is a choke. UConn has the best player in the tournament in Napier and they hit a few more shots than Sparty. An Elite 8 might be slightly disappointing, but it's no choke.
Drew Hamm - They didn't choke, but they certainly didn't play their best game against UConn and I think that has to bother them and their fans more than choking would. MSU was a trendy pick to make the Final Four, but that doesn't mean they choked. They outperformed their seed and lost to a hot team in a hostile environment. Enough niceties: go screw, Michigan State.
Jason Dorow - With how crazy basketball in March can be, Michigan State's loss can't be considered a choke, but it's a pretty devastating end. The Spartans underperformed in all aspects of the game against UCONN, with the exception of three point shooting. They had just defeated an excellent Virginia team and had a favorable matchup against the Huskies. MSU looked poised for a national championship run, so it was just a disappointing way for the Spartans' strong senior class to end their career.
3. If Mitch McGary were healthy, where would Michigan be now?
Andrew Emmer - I don't know how much better their season really could have gone. They won the conference and made the Elite 8. I guess he could have pushed them into the Final Four, but not against this current Kentucky team. There are a lot of teams McGary is a matchup problem for, but UK isn't one of them. Also UK shooting 63% from three while Michigan shot 38% didn't help.
Drew Hamm - It depends. Can Mitch McGary drive a charter bus? *crickets* Hey, try the veal and don't forget to tip your waitress! In basketball terms, I don't think Michigan would have gotten past the buzzsaw that was the Kentucky Wildcats last weekend. That was a team on a mission and those shooting percentages are pretty damning.
Jason Dorow - It's so hard to tell. Michigan may not have necessarily been better off with McGary. Jordan Morgan improved immensely this season and Jon Horford stepped up his play in the frontcourt. The Wolverines might still be playing with McGary in. He would've helped out against an extremely physical Kentucky squad. In any case, it was a very impressive season for the Wolverines.
4. Minnesota won the NIT Championship Thursday. What does it mean for Pitino's program?
Andrew Emmer - I...don't know. The NIT is so weird. As a Maryland fan I saw my team go to the NIT Final Four last year and not make it this year. So, who knows. I like Lil' Pitino as a coach most of the time and think if he can get players to Minnesota he'll succeed, at least moderately. I don't see them being a B1G title contender anytime soon.
Drew Hamm - IT MEANS ONE MORE GAME FOR #DELANYCAT TO REIGN SUPREME! LONG LIVE #DELANYCAT! It can't be a bad thing, though. More games on national TV is good for recruiting too.
Jason Dorow - Winning the NIT is cool and stuff, but it's not a program changer. The championship was a fitting way for Austin Hollins to finish his career as a Gopher, and Minnesota is headed in the right direction with Pitino at the helm. They are going to be contenders in the B1G in the years to come.
5. McDonald's All-America game provided national look at some of the B1G's incoming stars. Who will make the biggest splash next year?
Andrew Emmer - My wheelhouse! Melo Trimble is my pick for the biggest impact, mostly because he's likely going to be starting at the point for Maryland from day one and Maryland's been desperate to find a point guard since Greivis Vasquez graduated. The Terps are plenty talented and return everyone, a good Trimble could be the push over the top they need. Other than him, I love what D'Angelo Russell brings to Ohio State, but would have loved it more if he was able to play along with Craft and Ross. My sleeper is Dom Uhl (not a Burger Boy) for Iowa. He's a German import that's only scratching the surface of what he can be.
Drew Hamm - This James Blackmon Jr. fellow looks like you may need to start guarding the second he steps off the bus. He won the 3-point shooting contest after all, and I'm excited to see him team up with Yogi Ferrell next year. I've made multiple bus references in this roundtable and I regret nothing.
Jason Dorow - Indiana suffered an off year this season and Tom Crean will need someone beside Yogi Ferrell to score the rock next year. James Blackmon Jr. can be that guy. Blackmon was the three-point shooting champion on Monday and scored 13 points in the McDonald's All-America game. He's going to light up the scoreboard in Assembly Hall.