The NCAA Tournament gets underway for the Big Ten on Thursday with three games:
3:15 Wisconsin vs Montana - Albuquerque, NM
9:45 Indiana vs New Mexico St. - Portland, OR
9:50 Ohio St. vs Loyola (Md.) - Pittsburgh, PA
As a preview, we're going to check out what some team-specific sites are saying about their draws, their first round opponents, and what lies ahead.
3:15 PM: Wisconsin vs Montana
Adam Hoge at Bucky's 5th Quarter uses past results to try to predict what the Badgers will do this year:
Look, it's the NCAA Tournament, so anything can happen, but history tells us two things with the Badgers: 1) Bo Ryan doesn't lose in the first round and 2) Bo Ryan doesn't make the Final Four.
Also over at Bucky's 5th Quarter, Sam Zastrow says that the 13 seed Grizzlies have at least one advantage over Wisconsin:
Former Wisconsin player Freddie Owens is an assistant coach at Montana under head coach Wayne Tinkle. Ryan said Owens' knowledge of Wisconsin's system could give the Grizzlies a competitive advantage any other non-conference opponent would lack.
One thing that has Wisconsin fans thinking a deep tournament run isn't out of the question is the announcement that Syracuse will be without Fab Melo for the tournament. Syracuse is the one seed that the Badgers would face if both teams made it to the Sweet Sixteen. I haven't seen any Badgers fans who think that getting to a potential Syracuse matchup is going to be a cakewalk, but it's definitely something to think about.
9:45 PM: Indiana vs New Mexico St.
The IU blogs seem to be concentrating on their opponents, the Aggies of New Mexico St. Ryan Corazza at Inside the Hall writes about what he thinks the Hoosiers are going to have to do to advance:
It's shaping up to be a game in which Indiana is going to have to bring high energy from the start to combat a fast-paced Aggies squad that gets after it on the boards and makes it to the line with great frequency.
JustAJ at The Crimson Quarry thinks that Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo are the key players for Indiana:
If Christian and Vic can shut down Mckines and Laroche respectively then the game should go smoothly. The same players will match up on the other end of the floor where Vic and Wat do very well at getting to the rack and drawing fouls. Those should be the key battles of the evening and whichever way they go will likely dictate the outcome.
John M, also writing at TCQ is thankful to see IU back in the mix after three years in the wilderness:
Like all IU fans, I'm happy that the selection show, the brackets, the TV schedule, and everything else are relevant to us this year. Indiana is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years. Let's all vow to never take this for granted again.
He's not looking forward to a potential matchup with one seed Kentucky, though:
I'm a little resentful that the most likely end to IU's season is that Kentucky will get the chance to avenge IU's win and will do so in a big way. I know that the committee doesn't look for such matchups, or so they say, but it is an unfortunate draw.
9:50 PM Ohio St. vs Loyola (Md.)
The Buckeyes are in the same region as Wisconsin, so the Fab Melo news is also of interest to OSU fans. Commenter Nick Quinn at Along the Olentangy has this to say about it:
With Melo gone, Ohio State should feel like the team to beat in the East bracket. A possible head to head matchup wouldn’t occur until the elite eight but this is a huge blow to Syracuse. If Ohio State can make it to the elite eight, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a matchup with Vanderbilt. They played Kentucky close the first two meetings and were able to knock off the top rated Wildcats in the SEC Championship.
Johnny Ginter at Eleven Warriors is trying to learn as much as he can about their first round opponents. One thing he learned is that Coach Jimmy Patsos is unorthodox to say the least. After learning that Patsos had his players double team Stephan Curry all game (a thirty point loss) in order to shut him down, Ginter hopes that he has a similar strategy against Ohio St.:
So of course I am praying that Patsos does something similar against Sullinger.
Looking at a comparison between Patsos and OSU Coach Thad Matta on statsheet it's obvious that Matta has been around longer and has had more success. One stat does jump out, though: Patsos is exactly .500 over the course of his career (122-122).
Although a 15 over a 2 upset is not unprecedented, it would take an Act of God for Loyola to win this one.