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3/15 Big Ten Preview: Let’s Get It Started

The NCAA Tournament tips off on Thursday with two Big Ten teams in action.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Wichita Practice Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

It seems so elementary on paper. The higher seeds should always beat the lower seeds in the NCAA Tournament. We would perhaps have more harmony in the world if that were the case all the time. Chaos is more fun though, and we are about to embark on almost a month long trip full of it. It begins today with the second round tipping off later this morning. For the four Big Ten teams in the tournament, half of them will put their seasons on the line today.

Both Ohio State and Michigan seem to be the favorites heading into their respective games. The Buckeyes have struggled down the stretch, but seem to have a better overall team than their counterparts South Dakota State. On the other hand, Michigan comes in as one of the hottest teams in the country. They will look to continue that streak against Montana, the champions of the Big Sky.

Oddly enough both teams made it into the West regional but will be playing at different locales today. The only chance the two have of meeting one another in this tournament would be if they each make it to the Elite Eight. That is a long way from today though, so let’s unpack these two fantastic match-ups.

Game of the Day

#5 Ohio State Buckeyes vs #12 South Dakota State

  • Time/TV: 4:00 PM ET - TNT
  • Spread: Ohio State (-8)

The 12 seed is always an attractive number when you are filling out your brackets. All of this year’s 12 seeds are capable of upsetting the five seeds they are playing. South Dakota State may be the team most likely to upset. They have a seasoned team that has made the NCAA Tournament the last three seasons. The Jackrabbits also feature one the best players in the country in Mike Daum, who is sure to give Kaleb Wesson fits all game.

However, if South Dakota State is to win this game it will be because of their players not named Mike Daum. Most notably, their freshman point guard David Jenkins Jr. has shined as the regular season wound down. He was especially dominant in the Jackrabbits run through the Summit League tournament. There are other really talented players on South Dakota State’s roster like Reed Tellinghuisen and Tevin King, but Daum and Jenkins Jr. should run the show for them.

How Ohio State avoids an upset is the play of Keita Bates-Diop. South Dakota State does not have the body to physically defend Bates-Diop for a full 40 minutes. That could be a massive issue for the Jackrabbits in their pursuit of first NCAA Tournament victory. Bates-Diop was the Big Ten’s best player all season and now is the time for him to prove that to an even greater degree. With that being said, I think South Dakota State is going to be a real problem for an Ohio State team that dropped three out of their last five games.

  • Pick Against the Spread: South Dakota State

The Rest

#3 Michigan Wolverines vs #14 Montana Grizzlies

  • Time/TV: 9:50 PM ET - TBS
  • Spread: Michigan (-11)

Do not automatically assume that Michigan will blow by Montana because of their Big Ten tournament performance. In fact, their layoff may prove to be detrimental in the end. Either way, Montana is not a team to be taken lightly. The Big Sky champs push the pace and play very efficient offense. This is led by Oregon transfer Ahmaad Rorie who averages 17 points per game on 42 percent shooting.

Not only that, the Grizzlies are a far better rebounding team than the Wolverines. They stack up nearly five more rebounds per game than Michigan. The Wolverines 33 rebounds per game mark was 11th in the Big Ten and would have been in the bottom half of the Big Sky leaderboard. Believe it or not, the Big Sky had four teams who averaged 37 or more rebounds per game as a team.

That is not to say that Michigan will lose this game because I think they will win in the end. However, we will be raising our eyebrows in surprise when we see how good this Montana team is. Be on the lookout, if Michigan comes out sluggish, the Grizzlies could steal one.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Montana