With the Big Ten Tournament wrapping up on Sunday evening, it’s now time to turn our focus to the 2019 NCAA Tournament. March Madness is officially here and it’s time for fans to get excited about what’s to come over the next few weeks.
But before we dive into the bracket and how things might shake out, let’s make sure to take a quick look at the bracket itself. Here it is below.
2019 NCAA Tournament Bracket:
1. The Big Ten made out relatively well.
As fans know very well, the NCAA committee doesn’t seed the field based on conference ties. They don’t slot specific spots for the Big Ten, ACC, or anyone else. Their job is to choose the best teams possible and seed them accordingly.
And while there were some unfortunate developments for the league from a seeding perspective, it was still a great day for the Big Ten. Eight teams from the conference heard their names called and five of them will be first round favorites. Not bad for a league that many were criticizing before the season.
2. Michigan State’s path is relatively clear, despite Duke.
Coming into the Selection Show, most thought Michigan State had a relatively solid shot at grabbing a one seed and avoiding the nation’s best teams in its region. Unfortunately, that didn’t end up being the case for the Spartans. The team ended up being a two seed and got slotted into the same region as Duke.
Many were furious with this decision and rightfully so. The Spartans shouldn’t have been put in the same region as Duke and arguably should have received a one seed as well. Michigan State won the nation’s best conference and scored three more huge wins over the weekend. This team had earned its way to a better seeding situation.
But with that said, don’t panic about this region. Many get too caught up in looking at the one and two seeds and forget about everyone else. After all, the Spartans may not even end up facing Duke. Both teams need to win three games before they can see each other. As such, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
And outside of Duke, there isn’t a ton for Michigan State to fear in this region. LSU is the three seed in the region and is going through massive off court issues. The Tigers may not even have their best player available. Moreover, Bradley should be an easy first round matchup, Virginia Tech still has some roster concerns, and Mississippi State is arguably the weakest five seed. All told, that’s a pretty manageable region outside of Duke. The Spartans remain in really good shape to make the Elite Eight.
3. There’s not a ton to complain about for Michigan.
During the first weekend, things are going to be tricky for the Wolverines. Montana is a pretty feisty 15 seed and Nevada likely awaits Michigan in the Round of 32. However, Wolverine fans can’t complain about much else in the West Region. Gonzaga is the weakest one seed on paper and teams like Florida State and Texas Tech are certainly beatable.
4. Don’t look now, but Purdue has a solid route to the Final Four.
Maybe this is too optimistic of an approach, but I don’t think the Boilermakers have that daunting of a region. While Purdue has shown itself to be vulnerable this season, there isn’t any huge roadblock standing in its way at the moment. As such, Boilermaker fans have to be excited about what’s to come this month.
To start, Purdue gets a pretty bad Old Dominion team on Thursday and then likely follows that up with a solid, but beatable Villanova team. The Wildcats have certainly taken a massive step back this season. And even if Villanova has improved over the last few months, Purdue will be a solid favorite.
After that, Purdue would get the weakest two seed on paper in Tennessee in what looks to be a pretty winnable Sweet 16 game. What’s also interesting about that matchup is that the Volunteers will likely have to beat Cincinnati in Columbus to even get there. Not exactly an easy task. Then, an Elite Eight game would probably be against Virginia, Kansas State, or Wisconsin. The first has shown itself to be upset prone over the last decade and the latter two are absolutely beatable for the Boilermakers.
Overall, that’s a pretty reasonable draw for Purdue. The Boilermakers stand in good shape of being significant favorites in the team’s first two games and very narrow underdogs after that, even if Tennessee advances. The Elite Eight opponents are beatable, too.
5. Things look tricky for Wisconsin.
Even if Wisconsin’s Round of 32 and Sweet 16 matchups look winnable, things are going to be tough moving ahead. Oregon has been playing really well lately and are probably going to have a significant fan advantage in the game this weekend. The Badgers will be favored, but could definitely go down in the first round.
6. A Sweet 16 is just sitting there for Maryland.
Like Michigan State, Maryland will be on the bottom half of the East Region. And as a six seed, Maryland’s primary obstacle for the first weekend projects to be three seeded LSU. However, given the significant off court issues for the Tigers, Maryland will likely face a weakened LSU or Yale, should the Terps advance.
The Terps haven’t looked great recently, but this is about the best draw the team could ask for after the Big Ten Tournament. Belmont or Temple in round one followed by Yale or a weakened LSU in round two. A Sweet 16 appearance seems probable. The Terps just need to reach out and take it.
7. Iowa, Minnesota, and Ohio State will have uphill battles.
As lower seeded teams, fans expected Iowa, Minnesota, and Ohio State to have tough matchups in the first round of the tournament. After all, the lower the seeding, the tougher first matchup that team is supposed to get.
However, I’m not sure fans thought they would be this tough. Iowa gets Cincinnati in what is essentially going to be a road game, Minnesota gets arguably the toughest seven seed in the field, and Ohio State gets a rolling Iowa State. All three of these teams can pull off upsets, but I’m not sure I would bet a ton of them at the moment.