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The Big Ten Basketball Report: Tournament Edition

Let’s just be absolutely clear: This is not the Big Ten’s year. At least, according to some.

It’s hard to not assume that the selection committee had made up its mind about that fact long before Purdue dropped a shocker to the Illini or before Blake Hoffarber performed Miracle Number Two for Minnesota on Indiana’s dying team. It’s hard to believe that the committee would also leave out Thad Matta’s Buckeyes but sneak in Arizona, Villanova and Baylor. It’s hard to swallow the fact that the Big Ten champion, both regular season and in the tournament, was given a #3 seed despite being ranked in the Top 5 nationally, residing in the Top 12 in the RPI rankings and simply having not lost to anyone except Purdue since December 8.

This is hard to fathom, yet it’s all true.

I disagree with the selection committee on these decisions. I am the first to be critical of the Big Ten and I have no qualms about teams and conferences being punished and rewarded for bad behavior or good play, respectively. But this is more than a little unfair.

This is outright biased.

The only thing that the Big Ten can do to combat any of this is to make a couple of deep runs in the tournament, and hope that next year’s selection committee is paying attention. After all, I can remember a number of pundits criticizing the Big Ten in 2005 when Illinois was the #1 overall seed. I seem to have a vague recollection of Illinois playing in the Final Four. Oh right. Michigan State, too.

It’s my contention that the Big Ten, while certainly on a down year, should have been seeded higher, across the board.

Let’s take a look at the four teams and their potential paths to the Sweet Sixteen. Each team is listed with their seed and region — and the seed they should have been given in parentheses.

Indiana: #8 – East – (#6)

This is the committee’s way of telling Indiana to fuck off. The university decided to allow the team to play in the tournament despite the fact that major sanctions are looming and that they have dropped three of their last six games. Not only that, but being given a #8 seed is generally a nice tease: Welcome to the tournament — your stay will be ending just as soon as it began.

This is especially true if you are pitted against the #1 overall seed in the second round, and that is exactly what the Hoosiers got.

But, let’s not count newbie Dan Dakich and this ferociously under-seeded squad out just yet. Remember, here is a team that has just undergone more scrutiny than your average pop starlet, and still has the Big Ten POY, as well as the Big Ten FOY. D.J. White and Eric Gordon are NBA players-in-waiting and that inside-outside combo is dangerous no matter what team or seed they are up against. The Tar Heels of UNC are not just a little worried about this — they are nervous.

Purdue: #6 – West – (#5)

I like that Purdue got seeded as low as they did. The Baby Boilers have played better than expected in games that they weren’t favored to win, so assuming they can get past a wild and undisciplined Baylor squad, I think that their chances against either Xavier or Georgia seem pretty good.

Purdue plays defense as well as anyone in the country, so that makes them a formidable opponent against most every team. The real question is whether E’Twaun Moore, Keaton Grant or Robbie Hummel can be successful from outside the arc. When they are, they are fairly unbeatable. Just ask Wisconsin.

Michigan State: #5 – South – (#4)

If you are counting Michigan State out of your bracket, you are making a potentially huge mistake. Up above, I mentioned their Final Four run in 2005. Can you tell me what their seed was? Here’s a hint: It looks remarkably like the one they have this year.

If I had to take a guess, Tom Izzo’s team will either be upset by Temple in the first round or it will show John Calipari what it means for Memphis to face some real competition in the Sweet 16 as the Spartans make their way to yet another Final Four. Of course, my bracket doesn’t reflect that, but I never win those damn things anyway.

Wisconsin: #3 – Midwest – (#2)

That Bo Ryan took this team to where they are should be worth a higher seed in and of itself. I am shocked by the #3 seed that the committee gave them. Being placed in the Midwest bracket is the only saving grace of this seeding because, as anyone knows, Wisconsin travels as well as anyone in the nation. Omaha is only a seven-hour jaunt from Madison, and you better believe that when the Badgers take the court against CSU-Fullerton and then either Kansas State or USC, it’s going to be filled with a sea of red.

Now, in the spirit of being totally up front with my readers, I have decided to post my bracket here. It’s my Bracket of Integrity. I am in a variety of pools and contests, online and otherwise traditional with pen and paper, but this one is the one that, if I win, I will feel the best about.

I hope that next week is not the final Big Ten Basketball Report. After all, we have a lot of face to save.

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