INDIANAPOLIS – The Big Ten entered the NCAA men’s tournament with two more offers (nine total) than any other league, KenPom’s best conference ranking in the country, two No. 1 seeds and two No. 1 seeds. . 2 more. In all, the league had five of the tournament’s top 16 seeds.
For all its failed COVID-19-related football woes of the fall, the conference looked set for a big performance on the hardwood this spring. This was the year, it felt, to break that 21-year national title drought in men’s rings.
On Monday morning, with the first three days of the Big Dance behind us, the conference boils down to three teams. Their conference tournament champion (Illinois) left, losing to No. 8 seed Loyola Chicago on Sunday. The second seed Ohio State didn’t last past day one. Neither did Purdue, the No. 4 seed, the closest to Indianapolis than any other of the tournament’s 68 qualifiers. Michigan State lost in the First Four, and Wisconsin fell Sunday, as did Rutgers, which blew a nine-point lead in the final five minutes against Houston.
The three remaining Big Ten teams try to secure a trip to the Sweet 16 on Monday: No. 10 seed Maryland (vs. No. 2 Alabama), No. 2 Iowa (vs. No. 7 Oregon) and No. 1 Michigan (against No. No. 8 LSU). None of them feel like guaranteed wins. In fact, the Wolverines, the league’s regular-season champion, don’t have injured starter Isaiah Livers.
Combine the Big Ten tournament record so far (6–6) with the Pac-12 record (6–0) and you really have some serious craziness here in March. The regular seasons of those two leagues were somewhat opposite. So were we all fooled by the regular season Big Ten list? Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the league was not heavily tested outside of the conference. They mostly played non-conference games against the ACC, which, it turns out, isn’t that strong this year.
Not everyone agrees. That includes Purdue coach Matt Painter, whose Boilermakers joined the Buckeyes as the two Big Ten teams whose losses came in overtime.
“We had a great year this year as a conference,” he said. “From 1 to 14, it was obviously the best conference. Obviously, when you do that and you get the most teams, and then you have some very close losses, people want to go back and say, ‘Well, maybe you didn’t have the year you thought.’ No, we had a year as good as a conference. You’re one point away from winning three different games and you don’t win. “
Some of the opponents who defeated the Big Ten teams include Loyola Chicago (probably not seeded), Oral Roberts (only the 9th 15 seed to beat a No. 2 seed), North Texas (finished third in C-USA), UCLA (the Pac-12!) And Baylor (this one is understandable).
What we’ve really learned here is that A) COVID-19 has leveled the playing field a bit this year and B) the tournament, as it always has been, is a single elimination random shooting event that you shouldn’t read. as well a lot in.
Still, here sits the Big Ten with their title hopes narrowed to three teams on the last day of the first weekend.
Loyola Chicago is back in the spotlight for March, but make no mistake, this time he left the glass slipper at home. (By Pat Forde)
The women’s tournament started on Sunday and the theme of the day was frustrated defeat. (By Emma Baccellieri)
Even Jim Boeheim couldn’t help but smile and play the crowd after his son helped Syracuse land another surprising slot on Sweet 16. (By Pat Forde)
Sweet 16’s Oral Roberts is the truest form of Cinderella that Big Dance has seen since the Florida Gulf Coast race in 2013. (By Ross Dellenger)
Day 3 of the NCAA men’s tournament is in the books. Do you miss something?
The best we saw
After beating No. 1 seed Illinois, Loyola Chicago’s Twitter account hit the Illini down while they were down, making sure we all know who’s running the state.
Pick ‘Em: Men and Women
SI’s Kevin Sweeney makes his picks for Monday’s second round men’s games:
No. 2 Iowa over No. 7 Oregon: The rested Ducks will scare the Hawkeyes, but Oregon has no internal answer for Luka Garza.
No. 1 Gonzaga over No. 8 Oklahoma: Contrary to Comments from Brady ManekThe Sooners haven’t seen a team like Gonzaga this year. The zags roll.
No. 11 UCLA over No. 14 Abilene Christian: The ACU defense will make life more difficult, but the Wildcats aren’t good enough on offense to pull off a second upset in three days.
No. 13 Ohio over No. 5 Creighton: Creighton barely escaped from UC Santa Barbara, but is eliminated here. The Bobcats can score with anyone.
No. 1 Michigan over No. 8 LSU: LSU is far more talented than the average No. 8 seed, and Michigan without Isaiah Livers is vulnerable. However, a constant dose of Hunter Dickinson will suffice.
No. 5 Colorado over No. 4 Florida State: It’s hard to believe Colorado will shoot as well as it did against Georgetown, but McKinley Wright IV and the Buffs will find a way.
No. 2 Alabama over No. 10 Maryland: Maryland’s only chance is to slow down, and Alabama is really good at not getting bogged down. Tidal roll.
No. 6 USC over No. 3 Kansas: It’s not Tanner Groves, but Evan Mobley is pretty good. He will be the best player on the court in this one.
SI’s Molly Geary makes her picks for eight of Sunday’s women’s first-round games:
No. 6 Rutgers over No. 11 BYU: The Scarlet Knights had won nine in a row after their COVID-19 hiatus before a loss to Iowa in the Big Ten tournament.
No. 3 Georgia over No. 14 Drexel: Fresh off an impressive performance in the SEC tournament, the Bulldogs will not be an easy out.
No. 7 Northwestern over No. 10 UCF: This will be a true routine game, but I will stick with the Wildcats to survive.
No. 11 South Dakota over No. 6 Oregon: After a Day 1 of chalk, we need a first-round surprise somewhere, right?
Missouri State No. 5 over No. 12 UC Davis: The Bears, winners of 17 in a row, showed their promise when they beat Maryland earlier in the season.
No. 7 Alabama over No. 10 UNC: Jasmine Walker will have a great day from the perimeter to take the Tide past the Tar Heels.
No. 5 Gonzaga over No. 12 Belmont: The Bruins have won 10 in a row, but the Zags defense will hold up to this push. only enough.
Iowa State No. 7 over Michigan State No. 10: Cyclones shoot good all three, shoot free throws exceptionally well, and take good care of the ball. They are all a bit useful in March.
The Pac-12, or should we say, the Conference of Champions, continues its red-hot streak on Monday, with Oregon, Colorado and USC defeating Iowa, Florida State and Kansas, and UCLA holding on to outlast upstart Abilene Christian. Somewhere, Bill Walton finds nirvana. –Jeremy woo
On the buzzer
Fire up the Muss Bus. Eric Musselman, the third-year coach at Arkansas, has the Hogs back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996. From 1990 to 1996, the Arkansas men advanced to six Sweet 16s, four Elite Eights. , three Final Fours and won a national title. For the past 24 years, they never made it past the second round. Do you think Musselman is excited? Here’s his post-game reaction:
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.