When the NCAA tournament bracket was revealed last Sunday, nine Big Ten teams were announced to have a chance to play in the NCAA tournament. Now, with the first weekend of March Madness in the rearview, just two Big Ten teams remain in the bracket, having advanced to the Sweet 16. Let’s evaluate how other B1G teams that Northwestern is familiar with did this past few days.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Rutgers had an up and down season this year. The Scarlet Knights came in with high expectations and started poorly, but went on a run in February in order to play themselves into tournament contention. On Selection Sunday, they found out that they would play Notre Dame in the First Four.
The game ended up being a double overtime thriller, with Caleb McConnell having his best offensive performance as a Scarlet Knight, dropping 23 points. On top of that, Ron Harper Jr. finished with 22 points and hit two deep threes to keep the game alive. However, Rutgers fell to Notre Dame 89-87.
Rutgers came into the season with tons of expectations, returning players like Harper Jr., Geo Baker and McConnell. They also had the emergence of Paul Mulcahy and Cliff Omoruyi, so it was disappointing to see them go out in the First Four. Still, this was one of the best games of the tournament so far.
Coming into the tournament, Iowa was the hottest team in the conference. The Hawkeyes won the Big Ten tournament, and before that they strung off a five-game winning streak before losing their season finale to Illinois.
Despite that, though, they were given a five-seed and matched up against Richmond, who qualified for the tournament after winning the Atlantic 10 conference. Many picked the Hawkeyes to be a dark horse for the Final Four, even the championship, but they ended up losing to Richmond in round one.
The Hawkeyes might have been the biggest disappointment come tournament time. They had high expectations, an All-American and an elite supporting cast, and they were one of the best shooting teams in the country. To go out in round one was a shock to many.
While many made the argument that Michigan should not be in the NCAA tournament, posting a 17-14 record before the dance, the Wolverines showed out in the first weekend.
In their first game against Colorado State, UM saw itself down 15 points, but Hunter Dickinson and company put on a second half show to storm back and upset the Rams. Then, even more impressively in the Round of 32, the Wolverines defeated Tennessee, who many thought was the hottest teams in the country and could win it all. Michigan had a questionable resume entering March Madness, especially after its loss to Indiana in the Big Ten tournament, but as of now, the Wolverines are playing their best basketball of the season.
Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State started the season so strong, but soon cooled off and wound up as a seven-seed in the tournament. The Spartans avoided a popular upset, beating Davidson in a close game. Then, we were gifted a final Tom Izzo vs. Coach K matchup Sunday afternoon.
The Spartans played to Duke’s level, and even took a lead late into the game. They led 70-65 with five minutes left, but Duke soon took over, largely due to the stellar play of Pablo Banchero. At the end of it all, Coach K sent Izzo home in a game State could have won.
Before the beginning of Big Ten tournament, Indiana looked like it might not even qualify for March Madness. The Hoosiers then went on a run in the Big Ten tournament to ensure they would qualify, but they were still given a First Four matchup against Wyoming. There, they took care of business. Led by Trace Jackson-Davis, the Hoosiers faced little difficulty against the Cowboys and advanced to the Round of 64.
Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, they drew St. Mary’s in the Round of 64, and they were dominated from start to finish. While Indiana was a popular upset pick, Mike Woodson’s team ended up getting blown out by the Gaels 82-53. The Hoosiers just could not get anything going.
The Badgers came into the tournament with high hopes. They earned a somewhat generous three-seed, and with players like Johnny Davis and Brad Davison, many thought the Badgers could make some noise. They played Colgate, the champions of the Patriot League, in the first round, and while they trailed by as much as 10, they were able to come back and win by seven.
Unfortunately, on Sunday night, Wisconsin upset by an Iowa State team that seems to be hitting its stride at the right time. The Badgers trailed for most of the game, and the three-seed in the Midwest region, despite having a home court advantage in Milwaukee, was sent home.
This was a season where Wisconsin exceeded expectations, as most thought the Badgers would finish on the bottom half of the Big Ten. They were able to win a share of the Big Ten regular season title, but they were not able to secure any other hardware.
Illinois Fighting Illini
If there was a year for Illinois to win the national championship, this was the year. The Illini returned Kofi Cockburn, Trent Frazier and Andre Curbelo, and they had a supporting cast to win it all.
Brad Underwood’s squad shared the Big Ten regular season title and saw a four-seed thrown their way on Selection Sunday. They avoided a scare against Chattanooga, winning the game by a singular point. Their first lead against the Mocs came in the final two minutes of action.
Unfortunately for the Illini, they had to face a red hot Houston team that somehow ended up as a five-seed despite currently being No. 2 in KenPom. Illinois was handled from start to finish by the Cougars, and yet again, the Illini’s season ended with a second round exit.
Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes faced common Cinderella pick Loyola-Chicago in round one, and in what ended up being a chippy, low-scoring game, they were able to pull out a victory. Following that win, Ohio State took on two-seed Villanova, where they started out slow and paid the price. No matter how much the Buckeyes clawed back, they could not catch the Wildcats and saw their season end on Sunday.
With the Buckeyes’ season over, we have likely seen the last of star forward E.J. Liddell and breakout freshman Malaki Branham. After a strong start to the season, Ohio State faded out, and while Brutus and Co. avoided being upset by the Ramblers, they fell to a better team in Villanova.
Led by superstar Jaden Ivey, the Boilermakers have one of the best offenses in the nation, but they have question marks when it comes to defense. Even with that in mind, they didn’t have too much trouble in the first weekend of the tournament.
The Boilermakers drew 14-seed Yale, champions of the Ivy League, in their first game of the tournament, and dominated throughout, winning 78-56. After that, in a Round of 32 matchup against Texas, Purdue’s offense was too hot to handle. The Longhorns managed to make it close a few times, but Ivey hit a few big shots to keep Texas from taking the lead and upsetting the Boilermakers.
With the one-seed and two-seed in their region out, a path to the Final Four for the Boilermakers has opened up. Up next, however, may be their toughest test of the year: the Saint Peter’s Peacocks.
Final Count from Week One
Eliminated in First Four: 1 (11-seeded Rutgers)
Eliminated in Round of 64: 2 (five-seeded Iowa, 12-seeded Indiana)
Eliminated in Round of 32: 4 (seven-seeded Michigan State, three-seeded Wisconsin, seven-seeded Ohio State, four-seeded Illinois)
Sweet 16 Bound: 2 (11-seeded Michigan, three-seeded Purdue)