Preview & Predictions for Big Ten in NCAA Tournament


Mar 14, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Michigan State Spartans forward Matt Costello (10) reacts after making a basket against the Maryland Terrapins during the second half in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

March is the most exciting time of the year for college basketball fans all across the country. Why? It’s because anything can happen in March. Each and every year, the NCAA Tournament provides shocking upsets, heart-warming stories, and most importantly, high-quality basketball. The unpredictability of it all is what makes the tourney so fun to watch. For all those filling out brackets this year, here’s a breakdown of each Big Ten team in the tournament and their first-round matchup.

West Region:

N0. 1 Wisconsin vs. No. 16 Coastal Carolina

After claiming the Big Ten crown late Sunday afternoon, the Wisconsin Badgers secured the final one-seed in the West Region. For the opening round of 64, the Badgers drew the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina. Bo Ryan’s team is not the Wisconsin of old and they play a style of basketball that is conducive for a deep run in the tournament. They are led by Wooden Award front-runner Frank Kaminsky (18.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.6 BPG). Kaminsky has been the best player in the country this season and his supporting cast has played at a high level all season long.

Teams know that in order to keep up with the Badgers, they will have to score a lot of points. A team full of offensive threats, including Sam Dekker and Josh Gasser, Wisconsin can get into a shootout with just about anyone.  This is bad news for Big South champs Coastal Carolina, a solid mid-major team, but has never faced a team quite like this. The Chanticleers are led by senior guard Warren Gillis who is averaging just over 13 points per game.

All in all, the Badgers should be too much for Coastal Carolina to handle and they’ll cruise to the Round of 32.

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No. 10 Ohio State vs. No. 7 VCU

The Buckeyes and Rams are two quality teams and this is shaping up to be one of the more intriguing first round games. The Buckeyes went 23-10 on the season and finished sixth in the B1G.

Ohio State’s chances in the tournament rely heavily on one young man: D’Angelo Russell (19.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 5.1 APG). The sensational freshman has the ability to single-handedly take over a basketball game, as he’s done so numerous times this season. Russell has 14 games in which he has scored 20+ points.

VCU comes into the game, having won the Atlantic 10 title. They are coached by one of the best young minds in the game, Shaka Smart, who has led the Rams to the NCAA Tournament five out of his six seasons with the program. The Rams have been here before and aren’t scared of anyone. Instead, teams should be scared to play them. Senior guard/forward Treveon Graham leads the way, averaging 16 points and seven boards a contest.

Both teams are very experienced, a quality which should well-serve whichever team comes out on top in this one. VCU is a very good team, evident by their being a seven seed, but I give the nod to Ohio State, simply because of Mr. Russell. The Rams are a great defensive team, but expect a big game from the youngster.

Midwest Region:

No. 4 Maryland vs. No. 13 Valparaiso

Mar 14, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Maryland Terrapins guard Melo Trimble (2) reacts after making a three-pointer against the Michigan State Spartans during the first half in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland has surprised plenty of people the way they burst onto the scene in their first Big Ten campaign. The Terps finished second in the conference, although they did fail to reach the Big Ten Championship game.

Mark Turgeon has this team, although a young and inexperienced bunch, confident, primed, and ready for a deep run. Led by a fantastic trio of Melo Trimble, Dez Wells, and Jake Layman, the Terps should be able to compete with just about any team in the tournament. After losing in the semifinals of the B1G tournament, they dropped to a four seed, so I’m sure Maryland will be playing with somewhat of a chip on their shoulder.

On the other side will be the Valparaiso Crusaders, who are coached by former Valparaiso hero Bryce Drew. The Crusaders finished the season with a 28-5 record, earning an automatic bid by winning the Horizon League tournament. Some names for Terps fans to watch out for are forward Alec Peters, the team’s leading scorer, center Vashil Fernandez, one of the best shot blockers in the nation, and guard Darien Walker, who is a sniper from deep.

Anyone who thinks this game will be a cake walk for Maryland probably has another thing coming, but I do believe the Terps will be able to make plays when it counts and pull away in the second half.

No. 9 Purdue vs. No. 8 Cincinnati

The Purdue Boilermakers are making their first NCAA tourney appearance since 2012 and they’re not looking to go home early. They finished fifth in an unpredictable Big Ten conference.

The strength of this Purdue team is its defense and dominance on the glass. Rapheal Davis is the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and enjoys the challenge of guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter scorer. The Boilermakers have one of the stronger frontcourts in this region, led by All-Big Ten selection A.J. Hammons and freshman Isaac Haas.

Cincinnati has some solid big men of their own, however, making for an interesting battle in the paint. Octavius Ellis and Gary Clark are both big bodies who have potential to give the big of Purdue some fits.

Don’t expect a high scoring affair in this one, but more of a slow-paced, defensive battle, with the team able to make the most defensive stops coming out on top. Seeing much more of Purdue this season, I like them to tame the Bearcats.

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No. 10 Indiana vs. No. 7 Wichita State

The Indiana Hoosiers received an at-large bid after finishing seventh in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers are led by one of the best backcourts in the country. Junior Yogi Ferrell and freshman James Blackmon  are both averaging more than 15 points per game and coach Tom Crean will need big games from his two best players. Another guy who will need to step up is Troy Williams, who can provide help on both ends of the court.

Indiana will need to be on its A-game in this one since they are up against mid-major power Wichita State, who is making their fourth straight tournament appearance. The Shockers are also led by a talented backcourt of Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, who do it all for this team. Wichita State made it to the Final Four back in 2013, so they know what it takes to make a deep run.

Indiana is definitely at a disadvantage when looking at the experience factor. The Shockers have been here plenty of times and that may doom the Hoosiers.

East Region:

No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 10 Georgia

If nothing else is said about this team, all that matters is that Tom Izzo always has the Spartans prepared for March. A year after losing three stars, Michigan St. struggled a bit, but they started to define who they are. The Spartans knocked off Maryland in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, then took the top-seeded Wisconsin to overtime in the championship.

One advantage this team has over many of its opponents is valuable tournament experience. Senior leaders Travis Trice and Branden Dawson have been here time after time. Denzel Valentine is another veteran, who consistently makes big plays for the Spartans.

Do not sleep on the Georgia Bulldogs, however. They finished third in the SEC and it should be noted that the Bulldogs gave Kentucky a fight both times they played them this season. Georgia will be depending on their big men to control the glass and keep the Spartans from getting second chances, something that they do very well. Nemanja Djurisic and Marcus Thornton should be key for the Bulldogs.

This Georgia team is better than their seed suggests, but the same goes for Michigan State. The Spartans are battle-tested and their experience will prove to be too much for the Bulldogs to handle.

South Region:

No. 7 Iowa vs. No. 10 Davidson

Mar 12, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Fran McCaffery reacts during the first half in the second round of the Big Ten Conference Tournament against the Penn State Nittany Lions at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes do not have momentum on their side heading into the tournament, after an extremely disappointing showing in the Big Ten Tournament. They were upset in the second round by Penn State, so they’ll look to regain their footing against a very tough Davidson team.

The Hawkeyes are a team that has plenty of athleticism, but has struggled shooting the ball this season. In order to maximize their chances, Iowa will need to control the glass, which they have excelled at thus far. Senior forward Aaron White will need to carry the burden for this team, like he has done many times before. They will also need juniors Jarrod Uthoff and Mike Gesell to step up and provide a spark.

I’m sure everyone remembers the last time Davidson made some noise in the Big Dance, when Stephen Curry burst onto the scene and made a household name for himself. The Wildcats have the opportunity to pull off another upset this time around. Led by A-10 Player of the Year Tyler Kalinoski, Davidson has the makings of a sleeper team. Kalinoski is averaging roughly 17 points and six rebounds a game and is the driving force for the Wildcats. His backcourt mate, Jack Gibbs, can put the ball in the basket too so watch out.

For Davidson to pull off the upset, they will have to do what underdogs typically do: control the tempo, make open shots, and play together. I see Iowa’s shooting woes coming back to bite them and that’s when the Wildcats will pounce.

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