Among the many beautiful things about March Madness is the notion that any team can make it. Every conference gets one automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament. Most automatic bids are awarded to the winner of each respective conference tournament. Each article will preview a different conference tournament with a full bracket breakdown.
13 Northwestern def. 12 Minnesota
11 Penn State def. 14 Nebraska
8 Michigan State def. 9 Maryland
5 Ohio State def. 13 Northwestern
10 Indiana def. 7 Rutgers
6 Wisconsin def. 11 Penn State
1 Michigan def. 8 Michigan State
4 Purdue def. 5 Ohio State
2 Illinois def. 10 Indiana
3 Iowa def. 6 Wisconsin
1 Michigan def. 4 Purdue
2 Illinois def. 3 Iowa
2 Illinois def. 1 Michigan
The Fighting Illini are in the middle of a renaissance for a basketball program that hasn’t seen this level of success in almost decades. Last time Illinois had a top seed in March Madness, they lost to North Carolina in the 2005 NCAA Finals. This year, they’ve got a chance to reclaim that glory. Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn may be the best one-two punch in basketball with both players averaging over 17 points per game. Dosunmu has two triple-doubles this season and Cockburn is sixth among all players in Division I in field goal percentage with 66%. It isn’t just offense for the Illini; KenPom rates them as the sixth highest adjusted defensive efficiency and they are third in basketball with a rebounding rate of 57%. Watch this tournament closely because Illinois has good chance to win a lot of games this month.
Can a ninth-ranked team be considered a sleeper? Maybe it’s a cheesy out but Ohio State is forced to play on Thursday as the fifth seed in the Big Ten Tournament. They enter the event on a four-game losing streak to the top three seeds and a hot Michigan State. The Buckeyes are set to face a Purdue team that swept them in the regular season. That doesn’t stop Ohio State from being an elite offense with high marks in points per game, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage. Don’t let the late run of losses distract from Ohio State’s ability to win the whole tournament.
Matchups to Watch
Illinois vs Iowa
These two have recently developed some bad blood. Matchups between Illinois and Iowa get chippy early and often lead to technical fouls and ejections. Put the emotions aside and you still have two Top 5 programs in the AP polls squaring off. Illinois has won the last two matchups with each team surpassing 75 points in both games. This is one of the most watchable matchups in any conference tournament. The winner of this game would have a good chance at beating Michigan or any other team from the top half.
Michigan vs Michigan State
Speaking of rivalries, Michigan and Michigan State are approaching 200 games played in their basketball history. In all of those games, they have never faced off three times in eight days like they may now. Last Thursday, the Wolverines bounced back from a big loss to Illinois by beating Michigan State 69-50. On Sunday, the Spartans held home turf upsetting Michigan 70-64. Michigan is the better team overall but with starting guard Eli Brooks on the mend and Michigan State having just won, anything is possible.
Featured Image courtesy of hawkeyesports.com
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