The Big Ten had nine teams in the NCAA Tournament breaking a record that was previously held by the Conference. The Big Ten had the best chance to secure a title in the Dance since the year 2000. However, the Big Ten’s success has been underwhelming this tournament as the teams have suffered big upsets.
Illinois Fighting Illini
After not having much difficulty against the Drexel Dragons, Illinois couldn’t handle Cameron Krutwig who pulled down twelve boards and the quick-handed 8th seed Ramblers lead from start to finish. Every time Illinois cut the lead to single digits, the Ramblers were able to answer with a run of their own.
The Illini earned top seeding since their run in 2005. The presence of Sister Jean played a big role in their success as she did in their 2018 run as an 11th seed that year. Everything Illinois was accustomed to doing the whole season did not work as they only had a bucket in transition and scored 23 points fewer than their season average.
The other one seed in this tournament led by 18 against Texas Southern and won 82-66 in a very one-sided matchup. Thanks to the comeback heroics by Michigan, the conference is still a part of March Madness. Michigan trailed by nine early against the Tigers as they were tested, but the bench came through as they put up 26 compared to 2 points by the LSU Tigers.
Projected first-round pick Hunter Dickenson had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Franz Wagner added 15 pints and grabbed seven rebounds. The Wolverines started a 14-1 run midway through the second half which helped keep their tournament dreams alive. Can Michigan finally end the Big Ten Conference’s curse?
Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State just fell a bit short to secure the one seed in the Big Ten Championship game against the Illini. The Buckeyes still had high expectations despite not closing out the regular season strong.
The nation’s leading scorer Max Abmas of Oral Roberts had other plans as the team became the ninth 15th seed to pull off an upset in the first round since Middle Tennessee did it back in 2016.
The Hawkeyes shot the lights out against Grand Canyon as they shot 53.7 percent from the field. The 7th seed Oregon Ducks were put in an unprecedented spot as they moved on to the second round without playing the game against VCU. The Ducks were able to handle business behind Chris Durante’s performance as the Ducks dealt with injuries all year.
Purdue was able to turn their season around and was able to secure the 4th seed in the Dance. However, the team couldn’t stop Javion Hamlet who had 24 points, and his teammate Thomas Bell who added 16 points. Bell also played stellar defense in overtime to lift North Texas to the next round. North Texas’ pesky defense limited Purdue to just 36 percent from the field, and the Boilermakers missed some key free throws down the stretch.
The Badgers were the first team to give North Carolina’s coach Roy Williams his first loss in the opening round after blowing out the Tar Heels 85-62. However, they quickly fell to the Baylor Bears who lost two games all season.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Rutgers got their first tournament win in 38 years against Clemson. Geo Baker had 13 points but his most important basket game with 10 seconds left in the game. The Houston Cougars came back in the second half to knock out the Scarlet Knights.
Eric Ayala scored 23 points as they pulled an upset against 7th seed UConn. However, in the next sound, Alabama was too much for the team to handle as the Crimson Tide torched the Terrapins from behind the arc, making 16 from that range.
Michigan State Spartans
Tom Izzo and his team closed out the season strong by pulling off some big upsets against Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio State. Michigan State looked like they were going to move on being up by 11 points in the first half. However, the scores reversed in the second half and UCLA was able to force overtime on Jamie Jaquez Jr’s three-point play with 3.3 seconds to go.
UCLA was able to pull off the 86-80 victory in OT.