Whether you think Big Ten basketball is one big mosh pit of mediocrity or one of the nation’s strongest conferences, one thing is certain: it has the respect of the folks who choose the teams to participate in the NCAA tournament, even though no Big Ten has won a national title since 2000.
Half the conference
Eight Big Ten teams are dancing. That’s half the conference. Only the SEC has as many teams in the tournament. The Big 12 has seven teams, and the ACC has four teams in the tournament. Purdue got an automatic bid because it won the Big Ten tournament. The other seven Big Ten teams received at-large bids to the NCAA tournament: Here’s the list:
Indiana (No. 4 in the Midwest Region)
Michigan State (No. 7 in the East Region)
Northwestern (No. 7 in the West Region)
Iowa (No. 8 in the Midwest Region)
Maryland (No. 8 in the South Region)
Illinois (No. 9 in the West Region)
Penn State (No. 10 in the Midwest Region)
And here are those team’s odds of winning the national title:
Michigan State (+6000)
Penn State (+19000)
Here are the winners
Here are my picks for the first-round games (times are Eastern):
No. 8 Maryland vs. No. 9 West Virginia (12:15 p.m., Thursday, CBS): Maryland can’t win away from home. Pick: West Virginia.
No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 9 Illinois (4:30 p.m., Thursday, TBS): A pro-Illinois crowd in Des Moines, Iowa, and the tournament experience of transfers Terrence Shannon Jr. and Matthew Mayer give the Fighting Illini the edge. Pick: Illinois.
No. 8 Iowa vs. No. 9 Auburn (6:50 p.m., Thursday, TNT): It was an elevator season for both of these teams. Up and down. I’ll flip a coin. Pick: Auburn.
No. 7 Northwestern vs. No. 10 Boise State (7:35 p.m., Thursday, truTV): truTV will take a break from showing “The Impractical Jokers” long enough to show Northwestern play Boise State. The Wildcats have too much offense for Boise State. Pick: Northwestern.
No. 7 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Penn State (9:55 p.m. Thursday, TBS): Penn State is on a roll. Their five-game winning streak was snapped when they lost in the Big Ten championship game to Purdue. Pick: Penn State.
No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 10 USC (12:15 p.m., Friday, CBS): USC will have to overcome playing an early game and what should be a pro-Michigan State crowd in Columbus, Ohio. And Tom Izzo, Pick: Michigan State.
No. 1 Purdue vs. No. 16 Texas Southern or Farleigh Dickinson (6:50 p.m. Friday, TNT): Zach Edey is too much for either of these play-in teams. Pick: Purdue.
No. 4 Indiana vs. No. 13 Kent State (9:55 p.m., Friday, TBS): Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino are double trouble for the Golden Flashes. Pick: Indiana.
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