Tourney Time

It’s here. Time to inform the spouse, kids, and pets that it’s been nice knowing them, but you won’t be able to see them much for the next four weeks. Turn off the cell phone, stop answering the e-mails, and bolt the door. It’s NCAA basketball tournament time.

Actually, it’s Big Ten Tournament time, which is close enough for me. In college terms (and this is college basketball, after all), it’s the preparty to the party that is March Madness. (Do college students use that term anymore? Does that date me? Are the “kids” still into that “rap” music?) I know some complain that no matter what happens in the tourney, the true champion (this year it’s Ohio State) has already been crowned, and that the only interesting development that can come out of the tournament would be if one of the lower seeds won the whole thing and won a spot in the Big Dance. Not to mention that these are teams that have been playing each other repeatedly for the last two months already. I don’t care. Give me a Big Ten bracket and let me fill it out. Better yet, give me three brackets so I can fill ’em all out differently. I’m ready.

Although the matchups in the Big Ten tourney may not be unique, often the results are. Since its inception in 1998, only once have the first and second seeds played in the title game — in 2004, when your Wisconsin Badgers defeated top-seeded Illinois. Just last year, Iowa reached the semifinals as a number seven seed, and in 2003, Ohio State made the finals as the ninth seed. And despite the tournament’s short history, every team in the conference has won at least one game.

So, who do I, Jeff Robbins, participant in many and victor in zero bracket pools over the years, like in the tournament? Here’s how it shakes out:

Northwestern, Michigan, and Michigan State will win on Thursday. Ohio State, Indiana (sorry Badger fans), Iowa, and Illinois will win on Friday. Ohio State and Iowa will survive Saturday and Sunday will see Iowa as your Big Ten champion. Wait, that’s number one and number two playing in the title game. That (almost) never happens. I screwed something up. Give me another bracket.

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