NCAA Tournament: Big Ten Odds?

What a difference a week makes.

 And I’m not just talking about the power shift on Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains. Oh, wait, there hasn’t been a power shift. The villains have been treating the heroes like the Minnesota Golden Gophers treated the Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday. But more on that later.

 No, I’m talking about the fallout from the Big Ten Tournament.

Even though #1 Ohio State winning the event was no surprise, the run that Minnesota made was, effectively pushing Illinois – despite their second-round upset of Wisconsin – out of the NCAA tournament and into the NIT.

Which is like finding out that Ticketmaster made a mistake and sent you Rick Springfield tickets instead of Bruce Springsteen tickets.

Now that we have our NCAA men’s brackets in our sweaty palms and we can chart each team’s “Road to the Final Four,” (thank you, CBS and your many corporate sponsors for the catchy title), is there a chance that any of the five Big Ten teams invited to the dance can make a run in the field of 64 like Minnesota made in the field of 11?

Let’s take a look:

Michigan St. The Spartans have landed a #5 seed in the Midwest region after the team’s surprising overtime loss to the Gophers on Friday night. But concern should be limited heading into the first-round game against New Mexico State. Not only does Tom Izzo historically take the Big Ten Tournament lightly, but the Aggies out of the WAC shouldn’t pose much of a challenge. But then the Spartans would have to face a hot Maryland team that averages nearly 80 points a game. The Spartans – who made it to the final game just last year – should never be discounted, but that Maryland matchup is scary. And if Michigan State were to survive into the Sweet Sixteen, their next opponent would be overall #1 seed Kansas. Odds of making Final Four: 20:1.

Ohio St. You know how often you come home from a hard day at work and feel like watching The Florence Henderson Show on the senior citizen channel? What, never? Well, that’s about how often a #15 seed beats a #2 seed. Midwest #2 Ohio State will sleepwalk through its matchup with the Gauchos of Cal-Santa Barbara before getting either Georgia Tech or Oklahoma State. The Yellow Jackets were a bubble team that got in thanks to its performance in the ACC tournament, while the Cowboys of Oklahoma State are inconsistent. A potential Buckeyes/Georgetown game in the regional semifinals could be a classic, but then Thad Matta’s team would likely have to beat Kansas to make the Final Four. But at least you can see them getting their chance. Odds of making Final Four: 5:2.

Minnesota. The Big Ten’s Cinderella team, getting an #11 seed in the West after making it to Sunday’s Big Ten championship game, is the only conference team playing a higher seed in the first round. And they are likely the only Big Ten team not to make it out of the first round, as Xavier is one of the more consistent early-round tournament teams around, winning at least one game each of last three years and looking to advance to its third straight Sweet Sixteen. The Gophers lucked out by landing in the relatively easy West region, but they won’t be able to cash in on that luck. Minnesota fans can take comfort in the fact that the new Twins stadium opens in a matter of weeks, and also that the Vikings did not acquire washed-up running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who for the last two years has run with the power and speed of “Tootie” from The Facts of Life. Odds of making Final Four: 200:1.

Wisconsin. You want to talk tournament-tested teams? Look no further than Bo Ryan’s squad, this year seeded #4 in the East. Unfortunately, Ryan’s Badgers are only 11-8 in eight tournament appearances, and as great as the team has looked on many occasions this year, their performance against Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament was a stone cold reminder of how their shooting can go, well, stone cold. Still, the Terriers of Wofford won’t put up much of a fight, and the Badgers will then go on to play either Cornell or Temple, neither of which have had any recent tournament success. However, like Wisconsin, Temple is one of the nation’s top defensive teams and could beat the Badgers at their own game. Should the Badgers still be playing in the Sweet Sixteen, they would likely draw Kentucky, which, as one of the youngest teams in the tournament, could be ripe for an upset by the much-more experienced Badgers. And if that happens, who knows? Odds of making Final Four: 8:1.

Purdue. Remember how good The Doors were without Jim Morrison? That’s about as good as the #4 Boilermakers are without Robbie Hummel. If they get past #13 Siena in the South region, many – myself included – would consider it a minor upset. Odds of making Final Four: 10 trillion:1.

Enjoy the games.


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