2018 NCAA tournament: Previewing Big Ten matchups

  • 03/13/2018 8:37 am in

In a down season for the conference, the Big Ten is sending just four teams to the 2018 NCAA tournament.

The good news is that all four teams are seeded fifth or higher and each Big Ten participant will be a solid favorite in its first round game later this week.

Purdue is the highest seeded Big Ten team as the Boilermakers earned the No. 2 seed in the East region. Michigan and Michigan State are both No. 3 seeds. The Wolverines are in the West region and the Spartans are in the Midwest. Ohio State, which won 15 conference games in the regular season, is the No. 5 seed in the West region.

Here’s a look at each Big Ten matchup in the NCAA tournament (all tip times ET):

No. 2 Purdue vs No. 15 Cal State Fullerton (Detroit, Friday, 12:40 p.m., truTV)

As a reward for a strong regular season, Purdue was shipped to the closest site to its campus, which is Detroit. The Boilermakers should have a strong fan presence at Little Caesars Arena and a decided advantage as Fullerton, the Big West champion, will have to travel east.

The Titans, a traditional college baseball power, are 153rd in the KenPom ratings and don’t have much size on their roster. That’s not conducive to pulling an upset over a Purdue team that boasts one of the nation’s best frontcourts. Look for the Boilermakers to roll on Friday and meet the winner of Butler-Arkansas on Sunday.

KenPom prediction: Purdue 83, Cal State Fullerton 66 (94% chance of victory for Purdue)
Vegas line as of Tuesday morning: Purdue -20.5

No. 3 Michigan State vs No. 14 Bucknell (Detroit, Friday, 7:10 p.m., CBS)

The Spartans have one of the nation’s most talented rosters, but simply didn’t have the resume to warrant a higher seed. In fact, Michigan State might be seeded too high based on what it actually accomplished this season. Despite winning the Big Ten regular season title outright, Michigan State had just two wins all season over teams that made the NCAA tournament: North Carolina and Purdue.

Michigan State will open tournament play against Bucknell, the champion of the Patriot League. The Bison beat one KenPom top 100 team all season.

KenPom prediction: Michigan State 82, Bucknell 69 (89% chance of victory for Michigan State)
Vegas line as of Tuesday morning: Michigan State -14.5

No. 3 Michigan vs No. 14 Montana (Wichita, Thursday, 9:50 p.m., TBS)

The Wolverines have a legitimate gripe for being shipped to Wichita with Michigan State getting to stay close to home in Detroit. Michigan had a better resume than Michigan State. The Wolverines beat the Spartans twice and also beat UCLA, Texas, Purdue and Ohio State.

Instead of playing in Detroit, Michigan will travel 800 miles to Wichita to take on the champion of the Big Sky Conference, Montana. The Grizzlies are ranked No. 71 in KenPom.

KenPom prediction: Michigan 70, Montana 62 (76% chance of victory for Michigan)
Vegas line as of Tuesday morning: Michigan -11

No. 5 Ohio State vs No. 12 South Dakota State (Boise, Thursday, 4 p.m., TNT)

It’s always trendy to pick 5/12 game upsets, but the Buckeyes are a solid favorite in this first round matchup on paper. Still, this could be a very tricky matchup for Ohio State, which has lost three of its last five games. And one of the wins in that stretch was CJ Jackson’s buzzer beater to beat Indiana in Bloomington.

South Dakota State is very well coached by T.J. Otzelberger and are the nation’s best team in terms of taking care of the ball despite playing an up-tempo pace. Mike Daum is a tough matchup as the 6-foot-9 junior uses the 9th most possessions of any player in the country and shoots 43 percent on 3s.

KenPom prediction: Ohio State 79, South Dakota State 71 (75% chance of victory for Ohio State)
Vegas line as of Tuesday morning: Ohio State -8

Filed to:

  • Fifer39

    OSU and PU – round of 32
    Mich – Sweet 16
    MSU – Final Four

  • vicbert caladipo

    Peeyoo with the easiest path by far. They should hit elite 8 without breaking a sweat. Arkansas and Texas Tech way over seeded. Nova should end the run though. Sorry to say OSU will get upset first game. UM sweet 16….MSU final 4. Most ESPN guys picking MSU so that should be enough jinx to cost them.

  • zenthias

    I have Butler taking them out in the round of 32. One can hope!

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    Arkansas will give Lerch and crew all they want, athletic, uptempo and they have a big that will let Haas know he’s there. i agree with OSU, the jackrabbits are for real. i have Michigan going to the final four

  • Arch Puddington

    Don’t know enough about non-B1G teams to make any real predictions, but:
    1. Purdue has not looked good of late, and really struggles with athleticism. So without knowing much about the specific matchups they will face, I see them as more likely to get upset early than to make a deep run.
    2. Michigan State has a couple of really talented players, but does not have the kind of dominant guard play I associate with big success in March, Plus, they will (likely) have to face the same Duke team in the Sweet 16 that beat them soundly in November
    3. Since beating MSU on 1/7, Ohio State has only won one game over a tournament team — Purdue, who then began a stretch of three straight losses — but has lost three times to Penn State and once to Michigan. And it took three overtimes and a semi-miracle buzzer beater to beat IU.
    4. Michigan is playing really well, but they have a really rough path. Houston in the round of 32 and UNC in the Sweet 16 is not a great draw.

    Upsets will take place and re-arrange the whole deal, but based strictly on chalk and my impressions of the teams involved, I will not be surprised if the B1G does not get anyone through to the Elite 8. Michigan would be my best bet to do so, followed by Michigan State.

  • Sandra Wilson

    First honest assessment I’ve seen this year on MSU.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Your predictions based on individual match-ups for those teams?

  • Fifer39

    Yes. OSU out to Gonzaga, PU to Butler, Mich to UNC and MSU to Villanova. Also partly because OSU and PU seem to have regressed a bit, Mich clearly on the up and I think an already strong MSU will be playing with some extra emotion this year. They could easily beat Nova but I think experience will win out in the end.

    I would add that I have been known to make a mistake or two in my bracket in previous years!

  • IdahoHoosier

    I’m not sold on MSU making it that far. They’d have to get through Duke and Kansas first. I’m with you though, only Mich is actually on the upswing. Nobody else from the B1G looks very exciting honestly. PU hasn’t been playing well or I’d say they’ve got an easy road to Elite 8. They could surprise I guess. OSU I think could get past Gonzaga and even Xavier if they play well, but again, they haven’t looked stellar lately. Tough call.

  • Robert Swartz

    Does anyone believe the layoff from the BTT weigh into any of this. Some of these teams haven’t played in almost two weeks?

  • IdahoHoosier

    No. If a team has a big layoff and plays well they were well-rested. If they have a big layoff and play awful they were out of rhythm. If someone has data on the effect of layoffs I’d love to see it.

  • Fifer39

    I wouldn’t be shocked at any of those scenarios playing out. Pretty wide open this year really. There’s at least a dozen teams you could make a good case for – and a good case against. Certainly takes the shine off when IU isn’t involved though. Two years out is too many – let’s hope we’re plotting the Hoosiers path next year.

  • coachv

    yeah, you better watch out for houston because kelvin sampson can…you know

  • coachv

    “playing with extra emotion”. i don’t know. first of all, that can work against you. secondly, do you really think players find an extra gear for a reason other than playing for the national championship?

  • coachv

    tow years is too many? 30 years is too many. if you told me in 1988 that we would not win another ncaa championship in my lifetime i would have told you you were crazy. hell, i still have my 1981 champs t-shirt with ray tolbert dunking on it. wonder if it still fits

  • HoosierDom

    The Big 12 is greatly overrated and the SEC is moderately overrated. Adjust your brackets accordingly.

  • Hoosier in the Bend

    Make illegal texts faster than most coaches. Hahahahahaha.

  • Robert Swartz

    Got to echo you on that one.

  • coachv

    wouldn’t surprise me to see him get houston to the 16. he may be in line for a better gig, too. talk about your comebacks. the texting was such a minor thing. my problem with sampson was the kind of players he brought in

  • Fifer39

    I think what they’ve gone through will make them tighter as a group and they seem to me to want to do it for their coach. I think those things can be as motivating as playing for the championship itself. But I agree, it can go against you too.

  • coachv

    michigan is definitely playing good ball right now but our buddy kelvin will be waiting for them and his team looks tough. have to see that one, it’s gonna be a doozy

  • AndyCapp

    Sorry Alex, I respect your reporting but do not subscribe to the widely published premise that it was a down year for the B1G. While the metrics used for NCAA selection suggest it was, there are other metrics (RPI, for instance) that show the B1G DESERVED greater representation in the Tourney because it was NOT as bad a year as being reported. If anything, other conferences were over-represented and were not as good as the media was suggesting. Conference-only W/L records, games played in the latter half of the season, show several teams from these “good” conferences that got into the Tourney to be vastly over-rated.