2018 NCAA tournament: Previewing Big Ten Sweet Sixteen matchups

  • 03/19/2018 9:06 am in

After a crazy weekend, the Big Ten is down to just two teams in the 2018 NCAA tournament.

Michigan State, the No. 3 seed in the midwest, couldn’t figure out the Syracuse 2-3 zone and fell 55-53 to the Orange on Sunday in Detroit.

Ohio State, the No. 5 seed in the west, had its chances late but fell 90-84 on Saturday to Gonzaga in Boise, Idaho.

The two remaining Big Ten teams – Michigan and Purdue – played for the conference tournament championship earlier this month in New York City. Here’s a look at the matchups for both teams and their path to reaching the Final Four.

No. 3 Michigan vs No. 7 Texas A&M (Los Angeles, Thursday, 7:37 p.m., TBS)

The Wolverines are the highest seeded team left in the west region as top-seeded Xavier fell to Florida State on Sunday and defending national champion North Carolina was blown out by Texas A&M on Sunday.

While UMBC’s upset over Virginia was the story that most will remember from the weekend, Michigan’s buzzer-beater to beat Houston was also a signature moment.

The Wolverines, winners of 11 straight games, are red hot going into Thursday’s game against Texas A&M. Michigan came into last season’s Sweet Sixteen game against Oregon on a hot streak, but was simply beaten by a better team. This season, Michigan enters the West region semifinal as the favorite and is actually the highest seeded team left in the South and West regions.

Texas A&M has top 15 talent, but the Aggies have been inconsistent for a majority of the season. Texas A&M had lost four of seven entering the NCAA tournament before beating Providence 73-69 on Friday and then crushing North Carolina 86-65 on Sunday in Charlotte.

Will Michigan have an answer inside for Tyler Davis and Robert Williams? It’s a question the Wolverines must answer. Davis and Williams are capable of taking over a game in the paint and on the glass.

KenPom prediction: Michigan 68, Texas A&M 64 (62% chance of victory for Michigan)
Vegas line as of Monday morning: Michigan -3

No. 2 Purdue vs No. 3 Texas Tech (Boston, Friday, 9:57 p.m., TBS)

The Boilermakers lost Isaac Haas to a fractured elbow in their comfortable tournament opening win over Cal State Fullerton and then held off Butler, 72-69, to advance to the East region semifinal.

The East is actually the bracket that is the most intact after the opening weekend as top-seeded Villanova, No. 5 seed West Virginia and No. 3 seed Texas Tech will join the Boilermakers in Boston.

Texas Tech is an elite team defensively, but the loss of Haas might not be a huge issue against the Red Raiders. Chris Beard’s club isn’t great in the post as all of Tech’s go-to-guys play on the wing and perimeter.

The problem moving forward for Purdue is that the Boilermakers have lost an efficient scoring threat with Haas out and now face serious depth issues up front. Purdue simply cannot afford for Matt Haarms to get into foul trouble. Haarms played 29 minutes in the Butler win and only committed two fouls and the Boilermakers are going to need a similar performance if they hope to advance to the Elite Eight.

KenPom prediction: Purdue 72, Texas Tech 69 (61% chance of victory for Purdue)
Vegas line as of Monday morning: Purdue -1.5

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  • Patrick T O’Sullivan

    Texas Tech and Texas A&M have some ridiculous athletes. I would imagine both Michigan and Purdue will have a very tough time advancing past those two teams.

  • coachv

    i shall root for you texans

  • kurk81

    Not sure Butler took advantage of Haas’ absence. They seemed to leave PU’s perimeter shooters open to collapse on Haarms. Even with Haas healthy, the way teams successfully dealt with PU late in the season was to stay out on the perimeter shooters and accept some points given up in the paint.

  • VOXAC30

    I think Michigan or Texas Tech will win the the tournament.

  • MarkHoltzHoosier

    Alex, the Purdue–Butler final score was 76-73.
    I only remember because I won in a magic squares pool like in for the NCAA tourney.

  • IU_theoracle

    I agree Kurk. I personally think the way you beat Purdue is you play the post straight up and make Haas and company beat you. Purdue will burn you if you double or triple the post and leave their shooters open. You have to shut down their shooters and make them beat you in the middle playing one on one.

  • MarkHoltzHoosier

    Michigan does seem to be the Big Ten’s best team in a tournament setting the last several years. It seems a bit ironic, given how good MSU, Wisconsin and even Purdue had been in recent years, that UM might be the best hope to end the conference’s drought of national champs.

  • iubase

    A&M looked really good. Not only do they have the 2 players noted but Hogg was a beast with 3 pointers, and at 6’9″ is also tough inside. This will be a close game and either of these teams – Michigan or Texas could certainly make it to the finals.

  • Colt

    I think Texas Tech is going to give Purdue some big time trouble. They play some really tough D and have athletes that are not afraid to attack the rim.

  • Robert Swartz

    Michigan will have a rough road. A&M will give them a rougher road than Houston, they are more athletic. Get by them, likely you have Gonzaga. Beatable but will be a team that can run. Then, get by them, you have the holy grail, Kentucky! Ky seems to have had the heavens opened up for them. Love to see someone take down Kentucky?

  • VOXAC30

    I wold love it if pUKe lost.

  • Colt

    I am with you. Coach Krybaby bugs me.

  • Robert Swartz

    We can always hope. If Kansas St plays like they did Sunday. Tight and scared. You could tell they didn’t want to be the next team to lose to a 16 seed. Can’t see Loyola or Nevada running with Kentucky. BBN is awfully cocky and confident right now.

  • Fifer39

    Idaho, my B1G projections are in disarray – much like the rest of my bracket! Crazy weekend though indeed. I only hope things aren’t opening up for Duke or UK. That would really take the shine off an otherwise really enjoyable tourney.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Coach “Kalipari?” Confusing Duke with UK? It is confusing when I see folks here refer to Purdue, Duke, and UK as various forms of puke (PUke, Puke, or pUKe). We need some originality in our disses!

  • James Clayton

    Texas A&M….yes we don’t like to be called “Texas”. That’s the little lib school in Austin.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Well it certainly appears things have opened up for UK and Duke. Kansas has looked shaky, all the top seeds are out of the way for UK. It hurt my soul but this year I made a conscious effort to pick all the teams that annoy me most to advance. So my bracket is actually in pretty good shape… Oh well, been a lot of fun games!

  • Tyler D

    I don’t think Duke will considered things ‘opened up’ if/when they run into Nova.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Nova and Duke are probably the 2 best looking teams right now. Wouldn’t be surprised if the winner of that game wins it all.

  • Fifer39

    In which case, I wish you and your bracket the very worst of luck the rest of the way (in the nicest possible sense!).

  • Fifer39

    Agree they look the team to beat so far and I’d happily settle for a Nova win at this point.

  • Michael Bender

    needs a “liberal” education…..