2024 NCAA tournament: Previewing Big Ten matchups

  • 03/19/2024 8:26 am in

The Big Ten earned six bids in the 2024 NCAA tournament, including a No. 1 seed for regular season champion Purdue.

Here are each of the Big Ten teams in the field by region:

South: Wisconsin (No. 5 seed), Nebraska (No. 8 seed)
Midwest: Purdue (No. 1 seed)
East: Illinois (No. 3 seed), Northwestern (No. 9 seed)
West: Michigan State (No. 9 seed)

According to KenPom, four Big Ten teams are favorites to advance past their first game. (Purdue’s opponent is not yet set as the Boilermakers will play an opponent from the First Four in Dayton – Grambling or Montana State.)

Here’s a look at each Big Ten matchup in the NCAA tournament:

No. 8 Mississippi State vs. No. 9 Michigan State (Charlotte, Thursday, 12:15 p.m. ET, CBS)

This is quite a matchup to tip off the round of 64 on Thursday afternoon. Mississippi State is in the NCAA tournament for a second straight season under Chris Jans. The Bulldogs have a top-20 defense nationally, according to KenPom, and they reached the semifinals of the SEC tournament in Nashville.

Michigan State, meanwhile, was a top-10 team in the preseason but has been disappointing. Spartan fans are hoping that Tom Izzo can guide this group into a round of 32 matchup against No. 1 seed North Carolina. If Michigan State is going to advance, it’ll need its guard play to lead the way. Tyson Walker was a star in last year’s tournament and will be a difficult cover for the Bulldogs.

KenPom: Michigan State 67, Mississippi State 66

No. 3 Illinois vs. No. 14 Morehead State (Omaha, Thursday, 3:10 p.m. ET, TruTV)

Indiana fans are familiar with Morehead State. The Eagles pushed the Hoosiers to the brink in Bloomington on Dec. 19. Guard Riley Minix leads Morehead State with 20.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.

The Fighting Illini are riding high and entering this matchup, having won the Big Ten tournament in Minneapolis. Terrence Shannon Jr. has the star power and experience to lead Illinois on a deep run this month and possibly into April.

KenPom: Illinois 82, Morehead State 70

No. 8 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 9 Northwestern (Brooklyn, Friday, 12:15 p.m. ET, CBS)

Former IU manager Dusty May led the Owls to the Final Four last season and has FAU back in the NCAA tournament this spring. While rumors swirl about May’s coaching future, his current focus is taking care of business against Northwestern and earning a shot at UConn.

For FAU to advance, it will have to contain Boo Buie, one of the nation’s top point guards. The Wildcats have tournament experience from last season but must be at their best to knock off FAU.

KenPom: Florida Atlantic 74, Northwestern 73

No. 8 Nebraska vs. No. 9 Texas A&M (Memphis, Friday, 6:50 p.m. ET, TNT)

This should be another exciting first-round matchup featuring two of the better guards in the country in Nebraska’s Keisei Tominaga and Texas A&M’s Wade Taylor IV.

The Huskers played great basketball to close the season, winning eight of nine before falling to Illinois in the Big Ten tournament semifinals in Minneapolis. Nebraska is one of the more balanced teams in the field, boasting the nation’s No. 30 offense, according to KenPom, and the No. 36 defense.

KenPom: Nebraska 74, Texas A&M 72

No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 James Madison (Brooklyn, Friday, 9:40 p.m. ET, CBS)

This matchup will be a trendy upset pick in plenty of brackets and a great way to help close out the round of 64 on Friday night in primetime.

The Dukes, champions of the Sun Belt, won at Michigan State to open the season and are an impressive 31-3. The Badgers had an awful February but rebounded nicely in Minneapolis. Wisconsin beat Maryland, Northwestern and Purdue before falling to Illinois in the Big Ten tournament final. JMU is on a 13-game winning streak, shoots better than 54 percent inside the arc and is led by Terrence Edwards Jr., who averages 17.4 points per game.

KenPom: Wisconsin 77, James Madison 72

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