Monday, March 20, 2006

Big Ten, Big Disappointment

Going into the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship, all the buzz was about the RPI and how that opened the door for an unusual number of mid-major schools to be selected for one of the sixty-four slots. Schools like Witchita State, George Mason and Air Force were selected while more "worthy" major league schools were denied. Results from this weekend points an accusing finger at the Big Ten as less worthy. Six Big Ten teams were selected for the tournament. None survived the first weekend.

In truth, 2005-06 was not a vintage year for men's basketball. Illinois was only ranked ninth in national polls going into the tournament. Big Ten Tournament champ Iowa was ranked twentieth. My beloved Spartans lost six of their last ten games prior to the NCAA tournament. But, no one predicted a complete wipeout for the conference that saw two if its members in last year's Final Four. I supposed that one of those teams, Illinois, would make it as far as a regional championship game. Nope.

MSU lost to George Mason in the first game and looked bad doing so. GMU out-shot, out-rebounded, out-muscled and out-hustled the Spartans, who did outperform the the Patriots in fouls committed and foul shots made.

Physical toughness, defensive dominance, rebounding and second shots are hallmarks of Tom Izzo teams. None were in evidence in the contest with George Mason in spite of Maurice Ager's 27 points. “We’re going to get back in the weight room to work on toughness and character,” Izzo said. “I promise we’ll be tougher and I promise we’ll get this program back to where we all want it.” Well, I hope so.

Round One:
Michigan State (22-12) lost to George Mason 75-65
Wisconsin (19-12) lost to Arizona 94-75
Iowa (25-9) lost to Northwestern State 64-63

Round Two:
Illinois (25-7) lost to Washington 67-64
Indiana (18-12) lost to Gonzaga 90-80
Ohio State (25-6) lost to Georgetown 70-52

The women may save the Big Ten's reputation. Five of its schools: Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Minnesota and Iowa, made the Women's NCAA Basketball Tournament. The Buckeyes are top seed in its region. The Spartans and Boilermakers are number four seed in their regions.

So, who takes the men's championship? I think one of the three worthy Big East teams, UConn, Georgetown, or Villanova, takes it all. Unless one of those pesky mid-major upstarts, Memphis, George Mason, Witchita State, upsets the apple cart.


toddplace said...

So, what to you have to say now that the Big Ten, ACC and Big East are swept from brackets. MVC rocks!

Master4Caster said...

Perhaps you mean the CAA rocks. Missouri Valley teams have been swept from the playoffs with Wichita State's loss to George Mason.