After all the consternation from Wisconsin fans, and all the bloviating from pundits about what seed line the Badgers belonged on for the NCAA Tournament, we’ve got a scenario no one outside the confines of the selection committee could’ve envisioned: It’s 2014 all over again.
For the Badgers, that is. After beating Michigan State 80-69 in overtime in the mother of all Big Ten tournament games, Bo Ryan’s team faces a potential sequence of opponents including Oregon, Arizona and Kentucky — all of which the Badgers faced during last year’s run to the Final Four.
“I just hope we have something left in us come NCAA tournament time,” Ryan said in the afterglow of a true classic at the United Center.
As if we didn’t already know it about Frank Kaminsky and his teammates, we saw during Sunday’s riveting comeback that they’ve got all they need in their tanks and then some.
That won’t make it any easier on the Badgers if they have to dance with Arizona again, though. Last year’s overtime affair was a 45-minute meat grinder. The seed’s are flip-flopped this time — Wisconsin is the West’s No. 1 and Arizona its No. 2 — but both teams are 31-3 and they’re as evenly matched as that indicates.
And if Wisconsin is going to go further than they did in 2014 … well, we don’t have to tell you how difficult it would be to topple Kentucky in the national semifinals. It took a late, long, contested three-pointer by Aaron Harrison to break the Badgers’ hearts. You might’ve heard, but the 34-0 Wildcats are just a tad improved this season.
Anyone who watched the Big Ten title game understands that Michigan State is more than your average No. 7 seed. But that’s reality for the Spartans, who likely would have to beat East No. 2 Virginia in their second tourney game to make any real noise.
In all, seven Big Ten teams made the field, the lone bubble-team exception being Illinois, which pretty well knew its fate before Sunday’s selection show.
The Midwest Region is home to three conference teams: No. 4 Maryland, No. 9 Purdue and No. 10 Indiana. It wouldn’t surprise many or bust a lot of brackets if Kentucky were to knock off the Boilermakers and the Terrapins in succession. The Hoosiers — who did as much sweating on Sunday as the teams that actually had games to play — would have to reach the Elite 8 to get a potential crack at old friend Kentucky, and the chances of that sure are slim.
Ohio State is in the West with Wisconsin as the No. 10 seed. The Buckeyes will be hard-pressed to beat VCU in their opening game, with Arizona in the next round as the likely prize.
Iowa is the No. 7 seed in a fairly friendly-looking South Region. The Hawkeyes open with Davidson.