As awesome as March Madness is, it is even more fun when you have a horse in the race. For all the crap the Big Ten has had to put up with this year, it did pretty well this weekend. The only major upset was (5)Illinois, and given the history of the 5-12 matchup, that’s almost expected. (8)Ohio State’s 2OT loss to Siena wasn’t their best effort, but 9 beating 8 is generally not too uncommon. (I’d like to pause here to point out that even though my blog post from last week picked tOSU, my bracket actually has Sienna making it to the second round.) Overall, the Big Ten went 3-3 against higher seeded teams and 3-2 against lower-seeded teams. Let’s put this another way: 10.9% of the field of 64 hailed from the Big 10. In the second round and Sweet 16, the Big Ten represents 12.5% of the field. Not exactly dominant, but certainly respectable. Those who have been drinking the haterade can be silent now.
(2)Michigan State faces (3)Kansas. I’m not quite sure what to make of this game, since I picked (14)NDSU to get the upset in the first round. My bracket has (6)West Virginia getting the upset here, but (11)Dayton killed that for me. (3)Kansas has done much better than expected, considering how much talent they lost last year. The real question is will they be able to sustain their run? On the other hand, I’ve never quite bought in to Michigan State. They’re good, but I don’t think they’re Elite 8 good. Kansas will carry on, my wayward son.
(5)Purdue has made a habit of getting out to an early lead only to let off the gas (offensively, at least) in the second half. This game will come down to Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson vs (1)Connecticut’s Hasheem Thabeet. Thabeet has a 5-inch advantage on Johnson, and will keep the Boilermakers from getting too many rebounds, but Johnson’s 15-foot jump shot will prove tough to defend (it will also open up Robbie Hummel to get a few offensive boards). If Purdue can avoid the second-half slumpsies, I say there are even odds. Past performance dictates there’s a 70% chance UConn will be 1337.