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Which Big Ten team is most likely to get upset first in the NCAA Tournament?

I don’t mean emotionally upset; I assume Fran just wakes up in a lather.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Maryland vs Michigan Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

As I was putting together our bracket challenge this morning—wow, I’m so glad that pitch came up organically—I started to ramble—I know—to hit the 150-word minimum to get this post to index.

Surveying my bracket, I asked myself the question: Who do you think is the Big Ten team mostly likely to get upset first? I’m not talking Maryland, Rutgers, or even Michigan State or wisconsin getting knocked off early—I’m looking at the seeds:

  • #1 Illinois Fighting Illini: Earliest I’ve really seen anyone thinking about them going down is in a shootout with Cade Cunningham and the Oklahoma State...but what say you? Are you a believer in the red-hot Georgia Tech or the team with the man as wide as his mustache is thin, Loyola-Chicago and Cameron Krutwig?
  • #1 Michigan Wolverines: Becoming a trendy upset pick in the Round of 32, with LSU a dangerous matchup in terms of athleticism and St. Bonaventure’s an interesting matchup in that they too slow it down and are efficient on offense. Without Isaiah Livers, is there cause for concern for Michigan?
  • #2 Iowa Hawkeyes: Probably Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen if it’s anyone before Gonzaga.
  • #2 Ohio State Buckeyes: I honestly still don’t even know if Ohio State is good. I mean, I think they are, and I know they were just in overtime in the Big Ten Tournament final...but are they? Is a team that lost to Northwestern really good? Do you ever recover from that?
  • #4 Purdue Boilermakers: Realistically, the teams we’re talking about here are 5-seed Villanova, 12-seed Winthrop, and 13-seed North Texas. I think it might just be the sweet, sweet smothering with a pillow against Baylor for the Boilers.

MNW: I think in approximately half my brackets, I have Michigan losing to LSU OR St. Bonaventure’s. Either of those teams is an intriguing matchup for the Liversless Wolverines.

We could be talking “non-Elite Eight” as the level of upset, here, and for that I’m looking down at the bottom half of the South regional, where I could talk myself into either of Texas Tech or Arkansas dumping the Buckeyes.

RockyMtnBlue: Michigan is certainly the coldest of those teams, and the loss of senior leader Isaiah Livers is nontrivial. Michigan lost approximately 4,273 games in a row last year when he was out (too lazy to look it up). All of that said, I’ll believe Iowa can do things in the dance when I see it. Oregon isn’t good. But they’ll beat Iowa in the 2nd round (I refuse to do this “round of 32” bullshit.)

A question not asked was “last team to get upset”. It’s unoriginal but Illinois is just enough to beat anybody. If they played ‘92 Duke right now they’d win by 3 in OT, which is probably also what will happen against the nerds of Drexel. The only team they blow out is Michigan. The only team they lose to is MSU, but Sparty won’t get the chance.

BoilerBettor: See, now you done gone and done it (Sweet 16 Lord, Bettor, what the hell are you blathering on about? I don’t know but here I am typing to myself). Now, I’ve got to start rolling out efficiencies and metrics that I wasn’t planning to really look at until work was done on Wednesday.

Here’s what we know is a formula for success. In the last couple of decades, only once has a team (UConn 2014) gone the whole way without being in the Top 20 from an offensive and defensive efficiency ranking in KenPom. Not that surprising. Balanced teams can score and get stops when they need to. Wow, earth shattering analysis there.

So, back to the question at hand. When I start looking for upsets, I look at unbalanced teams. In the B1G, there are two glaring examples of this and you probably already know where I’m going with this. Hello there, Iowa (OEff: 2, DEff: 50) and Ohio State (OEff: 4, DEff: 79). Now that we’ve established who is unbalanced, let’s look at matchups.

When I look at Iowa’s draw, the big one sticking out in their “pod” is Oregon. The only reason I say that is Oregon is very good from an offensive standpoint and should be able to score on Iowa. Now, should Iowa survive to the Sweet 16. A very difficult matchup with a balanced USC team or a very good defensive team in Kansas awaits.

When I look at Ohio State, Oral Roberts should not scare anyone as they have one of the worst defenses in the country. A second round matchup with Florida could be interesting but they stumbled down the stretch. Virginia Tech doesn’t strike fear either as they only beat a couple of teams with a pulse the whole season. That leaves a Sweet 16 matchup with a potent Arkansas or a stout game against Texas Tech. I don’t like the Buckeyes against either.

TL;DR, it’s gonna be Iowa getting ejected in the second round while Fran gets a couple of techs and Das Boot from the game.

MaximumSam: I have to go with Ohio State, just by the numbers. They can beat you on offense in a tremendous number of ways. Illinois is a great defensive team and simply couldn’t keep OSU out of the lane and was pretty fortunate that E.J. Liddell couldn’t hit anything but the front of the rim all day. Surprisingly to me, Duane Washington has really developed into a dynamic guard who can carry the team. There are reasons to be optimistic.

But they can’t play defense. They are 29 spots behind everyone’s defensive punching bag Iowa on the KenPom, and in most of their losses they simply couldn’t knuckle down and get stops. If you can’t get stops, you can’t get cold, and that’s a tough standard to keep up.

After that I’d probably go with Michigan. I didn’t love how they looked down Livers, and they seemed much, much easier to defend with him off the court. Hard to say if that’s a one off or not.


Which Big Ten team is upset first?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    (9 votes)
  • 42%
    (116 votes)
  • 23%
    (65 votes)
  • 17%
    Ohio State
    (48 votes)
  • 13%
    (37 votes)
275 votes total Vote Now