The NCAA Tournament bracket was released on Sunday and all of the Big Ten’s teams are bunched together, just like they were during the regular season. No team is seeded higher than No. 4 or lower than No. 9. That means that we probably won’t see any of these teams in the Final Four, but we also probably won’t see any embarrassed in the First Round.
Just kidding. Get ready to find shelter to avoid all the “Big Ten is dead” takes. Before that happens, though, here’s a breakdown of every Big Ten team in the NCAA Tournament.
Seed: No. 4 in the Midwest Region
First Round opponent: Vermont! The Catamounts destroyed the America East this season with a 16-0 regular season and an undefeated tournament run. However, back in November and December, they lost to all the good teams they played, and also to Northeastern.
Biggest obstacles: Purdue’s projected Second Round opponent is Iowa State, and the Cyclones are coming in hot after avenging a regular-season sweep by West Virginia with a victory over the Mountaineers in the Big 12 Tournament final. If the Boilers can get by Iowa State, it will probably be Kansas waiting for them in the Sweet 16.
Seed: No. 5 in the South Region
First Round opponent: Middle Tennessee! Just like Vermont, the Blue Raiders are conference champions in both the regular season and conference tournament. Unlike Vermont, Middle Tennessee has quality non-conference wins over UNC Wilmington, Vanderbilt, and Belmont. The Blue Raiders also famously knocked off Michigan State last year after everyone and their mom picked Sparty to win the whole tournament.
Biggest obstacles: I can see Minnesota reaching the Sweet 16 with wins over MTSU and Butler, the South’s No. 4 seed that beat Villanova twice in the regular season. The Bulldogs are coming off two straight losses and couled be felled by a Gophers squad that is playing its best ball of the season. However, after that Minnesota would likely face North Carolina, which might be the best team in the whole bracket.
Seed: No. 6 in the West Region
First Round opponent: Xavier! Between February 8 and the end of the regular season, the Muskateers went 2-6 in Big East play with those two wins coming against DePaul. They then defeated the Blue Demons for a third time in the Big East Tournament before finally upsetting Butler to stave off total disaster. Xavier isn’t exactly on fire right now, but it’s more than capable of pulling the upset.
Biggest obstacles: KenPom ranks the West Region’s Arizona as the weakest No. 2 seed in the field, but to reach the Wildcats, Maryland will probably have to get through both Xavier and former ACC foe Florida State. Even though The Terrapins are ranked lower than Purdue and Minnesota, their path to the Sweet 16 doesn’t seem that much more difficult.
Seed: No. 7 in the Midwest Region
First Round opponent: Oklahoma State! The Cowboys got off to an 0-6 start to Big 12 play before winning nine of their next 10 conference games to earn an NCAA Tournament bid. The orange and black brigade struggled against the top teams in its conference, so the Wolverines might be an issue since they’re playing like one of the best teams in the Big Ten.
Biggest obstacles: Michigan might be on fire right now and one of the best stories in college basketball, but the road to the second weekend is fraught will peril. John Beilein’s team will likely have to beat both Louisville and Oregon to get there. Both of those programs were fierce competitors for their own conference titles.
Seed: No. 8 in the East Region
First Round opponent: Virginia Tech! Out of all the teams with “Virginia” in their name, Tech is the least scary, but the Hokies can boast wins over Miami, Duke, and Michigan this season. On the other hand, Virginia Tech is one of the worst teams in the nation at forcing turnovers, and that seems to play right into Wisconsin’s hands.
Biggest obstacles: If not for a date with Villanova looming in the Second Round, Wisconsin’s biggest obstacle would be itself. Will will see the team that smashed Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament, or the one that struggled towards the end of the regular season and was destroyed by Michigan on Sunday?
Seed: No. 8 in the West Region
First Round opponent: Vanderbilt! Not everyone thought that the Commodores should even be in the field, but they earned a No. 9 seed thanks in part to three wins over SEC regular season runner-up Florida.
Biggest obstacles: Many fans see the West’s No. 1 seed Gonzaga as being ripe for an upset due to its weak conference schedule. The Wildcats will get a crack at the WCC champ in the Second Round provided they defeat Vanderbilt and Gonzaga doesn’t do the unthinkable.
Seed: No. 9 in the Midwest Region
First Round opponent: Miami Fluoride! Sporting wins over Virginia, Duke, and North Carolina, the Hurricanes are a tough draw for a No. 8 seed. The good news is that they have lost three of their last four games and don’t have anyone as talented as Miles Bridges on their team.
Biggest obstacles: Like Wisconsin, the Spartans have been maddeningly inconsistent this season, sometimes looking like a team we’re used to seeing under Izzo and sometimes looking like the team that might break the legendary coach’s NCAA Tournament appearances streak. While MSU did qualify for the dance, it’s tough to see it getting by a potentially Second Round matchup with Kansas.
Maybe next year?