We have been very poor at participating in these Big Ten Bloggers roundtables. They are always fun but we've just never taken the time to do them. Since we are one of seven teams from the conference in the Tourney I think we should participate. So here goes...
1. For those in the tournament, what was your signature win that made
sure you were dancing? For those out, what was that one loss that
prevented you from going?
I think we all the easy answer to this one. Clearly it was the NDSU win at home. Beating Cornell helped as well. And if the selection committee dug deep enough they probably gave us some credit for beating the Big East regular season and tournament champs. Were it not for that win we'd be playing in the NIT.
2. The conference jumped from four bids to seven this year, and it
could have been nine with the right breaks. What is the biggest factor
in this jump?
The conference is better. Pundits rag on the conference for lacking superior athleticism and top end talent. But what they fail to recognize is this conference is deep and talented across the board. There are fewer lottery picks in the Big Ten than there are in the ACC or Big East but that just means more cohesive teams and teams that play very good defense. Last year the league was young, this year they are maturing and coming together. Notice the first five on the All-Conference team were sophomores, and very likely most will be back next year (if not all of them). This league isn't full of future NBA All-stars but the league is deep and talented.
3. Talk about your first round opponent for a moment. What advantages/
disadvantages do you see in facing them (Penn State and Northwestern
fans may talk NIT here).
Texas is a tough match up. They'll be as athletic as Houston (Rockets) and far superior offensively than anything the Big Ten has seen since Magic Johnson.
The one thing that jumps out at me as a potential advantage is our two best defensive players will be guarding their two best offensive players. If Al Nolen can slow down AJ Abrams and the Big Ten's best defensive player Damian Johnson can slow down Damion James then maybe our depth can win out here. I really do feel good that we can defend them and I think we'll get more open looks offensively than we've seen since December. But we'll save the official preview for Wednesday.
4. What are your realistic postseason expectations?
I've felt all along that this was an NCAA caliber team but definetly not a Sweet 16 caliber team. We are capable of beating Texas and we are capable of beating Duke. But beating them both in the same weekend just doesn't seem realistiic. Winning a game would be great, but it isn't a reuirement for a successful season.
5. How will your team get back to/make the step forward to the NCAA
Tournament next year? this is officially known as the Iowa and Indiana
I said above that we are not a Sweet 16 caliber team THIS year, but I have much higher expectations for next year (and this year isn't even finished). First of all we do not graduate anybody of significance. Secondly we are brining in two players that are rated as arguably the two best incoming recruits in the conference. Plus a JUCO PF who could easily start and add some nastiness to our frouncourt. This team will be more athletic, more mature and much more offensively gifted.