There are a few basic rules when filling out your NCAA Tournament brackets. Always pick one 12 over a 5 seed, never pick all four number one seeds to make the Final Four and assume the Big Ten will fail. I think this year things are going to change. You should still pick a 12 over a 5 and especially this year do not pick all four number ones to make the Final Four, but I believe the Big Ten will have a good tournament, let me explain why.
Wisconsin vs. Florida State - At first glance this appeard to be the worst match up for the Big Ten in the tournament. Florida State is good. They are athletic (so is every non-Big Ten team in the tournament), they are big and they have great guard play. But they also turn the ball over at a rate worse than 291 other teams in the country and they struggle mightily to rebound the ball. They are not very efficient on offense and I'm not sure they will be ready for the Badger defense. This upset would be pretty huge. I think Florida State is very good and could make an Elite Eight run, but this is a better match up than most people think. I'm sure Florida State is ticked that as a 5 seed they were rewarded with Wisconsin.
Michigan vs. Clemson - This one all depends on which Michigan team shows up. Michigan has not shot well in most of their game this year but I'm willing to bet a more open game (meaning not a Big Ten-esque, grind it out defense or B10 refs) will be a great thing for Manny Harris. He is exactly the type of player that shines in the NCAA Tournament. Trevor Booker will be a beast for Sims and company to stop inside but watch Manny get super hot and carry the Wolverines to a win here.
Minnesota vs. Texas - I've said it on here before, I'll say it now and I'll say it again...I think we'll be able to stop the Longhorns. The question will be can we score on them. I am really looking forward to watching Al Nolen take them out of their offensive rhythm and then watching Damian Johnson show Damion James why he should have been the Big Ten defensive player of the year. On offense I think we will see Westbrook and/or Hoffarber get loose and step up on the big stage.
Illinois vs. Western Kentucky - this is a very popular 12 over 5 upset and that will only be fueled by the fact that Frazier is unlikely to play. Even without Frazier the Illini match up very well in the backcourt but should have a distinct advantage in the paint with Tisdale and Davis. I would urge you to look elsewhere for your 12/5 upset (hint: Arizona).
Ohio State vs. Siena - The Saints are balanced and experienced but the Buckeyes are really hot. Ohio State kind of breaks the Big Ten mold, they are very good on offense (9th nationally in eFG% and 26th in off efficiency), they are also rather athletic. This team can score inside or out and is poised to makea run. I think this one gets ugly.
Michigan State vs.Robert Morris - 15 vs. 2 is basically a lock. Michigan State plays a tournament winning style of play and if they can keep their turnovers down they can make a Final Four run. Robert Morris is not going to stop them. They should be a Sweet 16 team as they'll face the winner of USC/Boston College. Both are solid teams like I said, if Michigan State doesn't turn the ball over they won't lose in the first weekend.
Purdue vs. Northern Iowa - Purdue is also very capable of a Final Four run.. They play great defense, have a talented and deep bench and are athletic enough to keep up with anybody. No offense to the Panthers but the match up to watch here is their second round game which will likely be against Washington. Washington won a weak Pac10. The Huskies also play very good defense and where they will have an advantage over Purdue rebounding the basketball. This would be one of the best games of the second round but very winable for our Big Ten conference tourney winners.
All in all I could easily see the Big Ten going 5-2 through the first round. The real trick though is to get multiple teams into the Sweet 16. I'm not willing to go out on a limb for anyone other than Michigan State and maybe Purdue on this one. The second round match ups are not favorable but I really think the Big Ten is better than people give them credit for. Time will tell and if I'm wrong we'll just write a bunch of hockey/baseball/spring football/gymnastics posts to bury how we pimped the Big Ten right before they failed miserably in the Big Dance and proved everybody right. And if PJS and I are right then you'll see these stories linked over and over for months to come.