Do you want to dance? Yeah!
March Madness is here, and the Big Ten placed six teams in the field of 68. There were expected outcomes as well as surprises as the bracket shook out, and we're here to offer some first impressions at the draw each of the half-dozen Big Ten teams received on Selection Sunday.
No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Dayton. Even with a semifinal loss to Michigan on Saturday in the Big Ten Tournament, the Buckeyes picked up some momentum with a great effort in that game against a team that ended up a two-seed in the Big Dance. Ohio State flexed its defensive prowess, which has been a staple during almost the entirety of the season, as well as an ability to make some noise on the offensive end in that game. Against Dayton, a team that finished sixth in the Atlantic 10 standings, the Buckeyes will need to be ready. Dayton took down two ranked teams this season away from home. If Ohio State does get by the Flyers, the draw isn't fantastic. No. 3 Syracuse would likely await. Get by the Orange, and it could be a Sweet Sixteen showdown with No. 2 Kansas. Yikes.
No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 13 Delaware. The Spartans will get a lot of love from their four spot after taking down Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament title game on Sunday, and they seem to deserve it. In two days, Michigan State took down two teams that earned No. 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament, and it did it in impressive fashion. The Spartans have suddenly looked dominant at full strength after alternating wins and losses down the stretch of the regular season. Delaware doesn't figure to provide too tall a test (though this is March Madness), but upcoming matchups with Cincinnati, Virginia or Iowa State would be tough ones. In what is arguably the weakest of the four regions in this bracket, look for the Spartans to be one of the favorites to reach the Final Four.
No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 15 American. There's likely no team with a better first matchup than the Badgers. Not only does their high seed pit them against easier competition, but the game (and an expected second one) comes in Milwaukee, a mere hour-and-20-minute drive from campus. Wisconsin looked excellent over the final few weeks of the season — though there were stumbles against Nebraska to close out the regular season and Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals — and it will be one of the favorites to emerge from this region. Projecting ahead, it'd be a potential Sweet Sixteen matchup with Doug McDermott and Creighton that would be the first real intriguing matchup for the Badgers.
No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 11 Nebraska. The Huskers made it to the Big Dance, and that's a huge accomplishment in itself. And, of course, there's no reason to write this 6-11 matchup off as a surefire win for the Bears. Still, Baylor has a host of playmakers, and the game is in San Antonio, not far from the Bears' home in Waco. If Nebraska is going to win, it'll be on the backs of Terran Petteway, Shavon Shields and Walter Pitchford. But the Huskers' home-road splits this season have been too glaring to ignore, and they couldn't get the job done again away from Lincoln in the Big Ten Tournament, dropping their only contest of the tourney. Unless the Big Dance suddenly relocates to Pinnacle Bank Arena, it could be a quick exit for Tim Miles' crew.
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 15 Wofford. It's another mismatch with the Wolverines earning a very high seed. They could have captured a No. 1 seed, but if that came in this region, it wouldn't have helped much. The Midwest is brutally tough, featuring Wichita State, Kentucky, St. Louis, Louisville and Duke, among others. While Wofford doesn't figure to provide much of a challenge, most any team past that does. The good news? The Wolverines are a great team that can shoot the lights out on most nights. The bad news? There's a potential Sweet Sixteen showdown with Duke, another team that could have been a No. 1 seed and a team that beat Michigan fairly easily earlier in the season.
No. 11 Iowa vs. No. 11 Tennessee. Yes, a Big Ten team is in the First Four, and it's Iowa. The Hawkeyes, a tournament lock all year long, were almost out of it entirely thanks to a miserable finish to the season that saw them lose six of seven, culminating in that conference-tournament defeat to Northwestern on Thursday. Iowa has been playing terribly of late, unable to stop anybody on defense and struggling to score themselves on offense, which was previously a yearlong strength. Fran McCaffery's going to have to get things turned around in a hurry, as his team will be playing at least a day ahead of everyone else. Tennessee, meanwhile, won six of its last eight, and had a five-game winning streak snapped only by No. 1-overall seed Florida in the second game of the SEC Tournament.