March Madness: Big Ten first- and second-round primer

March Madness: Big Ten first- and second-round primer
March 19, 2014, 12:30 pm
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Vinnie Duber

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March Madness is here, and whether you’re parked on the couch or following along during the work day, you’re going to need to know what’s happening when with your Big Ten teams.

Here’s a quick look at when the Big Ten will be taking the court in the first days of the NCAA tournament.

Wednesday, March 19

No. 11 Iowa vs. No. 11 Tennessee, 8:10 p.m., TruTV (Dayton, Ohio). The Hawkeyes were a tournament lock but used up just about the entirety of their leeway as they stumbled to the finish line of the season and ended up being one of the final four teams to get into the Big Dance. Iowa is still playing poorly at last check — an embarrassing loss to Northwestern that led to a first-round exit in the Big Ten Tournament — and it’ll be tough to turn things around against a relatively hot Tennessee team in the tourney’s final First Four game Wednesday night. The winner moves on to play No. 6 UMass in the round of 64 on Friday.

[MORE: Can Hawkeyes stop free fall and avoid first-round exit?]

Thursday, March 20

No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Dayton, 11:15 a.m., CBS (Buffalo, N.Y.). The Buckeyes will try to build off the Big Ten Tournament, where they nearly upset Michigan with a second-half comeback. Many like Dayton as a second-round upset pick, but if Ohio State can do what it did vs. Michigan — that is play strong defense and find some offensive contributors — the Buckeyes could be moving on. The winner plays the winner of No. 3 Syracuse/No. 14 Western Michigan on Saturday.

No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 15 American, 11:40 a.m., TruTV (Milwaukee, Wisc.). It’ll be a big home-court advantage for the Badgers, who have their sights set on a Final Four appearance. Wisconsin has prepared themselves for this tournament with a tough non-conference schedule that saw them beat five teams that ended up in the field of 68, including a pair of No. 1 seeds in Florida and Virginia. American shoots well, ranking in the top 10 in the country in field-goal percentage. But the Badgers have a bunch of offensive weapons that should counter any upset attempt. The winner plays the winner of No. 7 Oregon/No. 10 BYU on Saturday.

[RELATED: Seasoned Badgers well prepared for long tourney run]

No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 13 Delaware, 3:40 p.m., TNT (Spokane, Wash.). Can Michigan State keep firing on all cylinders, as it did in its final two games of the Big Ten Tournament? Those dominant performances against Wisconsin and Michigan have many picking the Spartans to win it all, and it wouldn’t be out of the question. The East Region is the relative weakest of the four. Michigan State is deeper than deep, and their big playmakers — Adreian Payne, Gary Harris, Branden Dawson — are all playing really well. It all starts Thursday against Delaware. The winner plays the winner of No. 5 Cincinnati/No. 12 Harvard on Saturday.

No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 15 Wofford, 6:10 p.m., CBS (Milwaukee, Wisc.). Michigan also gets a nice Midwestern home start in Milwaukee, but their road to the Final Four is much more difficult than other Big Ten contenders given the strength of the Midwest Region. The Wolverines are a great offensive team, one of the best in the country, and if they can keep hitting shots, they’ll keep advancing. Problems could arise though, if those shots aren’t falling. Add in a potential Sweet Sixteen matchup with a Duke team that already has toppled Michigan once this season, and a return trip to the championship game could be a nearly impossible task. The winner plays  the winner of No. 7 Texas/No. 10 Arizona State on Saturday.

[MORE: March Madness: Can suddenly strong Spartans win it all?]

Friday, March 21

No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 11 Nebraska, 11:40 a.m., TruTV (San Antonio, Texas). It’s Nebraska’s first trip to the Big Dance in 16 seasons, but it could be a short one if the Huskers don’t find a way to counter Baylor’s distinct size advantage. The Bears have four players averaging more than five rebounds a game, while the Huskers have just one — and it’s not even big man Walter Pitchford, who ranks fourth on the team in rebounding. Baylor will also be playing close to home, while Nebraska will be trying to win just its fifth game away from Lincoln this season. The winner plays the winner of No. 3 Creighton/No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday.

*If Iowa should get past Tennessee in the First Four: No. 6 UMass vs. No. 11 Iowa, 1:45 p.m., CBS (Raleigh, N.C.). The winner plays the winner of No. 3 Duke/No. 14 Mercer on Sunday.