Big Ten NCAA tournament roundup: Wisconsin, Purdue advance, Maryland, Minnesota go home

Big Ten NCAA tournament roundup: Wisconsin, Purdue advance, Maryland, Minnesota go home

SALT LAKE CITY — The Northwestern Wildcats are justly demanding a great deal of attention after reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history and then for winning their first NCAA tournament game in exciting fashion on Thursday.

But there are six other Big Ten teams in this year's Big Dance, and four of those teams also played Thursday.

Here's a recap of those games.

Bronson Koenig hits eight 3s to advance eighth-seeded Wisconsin

The Badgers seemed totally disrespected by the selection committee, handed the No. 8 seed in the East Region. But Bronson Koenig turned in an eight of his own Thursday night against Virginia Tech, hitting an octet of triples and scoring a career-high 28 points in Wisconsin's 84-74 win over the ninth-seeded Hokies. Nigel Hayes also had a big night with a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds. The two veterans of the Badgers' recent Final Four runs helped keep the Hokies at bay. Virginia Tech never got too far away and trailed by as little as a point in the second half. The good news is Wisconsin advanced. The bad news is it advanced to play No. 1 overall seed Villanova in the second round. That's where that unfavorable seeding comes in. It's up to the Badgers to do something not many winners of an 8-9 game have done.

Purdue avenges last season's first-round loss with win over feisty Vermont

Despite getting another all-out effort from a team wih a double-digit seed, Purdue advanced past the first round this season, avenging its first-round loss to Arkansas Little Rock a season ago. The Boilermakers got huge performances from Vincent Edwards and Caleb Swanigan in the 80-70 victory. Edwards totaled 21 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal. And Swanigan, otherwise known as Mr. Double-Double, finished with 16 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and three blocks. The Boilers had their hands full with the Catamounts, trailing by as many as eight in the first half and leading by just a point at halftime. But the upset bid ran out of gas in the game's final minutes, meaning no double-overtime defeat this year. Purdue will tangle with fifth-seeded Iowa State on Saturday for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen.

Middle Tennessee takes another Big Ten victim, this time Minnesota

Last year, 15th-seeded Middle Tennessee pulled the unthinkable, upsetting second-seeded Michigan State in the first round. Well, it seems the Blue Raiders have the Big Ten's number. This time seeded 12th, Middle Tennessee pounded Minnesota on Thursday, winning 81-72 to bounce the fifth-seeded Gophers from their first NCAA tournament under Richard Pitino. Middle Tennessee led for the final 28 minutes, grew its lead as big as 17 in the second half, shot nearly 50 percent from the field and out-rebounded Minnesota to the tune of 37-24. It was quite the thud of an ending to what had been a sensational season for the Gophers, who after going 8-23 a season ago entered the Big Dance with a 24-9 record. But after an eight-game winning streak near the end of the regular season, Minnesota finished losing three of four.

Is Melo Trimble's Maryland career over after first-round loss to Xavier?

Perennial good tournament team Xavier tossed Maryland from the Big Dance on Thursday thanks to a huge 21-4 second-half run that transformed a six-point Terps lead into an 11-point one for the Musketeers. Maryland at one point went five minutes without a point in the second half. But the biggest question on everyone's mind is whether we've seen the last of Melo Trimble in a Maryland uniform. The Terps' star has been the center of speculation following each of the two previous seasons. He opted to stay for his sophomore season when it looked like Maryland had the makings of a national-title contender, and he stayed for this, his junior season, after watching his statistics (and perhaps NBA Draft stock) plummet as a sophomore. Trimble gave no indication to his thinking Thursday, but the Terps at least looked like they will survive should he leave: Freshmen Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson combined for 33 points in the loss.

How much noise can the Big Ten make in the Big Dance? A team-by-team look at the NCAA tournament bracket

How much noise can the Big Ten make in the Big Dance? A team-by-team look at the NCAA tournament bracket

It's been an interesting year for the Big Ten, and that's putting it mildly.

Of the seven teams that reached the NCAA tournament, there are upstarts in Northwestern and Minnesota, a red-hot streaker in Michigan, powers that couldn't win the conference tournament in Purdue, Wisconsin and Maryland and a wounded power in Michigan State — and it's easy to see every single one of them making a run or getting ousted in the first round.

Yes, it's been that kind of season in the conference, where any team can win any game and any team can lose any game.

So let's go team-by-team through the bracket and see just how far each Big Ten squad can dance in this year's tournament.

Purdue Boilermakers

No. 4 seed in Midwest Region, No. 16 overall

Purdue was favored to win the Big Ten Tournament after winning the league championship outright during the regular season but ran into a Michigan buzzsaw that won four games in four days to win the tourney title in Washington, D.C. The Boilers went to overtime in that mighty entertaining game, so it's not like they had a poor showing by any stretch. But is Purdue playing well enough to make any significant run in a packed Midwest Region? First up are the 13th-seeded Vermont Catamounts, which enter the tournament on a 21-game winning streak. That's in the America East Conference, sure, but any win streak that long is still mighty impressive. If the Boilers get past the first round trap, it's the winner of Iowa State and Nevada in the second round before a likely date with top-seeded Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen. Surely, Purdue-Kansas is a game fans are rooting for, as Caleb Swanigan would be on the same court as another national player of the year candidate in Frank Mason III.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

No. 5 seed in South Region, No. 18 overall

Folks were surprised to see the Gophers grab such a high seed, though that was mostly coupled with outrage over Wisconsin getting a No. 8 seed. Minnesota has played well enough to earn that kind of recognition this season, rattling off a mighty impressive eight-game winning streak down the stretch of the regular season. The Gophers played very well on both ends of the floor during that stretch, and Reggie Lynch is a shot-blocking machine who won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. Nate Mason, Amir Coffey and Dupree McBrayer will have to be on their games, though, with Akeem Springs out for the season after suffering an Achilles in the Big Ten Tournament. Springs is the team leader in made 3-pointers. As for the NCAA tournament road, things don't start easy with Middle Tennessee State in a dreaded 5-12 matchup. The Blue Raiders have won 10 straight and 20 of 21. Should the Gophers reach the second round, it's a likely showdown with Butler, a team some have picked to reach the Final Four. Should they reach the Sweet Sixteen, top-seeded North Carolina figures to be waiting.

Maryland Terrapins

No. 6 seed in West Region, No. 23 overall

Despite having a partisan crowd in its favor at the Big Ten Tournament, Maryland bowed out in the quarterfinal round, beaten by Northwestern in an entertaining game. The Terps had a lot of troubles in that game, turning the ball over 14 times, which led to 25 points for the Wildcats. Maryland also was done in by a six-minute scoreless stretch in the second half and Northwestern pulling off runs of 20-4 and 20-2. The last month and a half has been a mixed bag for the Terps, who started 20-2 but are just 4-6 since the start of February, with a 2-4 record in that stretch against tournament teams. Maryland gets an always-dangerous Xavier team in the first round and would face the winner of Florida State-Florida Gulf Coast in the second round. Should the Terps reach the Sweet Sixteen, second-seeded Duke would be waiting in what would surely be a drool-inducing matchup for Maryland fans still hating Duke from the ACC days.

Michigan Wolverines

No. 7 seed in Midwest Region, No. 27 overall

Michigan should be a popular March Madness pick with the incredible week it just had at the Big Ten Tournament, winning four games in four days after a horrifying aborted takeoff last Wednesday. But the feel-good nature of that story was only made possible by the fact that this team is playing exceptionally well right now. Since a Feb. 4 loss to Ohio State in Ann Arbor, Michigan is 10-2 with the two losses coming by a combined seven points: an overtime defeat at Minnesota and the crazy full-court-pass-buzzer-beater loss at Northwestern. In Washington, the Wolverines looked like world-beaters, with Derrick Walton Jr. leading the charge in a fashion that made him look like one of the best players in the country. But Zak Irvin was also terrific, as were Moe Wagner, D.J. Wilson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman on an only slightly less frequent basis. Oklahoma State is first up in the Big Dance, and the Cowboys are on a three-game losing streak, albeit those three losses coming against ranked foes Kansas and Iowa State. But prior to those three losses, Oklahoma State had won 10 of 11. The top three seeds could follow in the following three games: second round against Louisville, Sweet Sixteen against Oregon and Elite Eight against Kansas. But with Michigan as hot as it is, there's no reason why it couldn't ride the momentum deep into March.

Wisconsin Badgers

No. 8 seed in East Region, No. 29 overall

Before their second-half shutdown Sunday against Michigan, the Badgers would've been a pretty trendy pick in this bracket. After a late-season slide that saw Wisconsin drop five of six, the Badgers scorched their opposition in the next three games, beating Minnesota by 17, Indiana by 10 and Northwestern by 26. It looked like Wisconsin finally righted the ship, and it was playing like the preseason conference favorite it was pegged as months earlier. But, again, that Michigan buzzsaw. Not to mention the Badgers went ice cold to open the second half and didn't even shoot 30 percent over the final 20 minutes in the Big Ten Tournament title game. Then came the No. 8 seed and a potential second-round matchup with the NCAA tournament's No. 1 overall seed, Villanova. That's going to make an extended Wisconsin run very challenging. If Wisconsin gets by first-round foe Virginia Tech, the Wildcats present the toughest possible matchup in the Big Dance.

Northwestern Wildcats

No. 8 seed in West Region, No. 32 overall

Making the NCAA tournament for the first time ever was the thrill of a lifetime for everyone involved with this Northwestern program. But the Cats don't sound like they'll settle for just being happy to be in the Dance. They want to make some noise, too. Certainly it's possible, especially if they play like they did in their first two Big Ten Tournament games, wins over Rutgers and Maryland in which they shot 60 percent and 55.3 percent from the field, respectively. When Northwestern combines its typically strong defense with multiple guys clicking on offense — namely Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey, who looked revitalized in Washington — it can compete with anyone. But that hasn't been something that's happened with much frequency since Lindsey's four-game absence at the start of February. The first "anyone" on the list is Vanderbilt, which has several marquee wins to its name this season, most notably beating Florida three times. If Northwestern gets out of the first round, top-seeded Gonzaga would most likely be waiting in the second round, an extremely difficult task.

Michigan State Spartans

No. 9 seed in Midwest Region, No. 35 overall

Sparty isn't used to being this far down on the tournament seeding list, and it's bad news for Tom Izzo's team. Michigan State has been pretty inconsistent this season, and after thumping Penn State in its first Big Ten Tournament game last week, it was ousted by Minnesota in an ugly game. The Spartans hung around despite horrendous shooting, but after the game Izzo went after his freshman-heavy roster's approach to the game, saying he was disappointed and didn't think his young players understood how to play in March. That's a foreboding assessment for a first-round matchup against Miami but even more worrisome for a potential second-round matchup against top-seeded Kansas. The Jayhawks were not one of the top-ranked teams in the Spartans' early season gauntlet that featured losses to Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor and Duke. The worst part about that, though, is that Kansas is ranked higher than all those teams.

The NCAA tournament bracket is out, with seven Big Ten teams in the field

The NCAA tournament bracket is out, with seven Big Ten teams in the field

WASHINGTON — Welcome to the Madness.

The NCAA tournament bracket was revealed on Selection Sunday, and the Big Ten has seven teams in the field of 68.

Most notable is the first-ever NCAA tournament appearance for Northwestern, but after a shaky-at-times regular season for the league, eye-catching runs in this week's Big Ten Tournament by Michigan and Wisconsin have suddenly made the conference's chances of competing for a national championship look a little bit better.

Big Ten regular-season champion Purdue earned the highest seed of any team in the conference. The Boilermakers are the No. 4 seed in the Midwest Region.

Big Ten Tournament champion Michigan ended up as the No. 7 seed in the Midwest Region, while runner-up Wisconsin is the No. 8 seed in the East Region.

The aforementioned Wildcats, who celebrated wildly at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, are the No. 8 seed in the West Region.

Three other teams made the field. Minnesota, which has flipped an 8-23 record from a season ago to a 24-9 mark heading into the Big Dance, is the No. 5 seed in the South Region. Maryland is the No. 6 seed in the West Region, and Michigan State is the No. 9 seed in the Midwest Region.

Illinois, Indiana and Iowa, three Big Ten teams some prognosticators considered to be on the bubble heading into championship week, all missed the cut.

The specific team-by-team matchups for the septet of Big Ten squads are included below along with the full NCAA tournament bracket.

East Region

No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 9 Virginia Tech, Thursday in Buffalo

Midwest Region

No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 13 Vermont, Thursday in Milwaukee

No. 7 Michigan vs. No. 10 Oklahoma State, Friday in Indianapolis

No. 9 Michigan State vs. No. 8 Miami, Friday in Tulsa

South Region

No. 5 Minnesota vs. No. 12 Middle Tennessee, Thursday in Milwaukee

West Region

No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 11 Xavier, Thursday in Orlando

No. 8 Northwestern vs. No. 9 Vanderbilt, Thursday in Salt Lake City