February is officially here which means the ever important March Madness is right around the corner. It’s been a fun college basketball season thus far, but the action really starts to pick up from this point forward. Key conference match ups, rivalry games, and upsets are all on the horizon as teams make their final push toward the NCAA tournament. Here’s the latest look at where ESPN’s Joe Lunardi projects the Badgers and other teams from across the country.
Last week the Badgers dropped down to an 8-seed in the latest bracketolgy release. In that game they were slated to take on the 9-seed USC Trojans with the winner taking on the overall top seed in the Baylor Bears. While it’s nice to be in the tournament, it would be nice better to try and avoid the team that has won 20 straight and looks to be unstoppable. Thankfully for the Badgers they improved slightly in their win over Ohio State and moved over to the Midwest Region, but held at the 8-seed position.
In this match up they would take on the 9-seeded Rhode Island Rams who have been playing some great basketball as winners of 10 straight as they head into their toughest contest Tuesday evening against the Dayton Flyers. If the Badgers were to win that game they would still take on a one seed, but this time it would be the Kansas Jayhawks. Still not ideal, but Baylor appears to be the stronger team right now. For Wisconsin, this next stretch of games will be crucial as they take on teams currently in their same seeding vicinty such as Rutgers and Michigan. If they could get wins in those games the Badgers likely move to a much more favorable match up with a team like San Diego State if both were to get by the first round.
Big Ten Report
The Big Ten has held strong over the course of the bracketology report with at least 10 or 11 teams making the list each time. As it currently sits 11 teams are once again projected to make the big dance. The leader of this group is Maryland who are a projected two seed, followed by Penn State who currently sits on the four line. Michigan State, who recently plummeted out of the AP Top 25, resides on the 5-seed line as things sit right now. After that, Iowa projects as a 6-seed, Illinois a 7-seed, and then a jumble of 8-seeds which are all occupied by Big Ten teams in Wisconsin, Rutgers, Michigan, and Ohio State. Rounding out the conference is Purdue who jumps back in as a 10-seed, while in-state foe Indiana sits as one of the last four teams in on the 11 line. It’s safe to say this will all likely change as teams battle it out over this final two week stretch.
To me the biggest surprise in this week’s release is the resurgence of the Big East conference. As it sits right now the Big East has six teams projected to make the tournament which is the second most of any conference behind the Big Ten. Seton Hall appears to be the strongest of the bunch after winning back to back games on the road against Georgetown and Villanova, and they might have the nations best player in Myles Powell. Speaking of Villanova, the Cats have dropped three straight and take on another surging team in the Marquette Golden Eagles Wednesday evening who have won three straight. How that conference shakes out down the stretch will be fascinating to watch, and as always, the Big East Tournament will be must see TV.
Region I’d Most like to Watch?
The Omaha region with Wisconsin, Kansas, and Baylor would be fun, but I still think the Tampa region tops it. Plus, if you were going somewhere for four days to watch some hoops I am guessing you’re taking Tampa over Omaha. In the Tampa region you have 6-seed Arizona taking on 11-seed Xavier in round one. The winner of that would likely take on Auburn, who is playing some great basketball of late. In the other cluster you have LSU taking on the play in game winner of Stanford/Inidana. The winner would likely take on Florida State in the second round. Second round games of Auburn/Arizona, LSU/Florida State would be hard to beat at this point.
Worst Possible Final Four?
Michigan State, Duke, Kentucky, Maryland.... this thing is all shaping up for an Izzo special where his team comes off the mat to make a run and surprise us all. Not me though, I see it already. Additionally, you might as well pencil in Coach K and Duke as they appear to have the dark magic working in full force. Did you see that disaster of a call the other night to ice it away? Please. If the Blue Devils ever fall behind Coach K will fake a back injury to motivate his guys.
Best Possible Final Four?
Give me Seton Hall, Dayton, Florida State, and Auburn because why not.