Ladies and gentlemen next week is March. Kind of a bittersweet moment huh? On one hand, it’s a reminder that COVID-19 took over the world almost a year ago, and on the other hand we’re finally getting back to March Madness, something we all need. The home stretch should be a lot of fun for college hoops fans and that is just the appetizer for what should be a phenomenal conference tournament season leading into the NCAA tournament.
Before we get there though, everyone is on bracket watch. Let’s take a look at the latest update to the Big Dance.
Wisconsin basketball is slated as a 5-seed in the latest update from Joe Lundari. As it sits now they would take on the 12-seed Toledo Rockets who currently lead the MAC conference. The Rockets are a tough matchup for the Badgers with their fast-paced offense. Currently, Toledo is No. 21 in the country in points per game, and they’re coming off a big win over Buffalo on the road. If the Badgers were to win that opening round game they would take on the winner of a tough matchup between UC Santa Barbara and the Creighton Blue Jays.
To compound matters, the Badgers still sit in region 2 which is headlined by the Baylor Bears. Given the way Baylor has played all year long, it’s best to avoid them and Gonzaga if you can. You probably don’t want to see Michigan right now either, so winning a few games and possibly ending up in the other region currently headlined by Ohio State would be a win for Wisconsin.
Big Ten Breakdown
As mentioned above Michigan and Ohio State lead the way with both teams on the number one line despite trending in opposite directions. Michigan comes into the weekend off three straight strong performances over ranked opponents. Ohio State comes into the weekend losers of two straight after being upset by Michigan State Thursday night.
After the top two, Illinois remains on the two seed line but we’re dealt a tough blow with the news of Ayo Dosunmu suffering a broken nose. He will be out indefinitely and will be unavailable when the Illini head to Madison Saturday. After that, Iowa drops down to the 3-seed line and Wisconsin comes in as a 5-seed. Purdue has moved up to a 6-seed while Rutgers sits as an 8-seed and Maryland surges up to the 9-seed line.
Minnesota, fresh off a disgusting loss at home to Northwestern, is now listed as the first team out. Indiana, losers of two straight, are still in the last four in group and would be a play in 11-seed which is frankly absurd. Neither team deserves to be in, and could be surpassed by Michigan State who is surging and now part of the first four out. With Indiana and back-to-back games with Michigan still on the schedule, Sparty can’t be counted out just yet....
Storyline to watch
At the beginning of this post, we talked about March Madness and COVID and how they ran together a year ago. Well, a year later we’re still dealing with those issues. While this time around it won’t cancel the tournament, there are still chances that it could cause issues. Due to that, the NCAA put together a plan for how to handle teams with COVID in the tournament.
According to the release yesterday if a team must be replaced, they must be replaced by March 16th at 6 P.M. ET (48 hours after bracket release). If an automatically qualified team must withdraw the conference will have the ability to replace a designated team if they meet the criteria laid out by the NCAA. The team must have 7 consecutive days of negative tests. If it does, it will take the place of the previously seeded team. For example. if Eastern Washington wins the Big Sky Tournament but is unable to play, the Big Sky will have the option to replace them with whoever they deem to be the 2nd place team in the conference.
One-bid leagues are pretty cut and dry, but multi-bid leagues are a little more complicated. If a team must withdraw the selection committee will pull from the “last four out” group, which will be ranked 1-4. As it sits right now, according to Joe Lunardi, the first four out are Minnesota, Stanford, Richmond, and Michigan State. Based on that, if only one team is needed, the Gophers would jump into their spot. One important note is that the bracket will not be reseeded once it is finalized on March 16th. Once the tournament begins, if a team must withdraw, the game will be deemed a no-contest and the scheduled opponent will advance. We’ll see how that holds up in the long run, but let’s hope the policy doesn’t need to be used.