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March Madness Teams Already In - Part 2

Big Ten March Madness Power Schools

The Big Ten is viewed by many as the powerhouse conference in the world of men's NCAA basketball. This article is going to take a look at the best of the best in the Big Ten. We will dive into what these teams bring to the table come dance time and why they all have a legitimate case to make a deep run in this year's tournament.

Michigan (20-3)

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2019

Andy Katz Tournament Seed Ranking: 1

There is a lot to love about the Michigan Wolverines, and we will get to it, but first let's dissect their three losses on the season. The Wolverines fell at the hands of Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan State. In Michigan's first loss of the season they were tasked with travelling to Minnesota, who at the time were a ranked team. Minnesota managed to get under the skin of Michigan star Hunter Dickinson, and Liam Robbins had himself a day as a result. Hunter being young and naïve needed a game like this to grasp his importance to the success of the team. The Wolverines next loss came against the Illinois Fighting Illini. Keep in mind, after losing to Minnesota, Michigan was able to straighten the ship and rattle off seven straight victories before catching their second loss on the year to Illinois. The game against Illinois was simply a game you chalk up to not being Michigan's night. Michigan shot a mere 35% from the field and they could not hit a three point shot to save their lives. This game felt like a potential oversight on the schedule by Michigan as Illinois was coming in without their star player in Ayo Dosunmu. The Wolverines third and final loss on the year came when they travelled to the always dangerous Michigan State Spartans. Tom Izzo as well as Rocket Watts and Aaron Henry knew what was on the line if they were to lose this game, as they needed to go on a heater to make a case to make the big tournament. This loss was not as much on Michigan playing bad, and more a credit to Michigan State bringing their A+ game. There's the bad, now let's get into the good stuff going for Michigan. Hunter Dickinson is an electric big that shoots 60% from the field and averages 14 points, eight rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. Franz Wagner, younger brother of Wolverines great Moritz Wagner, is a solid guard that can get you 13 points a game and can be trusted to shoot around 50% from the field and 40% from three. Lastly, a combination of Mike Smith and Eli Brooks will be leaned on to continue growing into offensive and defensive threats, as it appears Isaiah Livers will be missing some time. Smith is a sharpshooter, hitting nearly 46% of his shots from three, and Brooks can be counted on as a ballhawk defensively, as he will steal 1.2 balls per game. I could spew about the things Michigan does right as a team all day, so I think I will keep it at: "This team is good, these players are a big reason why, look out for the Wolverines."

Illinois (21-6)

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2013

Andy Katz Tournament Seed Ranking: 1

Illinois is a team that is very good, but also beatable as teams such as Missouri, Maryland, Rutgers, Ohio State and Michigan State have shown us. I would have mentioned Baylor as well, but there was a stretch where literally everyone was losing to them. However, Illinois has some massive victories this season, as they have managed to take down Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin and Purdue just to name a few. The first thing anyone needs to know about Illinois is that Ayo Dosunmu is a problem. Ayo shoots 50% from the field and 78% from the stripe. This great shooting is averaging him nearly 22 points per game. Ayo isn't selfish either as he averages over five assists per game. His calm demeanor allows him to make the right play most of the time down the court. He brings it at both ends too, as he averages 1.2 steals per game. Legitimate superstar aside, Illinois also totes one of the most influential bigs in the NCAA. Kofi Cockburn is averaging 10 rebounds per game, over a block per game and 17 points (most of which coming inside the paint). This dynamic duo is able to stretch out your defense and forces you to take one or the other away. This opens the door for whoever of the two you do not commit to defensively. On the other side, both of these guys play solid defense and force you to earn every bucket. Nothing comes easy against Illinois.

Iowa (21-7)

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2019

Andy Katz Tournament Seed Ranking: 2

Welcome to the Luka Garza show, ladies and gentlemen. This is a very flawed team that is masked by an incredible talent in Luka Garza. A lot of mistakes, such as nearly 10 turnovers per game, are made up for by the elite play of Garza. Don't get me wrong Jordan Bohannon (four assists per game) and Connor McCaffrey (four assists per game) have done a tremendous job of keeping the entire team involved, but it simply does not hold a candle to what Garza has done this season. Garza is averaging 24 points, nine rebounds, and two assists per game, all while shooting 55% from the field, 42% from three and 71% from the stripe. Garza also manages 1.7 blocks per game and 0.5 steals a game, meaning he produces nearly two more possessions for the Hawkeyes every game on his own. Shoutout to Garza's favourite running-mate Joe Wieskamp who has put up a respectable 15 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists per game in his own right as the teams second scoring threat. There are two major issues with Iowa, and the first and most major one is their lack of a back up plan if their opponent can stop Garza. So much of the Iowa offense flows through Garza that if he is limited, the team struggles to find new ways to attack. The second issue for this squad is that it can sometimes lull itself to sleep. If they manage to go on a major run in a game, it is not uncommon for them to fall asleep as they feel the game is well in hand. This mentality lends itself to allow opponents to sneak back into games. Iowa should be able to crush a lot of teams, but certain teams match very well with them personnel-wise.

Ohio State (20-8)

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2019

Andy Katz Tournament Seed Ranking: 2

The Ohio State Buckeyes came into the Big Ten tournament undeniably sputtering. They had been losers of four straight, including a loss to Michigan State who many at the time felt was a team Ohio State should be able to beat handily. Since then Ohio State managed to defeat Minnesota and Purdue to slightly right the ship. Given that Michigan is without one of their stars in Livers, I believe the Buckeyes game against Michigan will be very telling about where this team is at mentally because in all likelihood they should be able to handle an undermanned Wolverines team. The Buckeyes are led by E.J. Liddell and Duane Washington Jr. on the offensive end, as well as Justice Sueing on the defensive end. This is a well-rounded roster that can do a little bit of everything, but what should really scare teams is the fact that they can get incredibly hot from three. Kyle Young and Justin Ahrens (both 43% from three) are two names that can add a serious jolt into any game for the Buckeyes. The other threatening part of the Buckeyes offense is that if you send them to the line, you are signing your own death warrant. Washington Jr., as well as CJ Walker and Kyle Young, all shoot above 84% from the free throw line. To put it simply, Ohio State forces you to play a complete ball game because of the fact that they play a complete game almost all of the time. They will take away your best option and force you to beat them with your backup plan. This feat is certainly doable for some teams, but many will have a tough time doing so.

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