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Big Ten Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

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It may still be February, but March is officially here.

The Big Ten tournament is the first of the major conference tournaments to kick off, and they’ll be doing so in New York City, which is just as dumb of an idea as it sounds. One year after playing their league tournament in Washington D.C.’s Verizon Center, the Big Ten opted to try and get into Madison Square Garden this season. But that’s the Big East’s home in March, which is why the Big Ten was forced to move everything up a week this year.

They played two league games the first weekend in December. The teams in the conference had to pack their league schedule as tight as possible. Everyone played two games a week for the entirety of league play. There weren’t off-days, all so the Big Ten could make the cash-grab of appealing to the New York City market. After all, nothing says Big Ten basketball quite like Rutgers and Maryland.

The league did all this so that they can make as much money as humanly possible off of the part of the country they’re trying to annex into the “Big Ten cable footprint”.

And there still isn’t enough money to be able to pay athletes, because this isn’t just a business and it’s all about getting a scholarship and an education and playing for the love of the game.


*eyes roll through the back of my head*

Anyway, let’s talk some hoops.


Michigan State is the best team in the Big Ten, just like we all thought they were going to be entering the season.. They won the outright league title, they have the most talent and they are the most difficult to matchup with. I also think that they are currently peaking, as Cassius Winston is learning to takeover games in big moments and Tom Izzo is starting to trust a lineup that features Jaren Jackson at the five and Miles Bridges at the four.


Ohio State and Purdue are the other two teams that were in the mix for the Big Ten title this year. The Buckeyes probably have the league’s best player in Keita Bates-Diop and they enter the league tournament with the most to gain; Purdue and Michigan State are probably going to end up being top two seeds, while Ohio State still has some work left to do to get to that level. Purdue, on the other hand, has just been so impressive this season. They have a star in league guard Carsen Edwards and he’s flanked by four seniors — assuming Vince Edwards will be good to go — that all understand and embrace the roles they are asked to play. When things are clicking for the Boilermakers, they are a machine.


Nebraska, Nebraska, Nebraska. The Cornhuskers is the only argument that you need to show why the Big Ten is just is not all that good. Nebraska will enter the Big Ten tournament with a 22-9 record and a 13-5 mark in the Big Ten, but I’d be willing to wager there aren’t any brackets that currently have them in the NCAA tournament. That’s because they only have one Quadrant 1 win: Michigan, at home. Their draw is perfect, too. As the No. 4 seed, they’ll (likely) get No. 5 seed Michigan in the quarters and No. 1 seed Michigan State in the semis. If they don’t win those two games, I don’t think they get into the tournament.

Nebraska’s Tim Miles (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)


See above. The only other team anywhere near the bubble is Penn State, but I think they would need to win three games to really be in the discussion.


It’s been weird watching the transformation of Michigan this season. The Wolverines, under John Beilein, have developed a reputation for being an elite offensive team that can struggle on the defensive end of the floor. This year, they are ranked 11th in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. They aren’t just a group of shooters with a couple soft bigs that only want to score. They still have those guys, but they also have a young core of tough-minded, defense-first athletes that can grind out wins when they need to. The Wolverines enter the postseason on a five-game winning streak.


Keita Bates-Diop is probably the best player in the Big Ten. Carsen Edwards can absolutely take over a game offensively. Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson are the two best NBA prospects in the league. But I’m going to go with Wisconsin‘s Ethan Happ. He hasn’t had a great season as a junior, but he’s played much better down the stretch as the Badgers have continued to improve. They won three straight and four out of five — including a win over Purdue — before a season-ending loss by five points to Michigan State at home.


  • Will Michigan State fully embrace a small-ball lineup?  When they play Miles Bridges at the four and Jaren Jackson at the five, the Spartans are very hard to guard.
  • We all saw what Juwan Morgan is capable of when he went for 34 points in a win over Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic. Like Wisconsin, Indiana came on strong late in the season.
  • Likewise, Tony Carr is a guy that might ruin someone’s dreams of hoisting a trophy in the Big Apple. Penn State lost three in a row at the end of the season to put an end to their at-large hopes pending a tournament run, but he can catch fire.


PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State

COACH OF THE YEAR: Chris Holtmann, Ohio State


  • Carsen Edwards, Purdue
  • Cassius Winston, Michigan State
  • Miles Bridges, Michigan State
  • Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State
  • Ethan Happ, Wisconsin


  • Tony Carr, Penn State
  • James Palmer Jr., Nebraska
  • Vincent Edwards, Purdue
  • Mo Wagner, Michigan
  • Juwan Morgan, Indiana

The end was disappointing, but Kentucky’s season outpaced all expectation

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In yet another example of what makes March Madness the greatest and most unpredictable sporting spectacle on the planet, Kentucky’s run to the Sweet 16 this season is going to be looked at as a disappointment.

Who saw that coming back in January?

Who thought that this team had second weekend potential when they were in the midst of the first four-game losing streak of John Calipari’s tenure in Lexington?

And please, show me who, at that point in time, predicted that Kentucky media would be calling a loss in the Sweet 16 “the worst loss” in the Calipari era back when there were actual discussions being had over whether or not the Wildcats were going to get into the NCAA tournament?

It’s amazing how quickly the tide turns in college basketball

Kentucky lost on Thursday night. The fifth-seeded Wildcats fell to the ninth-seeded Wildcats of Kansas State in a game that turned into drama-filled slugfest down the stretch. The final score was 61-58. Kentucky had two shots at the end of regulation to force a tie or take the lead. They also gave up an offensive rebound to a 6-foot-3 no-name with 40 seconds left that led to the game-winning bucket.

The narrative is going to be that Kentucky choked this game away, that their inability to run offense — and P.J. Washington’s free throw yips — cost them the Final Four that seemed a given Thursday morning and a pipe dream on Selection Sunday.

The truth is that Kentucky was a flawed basketball team that got hot at the right time before running into a team that executed a game-plan to perfection while getting the benefit of a couple of bounces and whistles going their way.

And let me be perfectly clear: In no way, shape or form am I saying that Kentucky or Big Blue Nation should be happy with this loss. It should be disappointing. It should hurt — more so for the players than the fans, but whatever. The bracket broke perfectly for them. Everyone in their region was a cinderella. We weren’t wrong in thinking that Coach Cal’s kids were the heavy favorites to get to San Antonio out of Catlanta.

But we need to say that while also acknowledging this: There is a reason that Kentucky was a No. 5-seed this season.

This was a flawed basketball team.

They were young. They didn’t have enough shooting. Their offense was entirely too predictable, even when they were winning. If Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox weren’t carrying the load for them on that end, they didn’t really have anywhere to turn. And on Thursday night, they ran into a team that had the personnel and a game-plan to take away Kentucky’s two go-to guys.

Kansas State is not overly talented, but what they have in abundance are tough, athletic and older guards that are going to put in a shift on the defensive end of the floor. Kentucky fans may not know who Barry Brown is, but I guarantee you that fans of every Big 12 team can tell you just how good he can be. I guarantee that coaches in the Big 12 can tell you just how annoying their guards are, and those little guards played that role to perfection.

To put it another way, it wasn’t a fluke that Gilgeous-Alexander struggled to make plays off the dribble the way he has for the last two months of the season. It wasn’t an accident that Kevin Knox struggled to find a way to get the looks he had become accustomed to getting coming off of Kentucky’s circle sets.

And in a 40 minute basketball game, when one team matches up well with another, something as simple as Xavier Sneed catching fire and Washington going 8-for-20 from the foul line will get you beat.

But that’s neither here nor there.

Because the real point that I am trying to make here is that this particular Kentucky team just wasn’t all that good. They were young. They were injured. They had their flaws masked by the improvement of a couple of kids who played out of their minds for long stretches of the season, and I just don’t think that’s something that should be overlooked.

Maybe this is just my mindset as a fan. I enjoy the ride more than I need to celebrate the ending. Give me a reason to tune in every game. Make me excited to have the monotony of a week broken up when the ball tips. I’m good.

And I think this Kentucky team accomplished just that.

But two weeks ago, no one thought this team had a shot of getting to the Elite 8. Two months ago, every Kentucky fan would have taken a trip to the second weekend in a heartbeat.

The ending sucked.

No doubt about it.

But this team kept fighting and kept improving and, in the end, lost because someone took makeup remover to the cosmetics that Calipari applied.

Be disappointed, but don’t lost sight of the big picture.

VIDEO: Townes’ late 3 seals Loyola’s win over Nevada

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Nevada was faced with a dilemma. The Wolf Pack were down just one possession – just one point – and were on defense with with a five-second differential between the game and shot clocks.

Foul and extend the game or play it out and hope for a stop?

Nevada opted to play it straight-up, and Loyola hit them with the worst-case scenario – a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock.

The 3-pointer from Marques Townes made it a two-possession game and the clock all but ruled out the possibility for two possession.

And that’s why Loyola is now in the Elite Eight.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Saturday’s tip times, TV channels, announcer pairings

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Half the spots in the Final Four are up for grabs Saturday. Be sure you know where your TV needs to be before the nets are cut down.

Atlanta: Brian Anderson, Chris Webber and Lisa Byington

  • 6:09 p.m. – No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 11 Loyola, TBS

Los Angeles: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner and Dana Jacobson

  • 8:49 – No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 9 Florida State, TBS

VIDEO: This is the shot that ended Kentucky’s season

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Barry Brown has spent all season being underrated.

And Kentucky found that out the hard way on Thursday night.

This bucket with 18 seconds left gave Kansas State a lead they would never relinquish in a win over Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

Florida State advances past Gonzaga to Elite Eight

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Florida State was an afterthought heading into the season in an ACC that was as loaded as it was top-heavy.

They were a No. 9-seed in the NCAA tournament in part because they were able to pick off North Carolina and Clemson at home by a combined three points.

They needed three overtimes to hold off Miami and Syracuse at home. They needed a win over Boston College on Senior Night to avoid heading into the ACC tournament with a losing record, and they ended up going and losing in the first round of the ACC tournament to a Louisville that never really sniffed the bubble and parted ways with their interim head coach as soon as their NIT run ended.

They were almost universally picked to lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Missouri because everyone knew Michael Porter Jr. was back and secretly hoped that the potential top five pick might actually make some noise as a collegian before his run came to an end.

The Seminoles have been written off and ignored for the entire college basketball season.

And now they are a win away from the Final Four.

Terance Mann scored 18 points and Florida State held fourth-seeded Gonzaga to 35 percent shooting as the Seminoles advanced to their first Elite 8 since 1993 with a 75-60 win on Thursday night. The Seminoles will advance to take on No. 3-seed Michigan with a trip to the Final Four on the line. They have not been to a Final Four since 1972, which was the last Elite 8 before their last Elite 8.

Put another way, the program that has been ignored all season long has been to precisely one Elite 8 since 1972.

That’s a long time to be irrelevant.

So I guess it’s time that we all started to pay attention.

And here’s the interesting part of this: The Seminoles are actually a fun team to watch this year. This is not the kind of grind-it-out Florida State teams that we have become accustomed to with Leonard Hamilton at the helm of this program. They don’t try to play as many enormous human beings at one time as they can. Florida State plays a lot of small-ball. They have a lot of physical, athletic and switchable defenders. They press. They try to force turnovers. They get out and run in transition. They have a couple dudes; Mann and Braian Angola and M.J. Carter. They’re not exactly VCU and they’re not exactly West Virginia and they’re not exactly last season’s South Carolina, but there’s a little bit of all of them there.

And that’s what did Gonzaga in.

The Zags entered this game short-handed, as their starting five-man Killian Tillie was unable to go due to a hip injury that he aggravated during warmups, but that would not have made all that much of a difference in the Staples Center.

The issue was guard play.

Florida State’s pressure simply overwhelmed Gonzaga’s guards. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Zach Norvell were a combined 10-for-36 from the floor and had a nightmare-of-a-time trying to get the ball into the lane. The Zags committed 13 turnovers, trailed by 12 within the first ten minutes of the game and never really made a run keeping this thing within striking distance.

If there was an issue with Tillie being out, it came when Gonzaga tried to space the floor.

The Zags were playing without enough shooters, particularly in the front court. That clogged the paint and made it difficult for the likes of Johnathan Williams III and Rui Hachimura to get some space down there to operate. Perhaps the most telling stat on Thursday — more than Gonzaga’s 34 percent shooting or the 5-for-20 that they shot from three — was that the Zags were 8-for-27 on layups on the night.


For 27.


And it makes me wonder just how Michigan is going to be able to handle this group, but that’s neither here nor there.

We’ll get to it in time.

For now, it is time for the Seminoles and their fans to basket in this moment.

They were right, we were wrong.