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Seven Big Ten teams all but locks for NCAA tournament

Illinois guard D.J. Richardsleft shouts teammates as he brings ball downcourt during first half an NCAA college basketball game against

Illinois guard D.J. Richardson, left, shouts to teammates as he brings the ball downcourt during the first half an NCAA college basketball game against Ohio State on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Darrell Hoemann)

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SUN-TIMES ALL-BIG TEN SELECTIONS

FIRST TEAM

Trey Burke, Michigan

Victor Oladipo, Indiana

Cody Zeller, Indiana

Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State

Adreian Payne, Michigan State

SECOND TEAM

Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan

Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota

Jared Berggren, Wisconsin

D.J. Richardson, Illinois

Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa

THIRD TEAM

Andre Hollins, Minnesota

Keith Appling, Michigan State

Gary Harris, Michigan State

Brandon Paul, Illinois

Christian Watford, Indiana

COACH
OF THE
YEAR

Bo Ryan,
Wisconsin

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Victor Oladipo, Indiana

FRESHMAN OF YEAR

Gary Harris, Michigan State

SIXTH MAN OF YEAR

Sam Dekker, Wisconsin

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Updated: April 11, 2013 6:48AM



Yes, Big Ten teams still are beating each other up, and that means there’s still room for movement in both directions when the NCAA tournament bracket comes out next Sunday.

The good news for the Big Ten is that its status as the No. 1 conference in the country means seven of its teams are looking like locks for the field of 68.

Indiana, which still is tracking for a No 1 seed, leads the Big Ten delegation. Gonzaga also is a solid pick for a top seed, with Duke, Kansas, Georgetown and Louisville among the leading contenders to join the Hoosiers and Bulldogs on the four top lines.

At this point, Michigan is in position for a No. 2 seed, Michigan State for a No. 3 and Ohio State for a No. 4. Wisconsin is in the No. 6-No. 7 range, with Illinois looking like a No. 8 or No. 9 and Minnesota like a No. 8, No. 9 or No. 10.

Big Ten teams will have ample opportunity to solidify their cases — or weaken them — in the next week. The regular season will wrap up with a pair of pivotal games Sunday, when Indiana travels to Michigan and Illinois plays at Ohio State.

And then the much-anticipated Big Ten tournament begins Thursday at the United Center. Should be a Madhouse on Madison Street, college-style.

Best Final Four bets?

With perennials such as Kentucky, Connecticut, Texas and the Pac-12’s usual contenders down, this might be a Final Four filled with unfamiliar faces.

Going in, three Big Ten teams are among the 15 or 20 that could get to Atlanta without shocking the world.

Indiana is the most obvious choice. The Hoosiers have a talented rotation that has all the pieces. They’ll need to step up, though, when it’s a half-court game and settle on a go-to scorer.

It’s not clear that Michigan State has a go-to scorer, either. The Spartans’ shooting will be tested, but coach Tom Izzo’s credentials as a March master make them a threat.

The riskiest but most intriguing Big Ten choice might be Michigan. The Wolverines will have to dig in defensively and prove themselves in the paint. But they have a go-to guy in Trey Burke, and there’s lots of skill around him.

And the awards go to . . .

Burke, a front-runner for national player of the year, is our choice for Big Ten player of the year. But it was a close call over Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, who also is looking like a strong first-team All-America candidate.

Indiana’s Cody Zeller and Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas also are no-brainers for first-team All-Big Ten. The fifth slot goes to Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, the latest in a long line of heart-and-soul Spartans.

No question, Indiana’s Tom Crean and Michigan’s John Beilein, who have revived tradition-rich programs, are worthy of coach of the year. But the nod goes to Bo Ryan, who once again has done more with less. A popular pick to finish eighth, the Badgers were in the hunt for a share of the Big Ten title until the final week of the regular season.

Oladipo, the most improved player in the conference the last couple of years, earned the defensive award. Gary Harris, who stepped into the difficult playmaker role for Michigan State, is our freshman of the year. The sixth-man award goes to Wisconsin freshman Sam Dekker, who delivered offensive punch to a team that really needed it.



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