GOULD: It might be a long shot, but all-Big Ten Final Four possible
BY HERB GOULD firstname.lastname@example.org March 26, 2013 10:49PM
Indiana's Victor Oladipo shoots over Wisconsin's Mike Bruesewitz (31) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten tournament Saturday, March 16, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Updated: April 28, 2013 6:41AM
So many story lines, so many matchup questions in this Sweet 16.
This NCAA tournament has a chance to be the greatest Big Ten Invitational ever. Let’s just hope the basketball-only schools don’t get ideas about forming their own conference.
Here are the regional
breakdowns, ranked in order of the probability of their Big Ten school reaching the Final Four:
Ohio State Regional
In one of the Big Ten’s two possible chicken-and-egg games, coach Thad Matta will line up his second-seeded Ohio State team against sixth-seeded Arizona and coach Sean Miller, his former assistant at Xavier. (In the other, Indiana coach Tom Crean might face off against Buzz Williams, his former assistant at Marquette, in the Elite Eight.)
The Ohio State-Arizona game, which will be played at the
Staples Center, might take a backseat to the other Sweet 16
matchup, which is way more Hollywood in a ‘‘Rocky’’ sort of way. Thirteenth-seeded La Salle, coached by Elmwood Park native John Giannini, and ninth-seeded Wichita State — coached by Gregg Marshall, who made his mark at Winthrop — both are in line for raises or bigger jobs. Maybe both.
Keep an eye on Chicago-area Buckeyes Sam Thompson, a 6-7 sophomore from Young, and Lenzelle Smith Jr., a 6-5 junior from Zion-Benton. Both are supporting players who can be difference-makers.
There are no Tea Party candidates here. And this will be no tea party for top-seeded Indiana, not with the other top seeds (No. 2 Miami, No. 3 Marquette and No. 4 Syracuse) also here.
They all come with a surgeon general’s warning: The Hoosiers’ opponent Thursday, Syracuse, plays a tricky zone and has a wise old coach in 68-year-old Jim Boeheim. Miami also has a wise old coach in George Mason legend Jim Larranaga, 63, who guided the Hurricanes to a great season. If Crean does wind up playing his former employer, Marquette, the heat would be on.
In a city famous for not getting anything done, a lot of things are going to happen this week in Washington.
It’s a good thing this doubleheader will be played in plush Cowboys Stadium because everyone will want to settle in for two really good dramas.
Fourth-seeded Michigan and top-seeded Kansas have marvelous rosters talented enough to win the national championship if they can overcome occasional inconsistency. The Wolverines are led by sophomore point guard Trey Burke, the front-runner for national player of the year. He is supported by famous sons Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III, plus ace freshmen Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas. The problem is, Jayhawks coach Bill Self can counter just about every punch.
The real drama, though, might come in the nightcap, where 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast will try to keep working its magic against third-seeded Florida. Gulf Coast is coached by a self-made millionaire married to a supermodel. Or is it the other way around? Either way, Florida coach Billy Donovan would look good in a cape.
Michigan State Regional (Indianapolis)
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo really wanted to play in Texas — and not just because he could borrow shoulder pads from the Cowboys for practice. In Indy, the third-seeded Spartans will have to share pads with two teams — top-seeded Louisville and second-seeded Duke — that could win it all without surprising anyone. The fourth team, Oregon, clearly was underseeded at No. 12. And the Nike-driven Ducks won’t be borrowing pads — or any other apparel — from anyone.
Big Ten bottom line
An all-Big Ten Final Four would be monumental. Think of the summer-rerun ‘‘inventory’’ for the Big Ten Network. But that’s pie-in-the-sky. Even two teams getting to Atlanta would be huge for a conference that has won only one national championship since 1989.