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Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin all legit Big Ten Final Four threats

SPOKANE WA - MARCH 22:  Denzel Valentine #45 Adreian Payne #5 Keith Appling #11 Branden Daws#22 Michigan State Spartans

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 22: Denzel Valentine #45 Adreian Payne #5, Keith Appling #11 and Branden Dawson #22 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrate in the second half of their 80 to 73 win over the Harvard Crimson during the Third Round of the 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 22, 2014 in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 459540615

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Updated: April 26, 2014 6:18AM



Have you heard the one about the two suburban lawmakers who want to spend time and money to find out what it would take to have the Big Ten add Illinois State or Southern Illinois-Edwardsville to the conference?

It’s not a Starbucks, guys.

The Big Ten is a league that might be on the verge of something big — and we’re not talking about Maryland and Rutgers obtaining franchises.

Not only have Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin advanced to the Sweet 16, but they all have a reasonable chance to make the Final Four a Big Ten party.

The peaking Spartans have the ESPN commentators’ seal of approval to win the national championship.

With Duke gone and Nik Stauskas on the loose, the Wolverines wouldn’t shock the world if they end up in suburban Dallas. If they can send Tennessee back to Rocky Top, they’ll face the winner of the Commonwealth Game between Kentucky and Louisville.

The Badgers face the murkiest path to Cowboys Stadium. If they can corral Baylor, Arizona will be a major test. On the other hand, anyone who saw Wisconsin hitch up its pants to beat racing Oregon might have the impression that coach Bo Ryan’s 0-for-Final Four drought might be ending.

It’s no wonder those legislators would like to add a Big Ten school or two to Illinois’ precarious portfolio.

What about Billy?

Love them or hate them, coaches are the rock stars of college basketball, if not the coaching landscape in general.

A lot of the buzz around the Sweet 16 is about who isn’t there: Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, Bill Self. Round up the usual suspects and send them off to summer camp.

Meanwhile, Billy Donovan is edging closer to an NCAA coaching milestone under the cover of darkness.

Maybe it’s his understated style or that he’s coaching at Florida instead of Kentucky, Indiana or UCLA. Even though his name doesn’t come up immediately in
the discussion, Donovan is in position to put himself in some pretty select company.

The Gators, the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament, are four victories away from giving Donovan his third national title. Only three other coaches — John Wooden (10), Adolph Rupp (four) and Krzyzewski (four) — have won more.

Think about that while John Calipari and Rick Pitino are occupying the spotlight. And then appreciate the way Donovan’s team plays the game.

And remember that, at 48, the point-guard hero of Pitino’s 1987 Providence team is far from done.

Heck, the guy even gave us Joakim Noah.

Meet the Millers

Finally, a guide to the coaching brothers in the Sweet 16.

Sean Miller, 45, is the one who ought to have the tan as the coach of Arizona, which comes from a sunny place and has been in the spotlight as a No. 1 seed.

Archie Miller, 35, is the one who suddenly emerged from the shadow of his mentor, Ohio State coach Thad Matta, by guiding 11th-seeded Dayton past Matta’s sixth-seeded Buckeyes in the Flyers’ tournament opener. He then added a victory over Boeheim, who became Syracuse’s coach two years before Archie was born.

Sean, a dribbling phenom on ‘‘The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson’’ when he was 14, played point guard at Pitt from 1987 to 1992; Archie played point guard at N.C. State from 1998 to 2002.

They both played for their father, John, at Blackhawk High School in Chippewa, Pa., near Pittsburgh. And they both were assistants under Matta.

Sean became Xavier’s coach when Matta moved to Columbus. Archie was an assistant under Sean, as well as under Matta, before taking the Dayton job.



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