NCAA tournament 2011: Sizing up the Big Ten
Many people, including myself, expected the Big Ten to be the nation's best conference. But it has been overtaken by the Big East. Let's take a closer look at the Big Ten:
Conference RPI rank: 2
NCAA tournament bids: 5-6
Locks: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Probable: Illinois, Minnesota
Bubble: Michigan State, Penn State
Most likely to fade: Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are in the NCAA tournament at the moment, but injuries are catching up with Tubby Smith's team in a hurry. There is a chance the league winds up with just four bids.
Sleeper: Wisconsin. Calling the Badgers a sleeper means they are a sleeper Final Four pick. But they may not be a sleeper for long because they have a real chance to knock off No. 1 Ohio State on Saturday in Madison. In addition to Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer, there is a lot to like about this team as a whole. They lead the country in free throw percentage and assist/turnover ratio and rank eighth in fewest fouls per game. They won't beat themselves.
Player to watch: Jared Sullinger. Watch him while you can. He is shooting 57 percent from the floor for the Buckeyes.
Most impressive coaching job: Ed DeChellis. Penn State has beaten Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan State to recover from a shaky nonleague showing to give it a remote chance to make the NCAA tournament. But the Nittany Lions have lost two straight and are badly in need of another road win.
Biggest disappointment: Michigan State. Did I even have to ask? The one-season demise of the Spartans (so far) has been the most jaw-dropping story of the year in college basketball. But the season is not done yet and it would be foolish to count out a talented Izzo-coach team.
Most compelling story line: Can Ohio State finish the regular season undefeated? Don't count on it. Don't even examine the remainder of the Buckeyes' schedule unless they figure out a way to get a win in Madison on Saturday.
| February 9, 2011; 10:30 AM ET
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