2012 Big Ten Men's Basketball
Some interesting matchups await Big Ten members in the First Round
4 Michigan vs. 13 Ohio- Mid-American Conference Champions
Michigan is surely hoping to get the awful taste out of its mouth caused by the pounding it took from Ohio State in the Big Ten semi-finals. It seems rather fitting that they would get the chance to do it against their rival state's name bearing school, MAC Champion Ohio.
This is not a typical power conference vs. mid major matchup when it comes to the players' size. Michigan's rotation is relatively small in stature, giving up the height advantage that most of their big school brethren enjoy in their opening games of the tournament. This could open the door for Ohio's star players (DJ Cooper and Walter Offutt) to cause all sorts of first round misery as they will not have to deal with a rotation of intimidating shot blockers they are not used to going up against. However, what Michigan lacks in size up front is more than compensated for with their extremely talented backcourt. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr are a deadly combo that can beat you from anywhere on the floor, and are complimented by dead-eye upperclassmen shooters Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, and an emerging Matt Vogrich.
Michigan should and probably will win, but fans in Ann Arbor and across the Big Ten probably won't be comfortable until the final buzzer sounds in Nashville.
10 Purdue vs. 7 Saint Mary’s- West Coast Conference Champions
Any loss in this tournament for Purdue means the end of the Robbie Hummel Era will finally become a reality. After what seems like a nine year college career, Hummel will look to extend it at least two more days by beating Saint Mary's in the opening round. Looking at their records and seeds, Saint Mary's obviously looks like the favourite. Interesting, then, that Las Vegas bookmakers have actually favoured the Boilers in this one.
The NCAA Tournament is all about matchups, and quite frankly a higher seeded team from a mid major conference with a similar lack of frontcourt competence is exactly what the doctor ordered for Purdue. Saint Mary's is a solid squad with an outstanding point guard in Aussie Matthew Dellavedova, but except for combo forward Rob Jones (who qualifies as much more than competent, it's the rest of the frontcourt that's lacking) the Gaels will not be able to take advantage of Purdue's much maligned frontcourt. This means if Hummel, DJ Byrd, and Ryne Smith outplay Saint Mary's perimeter, than the Robbie Hummel Tour has a very good shot at lasting to the weekend.
4 Indiana vs 13 New Mexico State - Western Athletic Conference Champions
Tom Crean's quest to become King/Emperor/President of Indiana will get even more legs if he's able to get his Hoosiers past a tricky New Mexico State squad in a very interesting 4-13 matchup.
Indiana has had a fabulous return to relevance this season after toiling in obscurity during the last three seasons. It's just one of those programs that's supposed to be in the field every year, so some order was finally restored when their name was called on Selection Sunday. Cody Zeller has been one of the top three or four freshmen in the entire country and has been a big reason for the Hoosier's turnaround. But as important as the in-state big man has been, upperclassmen like Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls, Tom Pritchard, and Matt Roth (as well as injured guard Verdell Jones) have been paramount in getting their team back to The Tournament. This group has had to endure arguably the darkest stretch in Indiana basketball history, and are getting rewarded with their first taste of post-season play.
New Mexico State has flown under the radar all season, sneaking into the field after WAC favourite and regular season champion Nevada bowed out in the conference semi-finals. Big man Wendell McKinnes' sensational 18.8 ppg and 10.8 rpg lead the plucky bunch from Las Cruces. The Aggies like to get up and down the floor, so look for a potential shootout between two teams that have the ability to fill it up in a hurry.
By Scott Capron
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