March is upon us and we all know that means....NCAA March Madness! The fun has already begun with a handful of teams (Belmont, UNC Asheville, VCU, Detroit, Harvard, Loyola, Creighton, Murray State, Davidson, South Dakota State, Western Kentucky & Saint Mary's) already punching their ticket to the BIG DANCE and let the BUBBLE BUSTING begin for those who are on the cusp of the tourney. This is always a fun time of year for sports fans and non-sports fans. Who doesn't like filling out a bracket and seeing how they do and of course everyone has their own system, but that is a whole other post entirely. Before the BIG DANCE we have the smaller yet more exciting, in my opinion, conference tournaments. This post will focus in on the Big TEN and Big 12 Conference tournaments and what the Iowa State Cyclones must do to improve it's seed and if Iowa can pull off a run to punch their ticket.
The Big 12:
The Big 12 Tournament is going on as I speak, however, since I don't see any of the four teams playing tonight having a chance to knock off Kansas or Missouri so I am looking forward to tomorrow's games. The Big 12 has four teams in the Top 25 and really only four teams that have a shot to win this tournament. Kansas has got to be the favorite going in with a very good Mizzou team in the 1a. slot. Baylor in my mind has got to be 2 and the Iowa State Cyclones being 2a. Baylor perhaps has the toughest draw of the day tomorrow in Kansas State. K-State was ranked in the Top 25 for parts of this year as well and a team I will keep my eye on to possibly pull off some "upsets" in this tournament. I will even go so far as to say that K-State will beat Baylor tomorrow, as Baylor has been inconsistent as of late, and K-State will give KU a run for their money on Friday (never count out an in-state rivalry, even on a neutral court). The opposite side of the bracket there is a Mizzou team that will have no problem handling whatever team comes to play them tomorrow and then you have the roller coaster ride that is the Iowa State Cyclones. A team that can be as dangerous as ever at their best and mediocre at their worst. Iowa State takes on an underachieving Texas team this year and I see the Cyclones pulling this game out but by 8 points or less (as if the Cyclones weren't used to close games).
I have Kansas winning in a close one against K-State and advancing to the Finals on Saturday. This leaves Mizzou and ISU facing off on Friday night in an intriguing match up. ISU has been dangerous at home but not so much no the road, if Hilton Magic travels to Kansas City then I give the Cyclones the edge, however I feel their road woes might plague them this game and I give the slight edge to Mizzou in this game. KU and Mizzou will face off yet again, but this time Mizzou will do what they couldn't do last time they faced off.... FINISH! Mizzou will win the Big 12 Tourney.
How does ISU improve their seed:
The Cyclones are projected to be an 8 seed heading in to the BIG DANCE. That is a bad draw for ISU because even if they win in round one they have a #1 waiting for them in the next round. It is not uncommon for a 1 to lose to an 8 or even a team from Iowa (UNI v Kansas). Iowa State has a team to make a run to the Sweet 16 given the right draw. In order to find that right fit ISU needs to make a case to improve its seed. The Cyclones need to try slide their way in to a 7 or possibly a 6 seed. ISU can make a case for a 7 if they can give Mizzou a run for their money, IF, they beat Texas and could make a case for 6 if they beat Mizzou and don't lay an egg against KU, a team they have shown they are capable of beating. If all things fall right watch for the Cyclones to make a run in the BIG DANCE.
The Big TEN:
The Big TEN tourney tips off Thursday (tomorrow) morning at 11:30 EST. with Iowa and Illinois. This bracket is prime for some upsets with 5 very good teams (Ohio St. Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Indiana) followed by 2 good teams (Purdue and Northwestern). The rest is pack of teams that are not as good but can still be dangerous with the most dangerous being Iowa in my mind. This team has gotten hot at the right time and starting to play some very good ball. If I focus in on the match ups that I foresee on Friday would have Michigan St. v Iowa, Wisconsin v Indiana, Michigan v Northwestern, and Ohio St. v Purdue. Unfortunately the only upset I see in this round is Indiana over Wisconsin (if you can call 5 over 4 an upset). I do not, however, completely count out the Hawks for reasons I will get in to later. Michigan St. v Indiana and OSU v Michigan is what is left for in the Big TEN come Saturday. Any basketball fan, let alone a Big TEN fan, has got to agree these are the teams you want to see playing for a chance to win the Big TEN. Indiana basketball is back and there is never a dull moment when OSU and Michigan meet (especially when both teams are good). These teams are the foundation of Big TEN Basketball and it will be nice to see them all playing for the title. I said it before Indiana basketball is back and I feel an upset over a #1 if that sounds familiar this could be why .....
The ongoing battle between Ohio State and Michigan wages on and in this case I see another tally going to Michigan. This leaves Michigan and Indiana battling it out for the title and Michigan basketball will claim the title this year. The emotions of the tournament and taking down #1 wear on the Hoosiers and Michigan will take full advantage to take home the title.
Can Iowa make a run:
The answer is "Yes" but it is the "How" that becomes the difficult part. They have a very difficult draw in this tourney and getting out of the first round leaves them with the gift of Michigan State. How can the Hawks pull the upset? They need to play as if they have nothing to lose, and come out strong out of the gates with Matt Gatens leading the way. The Hawks need to play loose and hold their composure at the end of the games. Iowa has had a HOT month of February and look to carry that over in to tournament time. Can the Hawks make a run... YES.... but that run will only go as far as the hot hand of Gatens takes them.
This time of year is simply unpredictable! Yet, we all look to predict the winners. We celebrate over our picks that only WE saw and agonize over the upset we didn't see coming. I've found the best thing to do is to make your picks, find a good seat, and watch the MADNESS unfold!