The March Madness fun has only just begun! The University of Michigan and Michigan State University are in the Big Dance and ready for their trip to the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Even though No. 2 seed Duke is pegged by Vegas oddsmakers as the choice to win the national championship at the University of Phoenix Stadium April 3, don’t go telling that to fans of the other teams in the tournament as play opened with four First Four games in Dayton, Ohio earlier this week.
The U-M Wolverines (24-11), No. 7 seed in the Midwest Region, start play on Friday, March 17 at 12:15 p.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, facing No. 10 Oklahoma State Cowboys (20-12). MSU (19-14) is a no. 9 seed and opens on Friday at 9:30 p.m. at BOK Center in Tulsa against the 21-11 Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes, a No. 8 seed. Neither game is a “lock” for our two state schools.
Michigan stunned Big Ten regular season champion Wisconsin Badgers last Sunday, 71-56, in Washington, D.C., to win their first Big Ten post-season tourney in 19 seasons (and just their second all-time). U-M bested the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4 seeds in the Big Ten to win it all. This despite a scary start to their trip out east when their charted plane skidded off the runway at Willow Run Airport last week, forcing evacuation using the safety chutes.
Derrick Walton is the team leader for Coach John Beilein as he scored 22 points in the win over the Badgers, Zack Irvin contributed 15. Walton averages 15.2 points per game. He’s help key a 10-2 Wolverines record down the stretch. U-M is on fire right now and needs to continue their momentum in NCAAs. Who says the Wolverines cannot win away from Crisler Center? They sure silenced those critics at the Big Ten tourney. U-M faces a probable showdown Sunday against No. 3 Louisville, should both teams advance.
Local sports blogger Jon Williams, posted on his Facebook page: “Amazing run by Michigan. Big 10 tournament champions for the first time since 1998. 4 games in 4 days against 3 tournament teams and everything they went through this week. Hard to describe or fathom. Go Blue!”Top of Form
Coach Tom Izzo leads the Spartans to their 20th consecutive NCAA Tournament bid. What an up-and-down season it has been in East Lansing as they’ve battled injuries, freshman errors and a very tough non-conference (and Big Ten) schedule. MSU faces the prospect – should they defeat Miami – of playing No. 1 Midwest Region Kansas Jayhawks on Sunday in Tulsa.
Yet one thing we always say about Michigan State is never to count them out of tournament contention. With Final Four and Sweet Sixteen appearances behind them, the Spartans own a great track record in the NCAAs. They are led by freshman sensation Miles Bridges (6-7 and 230 pounds) of Flint. The forward/guard averages 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. MSU has a stellar all-time tourney record of 63-29 in 30 years.
The overall No. 1 seed is defending champion Villanova (also No. 1 seed in the East Region) from the Big East Conference. They open Thursday in Buffalo. The Big Ten also seeded Wisconsin No. 8 in the East, Purdue No. 4 in the Midwest, Minnesota No. 5 in the South, Maryland No. 6 in the West and Northwestern No. 8 in the West.
The West Region is loaded with No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 5 Notre Dame, Maryland and Northwestern. This is the first time in the 78-year history of the Wildcats that they made the NCAA field in men’s hoops. Wow! Just like their cross-town Chicago Cubs won the World Series, wouldn’t it be special to see Northwestern win it all?
Sadly, Oakland University, University of Detroit Mercy, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan all missed the Big Dance. We wish Oakland well in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT).
By George Eichorn of Downtown Monitor
Reach George Eichorn at email@example.com.