INDIANAPOLIS — Quick thoughts, notes and observations from all corners of the hoops world before I make the jog over to Conseco Fieldhouse for Ohio State-Northwestern…
1. Ohio State is the clear favorite here in the Big Ten Tournament. Ohio State is also the clear favorite to be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Ohio State faces a semi-dangerous one today against a Northwestern team that has a slow-paced formula, some shooters and a guy in Michael Thompson who went for a Big Ten Tournament record 35 points yesterday. See what I’m getting at? Ohio State is pretty much in a no-win position this weekend, especially Friday and Saturday. That’s not to say they’ll lose, or that they should, but we know this team’s real goals lie beyond next weekend. Northwestern has everything to play for today. Either Illinois or Michigan would have everything to play for tomorrow. If the Buckeyes falter, fret not.
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2. Michigan State might need to upset Purdue tonight to avoid having to go to Dayton for next week’s First Four. Michigan sure could use a win over Illinois to ensure its own spot in the Big Dance, and I think the Wolverines are playing well enough to get it. I don’t see Penn State beating Wisconsin or a limping Michigan State team beating Purdue, but stranger things have happened in March. My picks for today: Ohio State, Michigan, Purdue and Wisconsin in close ones. Wild, right? I’m never really good in the prediction game, so buckle up and enjoy whatever upsets happen. This Michigan team, folks, is really, really young and really dangerous, not just this weekend but next.
3. Besides Michigan and Michigan State, there’s not a whole lot else the teams here are really playing for (barring a miracle run for Northwestern or Penn State, that is). There’s some thought that the survivor of the Purdue-Wisconsin half of the bracket will get to play close to home next weekend in Chicago, but that’s just a thought. Ohio State will be a 1 seed and play in Cleveland. Besides the fact that BYU will play in one of the Thursday-Saturday setups due to religious considerations, that’s all we really know about the bracket. Notre Dame looks like a 1 seed but could play in either Cleveland or Chicago. Pitt might (and should, if you ask me) still be a 1 seed and could play in Cleveland or D.C. Both Duke and North Carolina are probably going to play in Charlotte, but neither will be a 1 seed.
4. So, Notre Dame is pretty good, eh? What looked like it could be a nice little run through the Big East Tournament for Cincinnati ended with a thud Thursday night. The Bearcats could be an 8 or 9 seed and get a shot at OSU next weekend — wouldn’t that be fun? — but we won’t know until Sunday. There’s a lot of work to do, a lot of games still to be played. Eleven Big East teams are getting in, folks, and they all deserve it. Michigan State, if it has any healthy players left, is still dangerous tonight and next Wed/Thu/Fri. I want to say Ohio State should really fear the 3-point line today, but Northwestern should also fear Jon Diebler. Is that guy ever going to miss?
5. Xavier and Dayton play at noon on FOX Sports Ohio, and though the X-Men are in a similar spot to Ohio State in that they’re kind of in a lose-lose situation, I just can’t see them losing to Dayton. A couple wins this weekend and Xavier, to me, will be a 6 seed next weekend and a very dangerous one at that. Tu Holloway can really, really play. I see I missed a couple of very wild ones in the MAC Tournament yesterday, and I’ll take Kent and Akron to win tonight. I’ll go with Akron in the upset Saturday night just because it’s March. Crazy things happen. And we love every second of it.