By the end of the weekend, the Field of 68 will be whittled down to 16 teams. Right now, there are six Big Ten teams in the field, most of which have tough matchups on opening weekend.
To see the NCAA Tournament bracket, or other post-season brackets, click here.
For each of the 68 teams records against the spread, click here.
I’ll break down each game of the NCAA Tournament involving Big Ten teams, leaving Michigan’s games to the experts. Today, I’ll cover Friday’s second round games (formerly the first round), excluding the Michigan game.
#10 Purdue (21-12) (10-8 Big Ten) vs. #7 Saint Mary’s (27-5) (14-2 WCC)
Game Time: 7:27 PM EST (approx) on Friday.
Winner Plays: #2 Kansas/#15 Detroit (on Sunday).
Purdue: The Boilermakers are 3-9 against NCAA Tournament teams, having beaten Iona and Temple on neutral courts and Michigan in Ann Arbor. Purdue was 8-8 on road and neutral courts this season. 4-star forward Robbie Hummel (16.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG, and 83.1 Free Throw Shooting Percentage), 3-star guard Lewis Jackson (10.3 PPG, 4.3 APG, 47.4 Field Goal Shooting Percentage), and 3-star guard Ryne Smith (9.5 RPG, 44.3 Field Goal Shooting Percentage, and 43.8 Three Point Shooting Percentage) have led Purdue offensively, this season.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels are the West Coast Conference regular season and tournament champion, after beating San Francisco and Gonzaga in Las Vegas, at Orleans Arena to capture the automatic bid. Saint Mary’s is 4-3 against NCAA Tournament teams, having beaten Brigham Young (twice) and Gonzaga (twice). The Gaels last made the NCAA Tournament in 2010, posting their best showing, making the Sweet 16. Prior to the 2010 NCAA Tournament, Saint Mary’s hadn’t won a game in the Big Dance since 1959. Coach Randy Bennett has led Saint Mary’s to three NCAA Tournament appearances prior to this season; guard Matthew Dellavedova (15.6 PPG, 6.4 APG, and 85.3 Free Throw Shooting Percentage), forward Rob Jones (14.8 PPG, 10.7 RPG, and 46.7 Field Goal Shooting Percentage), and guard Stephen Holt (10.4 PPG, 50.0 Field Goal Shooting Percentage, and 37.5 Three Point Shooting Percentage) lead Saint Mary’s offensively.
My Take: Saint Mary’s was 11-4 on road and neutral courts this season, but only two of those wins came against tournament teams. The Gaels’ faced non-conference foes with an average RPI of 167.5, compared with Purdue’s which had an RPI of 164.1. As expected, the conference schedules were MUCH different, with Saint Mary’s conference and WCC Tournament schedule being an average RPI of 153.9, compared with Purdue’s which was 66.3. The Gaels struggle against veteran, physical teams. If Purdue is going to upset Saint Mary’s, they need to pressure Dellavedova and Jones into taking poor shots. SMC is averaging roughly 2.7 points more per game than Purdue. Purdue is 12-0 in NCAA Tournament opening round games since 1991.
The Pick: Purdue +1.5.
#1 Michigan State (27-7) (13-5 Big Ten) vs. #16 LIU Brooklyn (25-8) (16-2 NEC)
Game Time: 9:20 PM EST (approx) on Friday.
Winner Plays: #8 Memphis/#9 Saint Louis (on Sunday).
Michigan State: After opening the season with losses to North Carolina and Duke, the Spartans won 15 straight games, 5 of which were over NCAA Tournament teams. Michigan State, the Big Ten regular season and tournament champions, enters the NCAA Tournament as a number one seed. The last two times the Spartans were a one seed they did no worse than make the NCAA Finals. 3-star forward Draymond Green (16.1 PPG, 10.4 RPG, and 39.5 Three Point Shooting Percentage) and 4-star guard Keith Appling (11.3 PPG and 3.9 APG) have led the Spartans. They also lost 5-star forward Branden Dawson (8.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and 57.7 Field Goal Shooting Percentage) for the rest of the season, due to a torn ACL.
LIU Brooklyn: The Blackbirds, coached by Jim Ferry, are third in the nation in average points per game, with 81.9. They also are among the best in rebounding, averaging 38.6 boards per game. Long Island was a NCAA Tournament team last season, as a 15 seed, falling to 2-seeded North Carolina in the first round, 102-87. Forward Julian Boyd (17.4 PPG, 9.5 RPG, and 42.6 Three Point Shooting Percentage), forward Jamal Olasewere (16.8 PPG, 7.5 RPG, and 57.7 Field Goal Shooting Percentage), and guard Jason Brickman (9.7 PPG, 7.3 APG, and 82.1 Free Throw Shooting Percentage) led the Blackbirds to their second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, beating Robert Morris on Long Island to clinch the automatic bid.
My Take: If you look purely at LIU’s ability to score the ball, you’d think this is a 16 seed’s best chance to end their futility streak against 1 seeds. Problem is, the Blackbirds gave up an average of 77.3 points per game, the most in the Northeast Conference. Michigan State has never had exited the NCAA Tournament in the first round in back-to-back years. Since Coach Tom Izzo began his head-coaching career in East Lansing, with the 1995-1996 season, the Spartans have made the NCAA Tournament in, now, 15 straight seasons. Of the 14 previous appearances, MSU advanced past the first round in 11 years, made the Sweet 16 in 9 years, and made the Final Four in 6. Here’s another thought – MSU has averaged 2.7 (3.5 if excluding the 2007 NCAA Tournament) wins in the NCAA Tournament, under Coach Izzo, the year after they lost an opening round game in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan State has the best record against the spread of any power six conference team.
The Pick: Michigan State -17.5.