Seven Big Ten teams were invited to the NCAA Tournament this year, but Michigan outlasted them all. After demolishing Florida this afternoon, Michigan will be the one Big Ten team to represent in the Final Four.
Wisconsin bowed out early to Ole Miss in the first round, and Illinois and Minnesota couldn’t make it past round two. Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Indiana all kept the Big Ten hopes alive by advancing to the sweet 16.
Here’s where things started to fall apart. Indiana got knocked off by Syracuse 61-50, failing to make it past the Sweet 16 yet again (last year they were bounced out of the Tourney by eventual Champs Kentucky). Michigan State also fell to Duke by a similar margin, 71-61. That left Michigan and Ohio State as the two teams that could continue on to the road to the Elite 8, and perhaps history.
Ohio State battled with Arizona, and managed to scrape by with more late-game antics to grab a spot in the Elite 8. Aaron Craft didn’t make the last shot, but he did dish the ball to LaQuinton Ross for a last-second 3. The teams were tied 70-70, but Ohio State wanted to go ahead and get this game over with. Ross swooshed the ball into the basket as time ran out, and OSU would head to the next round. See The Poisonous Nuthouse for more.
Michigan also wanted to keep fans at the edges of their seat, and rolled out perhaps one of the best comebacks in the Tournament this year (oh quiet Marquette fans, this win was for a ticket to the Elite 8!). The Wolverines trailed Kansas by 14 points with more than 7 minutes left, and that’s when Trey Burke turned it ON. Burke was the reason the game went into overtime, and he scored all of his 23 points in the second half and in overtime.
The Wolverines were still down 8 points with 1:16 to go, and thanks to Burke, they were able to crawl back into the game. Glen Robinson III also made a layup in that last minute to help out, but it was Burke’s 3-pointer with 5 seconds to go that tied the game up, 76-76. Burke scored another 5 points in overtime, and the Wolverines outlasted the Jaywhawks to move on to the Elite 8.
Two Big Ten teams made it to the Elite 8, but only one came out alive.
Ohio State made a habit of overcoming a large deficit in Tourney games, but this time things didn’t work out quite as well. Ninth-seeded Wichita State shocked everyone by beating Ohio State and moving on to the Final Four.
The Buckeyes scored just 22 points in the first half, while the Shockers had 35. Though things worked out better for OSU in the second, they were just too far behind to really come back. Last-second heroics failed to materialize, and Wichita State celebrated a 70-66 win. Wichita State will play the winner of the Duke/Louisville game going on right now.
Aside from that close call against Kansas, Michigan has had an easy time skating through the Tournament. Today was no exception. Up 47-30 at halftime, it was going to take a major meltdown this game to the Florida Gators.
Michigan finished off with an easy 79-59 win, and will be the last team to represent the Big Ten this year. They will move on to the final four and will face Syracuse next week.