Big Ten Wonk
Friday, March 16, 2007
Quick, run out and print the "undefeated" t-shirt
Good news. Thanks to some strong performances on defense, the Big Ten already has as many wins—three—as it had in the entire tournament last year.

Ominous news. Severe bracket challenges now loom, in the form of 1-seed North Carolina and 2-seed UCLA.

(9) Michigan State 61, (8) Marquette 49
Newcomers to things Spartan, welcome. In this game you saw Michigan State's season in miniature: great D and very good shooting, the latter sabotaged by frequent MSU turnovers. The Golden Eagles mustered just 49 points in a 58-possession game. Dominic James scored 18 points but needed 16 shots to do it, while Raymar Morgan, Drew Neitzel, and Marquise Gray scored 14, 12, and 12, respectively, for the Spartans. This season in Big East play just 33 percent of Marquette's shots were threes but last night Tom Crean watched his men jack up 29 shots from beyond the arc (they made 10) while going just 5-of-18 on their twos. And set your watch for seven months from now, when the meme in Milwaukee will be about how Wesley Matthews wants to write a new chapter after having a really bad game at the worst time: mid-March. (Box score.)

Call me sheltered but I had somehow managed to safely navigate the first few decades of my life without ever once seeing someone dislocate an elbow. And now I've seen it happen twice in the past 19 days. Last night it was Idong Ibok's turn. Note to CBS directors in the trucks: no more zoom-ins on the replay like last night. Please. Some of us out here have HD.

Next: (1) North Carolina, 86-65 winners over (16) Eastern Kentucky.

(7) Indiana 70, (10) Gonzaga 57
Zounds, man bites dog. A hitherto suspect Hoosier defense held a previously potent Zags offense to just 57 points in a 67-possession game. Even more strangely, the Bulldogs made just 12 of 37 two-pointers against a short IU team that allowed Big Ten opponents to make more than half of their twos this season. (No, you're not hallucinating: Josh Heytvelt would have been a big help to Mark Few in this one.) D.J. White recorded a 16-10 dub-dub while Roderick Wilmont took 11 threes and made six, scoring 22 points. (Wilmont's teammates, however, were just 3-of-14 beyond the arc.) Defense, Rod Wilmont, and the dedicated and vigilant law enforcement officers of Cheney, Washington, in that order, brought home the win for Indiana. (Box score.)

Kelvin Sampson says: "I liked the way we won the game. With defense and intelligence. We're not an offensive juggernaut. This is the way we're going to have to win." (Say it ain't so, coach! Not you too!)

Next: (2) UCLA, emphatic 70-42 winners over (15) Weber State.

(1) Ohio State 78, (16) Central Connecticut State 57
Congratulations to the Blue Devils, who, by scoring 57 points in a 64-possession game, fared better on offense than any other Big Ten opponent last night. (Box score.)

Next: (9) Xavier, 79-77 winners over (8) BYU. Hang on, didn't Thad Matta used to coach there? Not that you'll hear anything along those lines over the next 24 hours.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Today's triple-header....

(15) Texas A&M-Corpus Christi vs. (2) Wisconsin (2:45pm ET)
Wonk 360: Wisconsin in Chicago
Brian Butch might play; Jason Chappell is mellow; Greg Stiemsma is improved.

(12) Illinois vs. (5) Virginia Tech (7:10pm ET)
Wonk 360: Illinois in Columbus
The Illini—"the best 12th seed in the history of the NCAA tournament,'' according to Hokies coach Seth Greenberg— are "in a chippy mood."

(9) Purdue vs. (8) Arizona (7:20pm ET)
Wonk 360: Purdue in New Orleans
Vowing not to "get into a running game" with the Wildcats.

In today's less prominent venues....
Florida State beat Michigan 87-66 in Tallahassee last night in the second round of the NIT. Let the speculation begin. (Box score.)

Wonk back!
Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!

And this too shall come to pass in eight days: Billy Packer will say Greg Oden is short

Love the site, love your calling out lazy sportswriters for falling back on "common assumptions" rather than actually looking at how a team has done.

Speaking of such writing sloth, I bring you Seth Davis on Indiana:

"The Hoosiers were undefeated at home this season, but when they left the friendly confines of Assembly Hall they were very beatable (2-8 on the road, 2-1 in neutral court games). I think a big reason is that this is still a pretty deficient team offensively, so their best hope for beating good teams is to defend with great energy and passion."

Aaron M.

"A pretty deficient team offensively"? Gosh. If only I had anticipated such vaporous flat-earth talk eight days ago.

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