Something about Illinois attracts me until I realize that they have to go through Wisconsin, which has lost to Maryland and Rutgers. The Scarlet Knight win was a complete fluke (so says their 14 game losing streak), but Maryland is a legitimate contender—in other words neither loss bodes anything for the winner of Michigan-Illinois.
Which makes me wonder about Indiana. They just have to beat Northwestern in order to take on Maryland. Now, that’s not a matchup to love, but then again there isn’t a section in this tournament that would be easy. Indiana has beaten Maryland once this year, so it can be done which makes this a reasonable possibility. James Blackmon Jr, Troy Williams and Rob Johnson are all very solid players and overall the Hoosiers have been able to hold teams under 71 points. That’s how they beat Maryland this year and even in the loss, they held the Terrapins to under 70 points.
They could do it again.
Of course, then you have to overcome either Michigan State or (probably) Ohio State, but neither of those is impossible if, again, Indiana can contain each team’s scoring attack.
Then there’s Wisconsin and maybe someone upsets them. If not, there is always a puncher’s chance that after the gauntlet of the tournament, Wisconsin might be banged up and looking ahead to the NCAA’s.
Finally there is the Tom Crean factor. How much does his team love him? Not so the Indiana faithful. Nor Indy Star columnist Gregg Doyel, who feels that Crean’s squad is out of control off the court. He seems to want to protect his players though and that can motivate them. It’s the sort of thing that can cause a run in a conference tournament.
Why it won’t happen:
You’ve seen the Big Ten brackets right? Wisconsin, Maryland, Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa or Purdue? That’s a murderer’s row.
The problem with being a potential Cinderella in the Big Ten is that the conference neatly divided itself into two halves. There are the top six—and everyone else. And you can really argue that it’s Wisconsin and everyone else, but Maryland has too many weapons to deny and Michigan State, Iowa, Ohio State and Purdue all have some very talented players. They’ll beat each other up, but not that much.
Indiana would be a nice story but more than likely a game with the big boys would look like a scene out of ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre.’
As for the ‘Win one for the Crean’ angle—if they were going to do it, they might have won a lot more this season.
Next: Oklahoma State—Big 12