2011 NCAA Tournament: Big Ten recap

For the 73rd consecutive year, our beloved Northwestern Wildcats were snubbed from the NCAA tournament. What a traveshamockery; you have to wonder if there's an anti-NU agenda among members of the selection committee.

But while NU may have come up short, seven of our Big Ten brethren were fortunate enough to get an invite, so let's take a look at how they represented the conference.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Friday: Beat #8 UNLV 73-62

Sunday: Lost to #1 Kansas 73-59

There have been all sorts of rumors flying around about Bruce Weber's job being in danger (he even got one of the dreaded Doug Gottlieb hot seat videos on ESPN.com), but he should be ok after this weekend. Many people (myself included) thought they were going down to UNLV, but instead the Illini took the Rebels behind the woodshed; the 11 point margin doesn't come close to indicating how big a beatdown this game was. And against Kansas, Illinois acquitted themselves pretty well, hanging around for most of the game before fading in the final few minutes. Certainly not the season Illini fans were hoping for, but at least they had a decent NCAA tournament.

Next year will be very interesting for Illinois, as they lose a lot in McCamey, Davis and Tisdale, yet still have a lot of talent on the roster and bring in their third straight highly touted recruiting class. It could be a case of addition by subtraction (much the way Michigan improved despite losing DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris), or it could mean the end of Bruce Weber's tenure.

Michigan Wolverines

Friday: Beat #9 Tennessee, 75-45

Sunday: Lost to #1 Duke, 73-71

Of all the teams in the nation no longer in some sort of tournament, Michigan should be the happiest about how their season went. Picked by many to finish last in the Big Ten, and left for dead after a horrible 1-6 start to conference play, the Wolverines stormed back to finish 4th in the Big Ten, made the NCAA tournament, annihilated the trainwreck that is Tennessee basketball (and their athletic director Mike Hamilton has to be one of the dumbest humans on the planet, first he hires Lane Kiffin, and then he goes on the radio and says Bruce Pearl's job is in jeopardy two days before an NCAA tournament game, way to create a huge distraction Mike), and gave Duke all they wanted in round 2, as a Darius Morris floater rimmed out in the final seconds. What a coaching job by John Beilein.

With everyone set to return next year, the Wolverines could be a dark horse Big Ten title contender, but they'll need to avoid a repeat of 2009-10, when they were coming off a second round NCAA loss, returned pretty much everyone, and were one of the nation's most underachieving teams, finishing 15-17 and eighth in the Big Ten.

Michigan St. Spartans

Thursday: Lost to #7 UCLA, 78-76

Sparty was a popular pick to make another deep NCAA run, based on Izzo's incredible March track record and a favorable draw, but they cemented their status as the most underachieving team in the nation with a first round loss. They certainly didn't quit, nearly erasing a 23 point second half deficit, but that comeback was mostly due to UCLA's inability to make free throws, and the season came to an end on a Kalin Lucas travel. Brutal.

With Lucas and Durrell Summers graduating, Izzo will have some big holes to fill next year. A talented recruiting class will help, but it's hard to see Michigan State regaining their status as a Big Ten title contender.

Ohio St. Buckeyes

Friday: Beat #16 Texas-San Antonio, 75-46

Sunday: Beat #8 George Mason, 98-66

After watching Ohio State this weekend, it's amazing to think they nearly lost twice to short-handed Northwestern squads, because the Buckeyes are terrifyingly good. They treated poor George Mason like George Mason had picked a fight with them in a taco joint:


Since everyone knows that Ohio State is really good at basketball, let's break down this video instead, because I've watched this fight (it starts at about 0:40) 10 times and seen something new every time.

- Normally you'd feel bad for the kid who got destroyed, especially since his two friends hang him out to dry and make him go one on two to start, but the combination of his sideways hat and #69 jersey means I feel zero sympathy for him. I've never seen a human being wearing a custom-made #69 jersey, but I imagine they all look just like this kid.

- It kills me how casually the two guys at the table stand up to avoid the fight, I'd be in a much bigger hurry to get out of the way. The dude in the red hat even appears to be laughing. Quite a contrast from the girls at the front who take off running at the first sign of trouble.

- #69's two friends are quite the pair. I didn't notice this the first few times I watched it, but the kid in the black shirt is carrying some sort of animal (I cant tell if it's a dog or a cat) and drops it when the fight starts. At least he sticks around the whole time to help out his friend though, the shirtless guy (who takes off his shirt outside in preparation for the fight, god knows why) makes a halfhearted effort to intervene, pointlessly knocks over a table while #69 is getting whaled on, then gets run out of the store and leaves his friend on the ground.

Ok, I'll stop now, not sure why I'm so entertained by that video.

Penn St. Nittany Lions

Thursday: Lost to #7 Temple, 66-64

A valiant effort from Penn State, who appeared headed to overtime after a Talor Battle NBA-range bomb with 14 seconds left, but Juan Fernandez hit a contested leaner to win it for the Owls. As a side note, has anyone ever looked less like a Juan Fernandez than Juan Fernandez? It's very odd.

A disappointing way for the season to end, but Penn State and Ed DeChellis deserve a lot of credit for rebounding from the 2010 last place debacle and making a late charge to reach the NCAAs. Next year though, with nearly the entire team graduating, DeChellis will be fortunate to keep the Nits out of last place.

Purdue Boilermakers

Friday: Beat St. Peter's, 65-43

Sunday: Lost to Virginia Commonwealth, 94-76

Purdue losing to a red-hot Virginia Commonwealth team wasn't all that surprising, but the way they lost certainly was. The generally terrifying Boilermaker defense, which dominated people all season long, got completely and utterly dismantled, allowing 94 points in just 66 possession. That's Northwestern vs SIU-Edwardsville levels of destruction. VCU had just 4 turnovers the entire game, and made a ridiculous 29 of 44 2-point field goals; the second half was basically a 20 minute VCU lay-up line. JaJuan Johnson (who won Defensive Player of the Year in the Big Ten, to the dismay of talent evaluators) was noticeably absent on that end of the floor, getting owned by guys named Jamie Skeen and Juvonte Reddic. The suspended Kelsey Barlow may have helped out a little, but his presence wouldn't have made up an 18 point difference.

Meanwhile, FBC's favorite son Shaka Smart is off to the Sweet 16, and has subsequently made himself too big for the Northwestern job; another couple of wins and he'll enter Brad Stevens territory. Unless NU could somehow find a really rich booster to offer him a lot more money than they currently pay Bill Carmody, Smart will certainly find far better job offers available to him this off-season.

Wisconsin Badgers

Thursday: Beat #13 Belmont, 72-58

Saturday: Beat #5 Kansas State, 70-65

Very quietly, the Badgers had a strong weekend, taking out of one of the toughest #13 seeds of all time in Belmont and overcoming Jacob Pullen's 38 points to beat Kansas State. I was quite impressed that they beat KSU despite Jordan Taylor having an uncharacteristic 2 for 16 from the field performance. Next up is a date in the Sweet 16 with Butler: first team to 55 wins.

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