Big Ten Men's Basketball Prepares for Postseason

March 17, 2009

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A record-tying seven Big Ten teams were selected to participate in the 2009 NCAA Championship. Big Ten Champion Michigan State and Big Ten Tournament Champion Purdue will represent the conference along with Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin in this year’s Championship field. The seven teams selected to participate ties the conference record from 1990 when the Big Ten saw seven squads receive invitations to the Big Dance. The Big Ten was tied with the ACC and Big East for the most participants in this year’s tournament.

Michigan State received the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Regional and will open play at the Minneapolis first and second round site. The Spartans are slated to play No. 15 Robert Morris first with the winner facing the winner of No. 7 Boston College vs. No. 10 USC.

Purdue earned the Big Ten automatic bid to the NCAA Championship by claiming the 2009 Big Ten Tournament on Sunday and was then awarded the No. 5 seed in the West Regional by the selection committee. The Boilermakers will play No. 12 Northern Iowa with the winner of that game facing the victor of the Washington-Mississippi State contest. 

Illinois also garnered an at-large bid to the Championship and will be seeded fifth in the South Region. The Illini head to Portland where they will go head-to-head against No. 12 Western Kentucky as a first-round opponent with the winner taking on the victor of No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 13 Akron.

Joining MSU in the Midwest Region is Ohio State who was selected as a No. 8 seed. The Buckeyes will travel to Dayton where they are slated to face No. 9 Siena in the opening round. A win would pit the Buckeyes against the winner of Louisville versus Alabama State/Morehead State.

Michigan was tapped for the South Regional along with the Fighting Illini and will head to Kansas City as the No. 10 seed where they will face No. 7 Clemson and vie for a chance to square off against the winner of No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 15 Morgan State in the second round.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers and Wisconsin Badgers were selected to the East Region and will travel to Greensboro, N.C., and Boise, Idaho, respectively, to open tournament play.  Minnesota is the No. 10 seed and is slated to face No. 7 Texas for its first game while the winner of that will take on the victor between No. 2 Duke and No. 15 Binghamton in the second round. Wisconsin will take on the Seminoles of Florida State with the second round pitting the winner of that game against the victor of No. 4 Xavier and No. 13 Portland State. 

LUCKY NO. 7: Three conferences each will send seven teams to the 2009 Tournament. The Big East, ACC and Big Ten each received seven bids to lead all conferences. The Big 12 and Pac-10 each earned six bids, the SEC and Atlantic 10 both will send three teams, and the Horizon League and Mountain West each will have two representatives. The seven Big Ten teams in this year’s tournament ties a conference record.

MORE ON THE 7: The Big Ten leads the top-six RPI conferences in percentage of teams qualifying for the ‘Big Dance’. Seven of the 11 teams will play in opening round games, representing 64% of the conference contingent. The ACC will have 58% of its membership represented in the NCAA Championship (7-of-12 teams), while the Big East ranks third with 44% of its squads in the NCAA postseason (7-of-16). The Big 12 and Pac-10 each have 50% of their institutions represented while the SEC is sending 25 percent of its teams to the Championship. 


CHAMPIONSHIP: The Big Ten has had 51 teams receive bids to the NCAA Tournament in the 2000’s. During the nine years of the current decade, the Big Ten has amassed a record of 72-43 (.626) for the third-best winning percentage among the top-six RPI conferences. Michigan State and Wisconsin lead all conference teams having received a berth every year this decade. Overall the Spartans have made 23 appearances and currently hold the fourth-longest active steak at 12. The Badgers are making their 11th consecutive appearance for the sixth-best string of active appearances in the country. It is the 15th overall appearance by Wisconsin. The following is a list of Big Ten teams in the NCAA Tournament since 2000.

Illinois (9) 2000-01-02-03-04-05-06-07-09
Indiana (7)  2000-01-02-03-06-07-08
Iowa (3) 2001-05-06
Michigan (1) 2009
Michigan State (10) 2000-01-02-03-04-05-06-07-08-09
Minnesota (1) 2009
Ohio State (3) 2006-07-09
Penn State (1) 2001
Purdue (5) 2000-03-07-08-09
Wisconsin (10) 2000-01-02-03-04-05-06-07-08-09

A Deep Conference: The Big Ten is the only conference since 2000 to advance five different programs to the Final Four. The ACC, Big 12 and Big East have each had four different schools reach the national semifinals over that time, followed by the Pac-10 (2) and the SEC (2). Michigan State leads the Big Ten with three appearances (2000, 2001 and 2005) while Illinois (2005), Indiana (2002), Ohio State (2007) and Wisconsin (2000) have each earned a Final Four spot since 2000.

STORY OF THE SEEDS: The range of seeds for the Big Ten is vast. Michigan State checks in as a No. 2 seed with two No. 5 seeds, an eight, two No. 10s and a 12-seed. This marks the second time in school history MSU has earned a No. 2 seed - the other arrived in 1979, when the program claimed its first National Championship. The No. 2 seed is the highest for Michigan State since 2001, when MSU was a No. 1 and advanced to the Final Four. Purdue and Illinois are both five seeds. Ohio State is a No. 8 seed while Michigan and Minnesota each are seeded No. 10. Wisconsin rounds out the group as a No. 12.

LOW SEEDS TURN INTO HIGH WIN TOTALS: Big Ten teams have made a habit of advancing deep into the tournament despite low seeds. In 2005, fifth-seeded Michigan State was the lowest-seeded team to advance to the Final Four. Six years ago, the Spartans were the lowest seed to reach the 2003 Elite Eight after winning three games despite earning a No. 7 seed. Two other conference teams have advanced to the Final Four in the last nine years despite their low seeds, as fifth-seeded Indiana advanced to the 2002 national championship game and eighth-seeded Wisconsin reached the national semifinals in 2000.

Familiar Setting: Michigan State is making its 12th-straight NCAA appearance, the fourth-longest streak in the nation. Only Arizona (25), Kansas (20), and Duke (14) have made more consecutive appearances. MSU will be making its 23rd appearance overall in the NCAA Tournament with a record 43-21 in its previous 22 tournaments.

Road Trip: The Big Ten’s seven teams will play in six different locations to tip off NCAA Tournament competition. The septuplet will travel a combined total of 13,986 miles round trip to reach their destinations. Ohio State will make the shortest trip, only 71.1 miles to Dayton, Ohio. Purdue will cover the most miles, trekking 1,870 from West Lafayette to Portland, Ore.

TWO MORE TEAMS DANCING IN MARCH: Northwestern and Penn State both earned postseason berths to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). Northwestern has earned its first postseason berth since 1999 after accepting a NIT bid. Penn State is making its 11th trip.

MORE ON THE ‘CATS: The Wildcats, the No. 5 seed in their eight-team bracket, travel to Tulsa to face the fourth-seeded Golden Hurricane (24-10) at 8 p.m. CT on March 18 on ESPNU. The winner will face the victor of Wednesday’s contest between top-seeded Auburn and seventh-seeded Tennessee-Martin. The meeting will be the first ever between NU and Tulsa. The teams have three common opponents this season. Both teams defeated Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at home with NU winning 66-48 and the Golden Hurricane earning a 66-43 victory. Tulsa lost to Illinois 48-44 at a neutral site in South Padre, Texas, while the Wildcats fell to the Fighting Illini at Welsh-Ryan Arena 60-59. Northwestern topped SMU 66-55 at home and Tulsa beat the Mustangs 64-55 at home and 74-64 in Dallas.

AND THE NITTANY LIONS: Penn State will make its second NIT appearance under coach Ed DeChellis and first since 2006 when the Nittany Lions take on George Mason (22-10) in first round action Tuesday at the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State earned a No. 2 seed in the 32-team tournament. George Mason is a No. 7 seed. The game will tip off at 8 p.m. on ESPNU. The winner of Tuesday’s contest will take on the victor of Niagara vs. Rhode Island. This marks the sixth meeting between the two teams, with PSU holding the series advantage, 5-0. The duo share two common opponents as George Mason downed William and Mary, 61-57, and Towson, 56-48. Penn State beat William and Mary in its season opener, 65-51, and Towson in the Philly Hoop Group Classic at the Palestra, 78-54.

SIMPLY THE BEST: The Big Ten’s fraternity of coaches have notched 68 NCAA and 21 NIT tournament appearances, including the 2009 postseason.

MAY I HAVE THIS DANCE?: Two Big Ten coaches join an elite group of men who have taken four different teams to the NCAA Championship. With Minnesota’s berth into the Championship, head coach Tubby Smith becomes one of six coaches to take four different teams to the Championship. Prior to taking over the helm at Minnesota in 2007, Smith took Tulsa, Georgia and Kentucky to the ‘Big Dance’. The skipper is making his 15th overall appearance in the NCAA Championship. John Beilein is also one of the seven head coaches to take four different schools to the NCAA Championship, joining Lefty Driesell, Jim Harrick, Lon Kruger, Rick Pitino, Eddie Sutton and Smith. No coach has ever taken more than four different schools to the tournament.

STREAKING: Two of the Big Ten’s skippers are among the nation’s best in current consecutive NCAA Championship appearances. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan are making their 12th and eighth appearance, respectively. Izzo’s 12-straight berths rank third-best in the nation behind only Roy Williams (20), Rick Barnes (14) and Mike Krzyzewski (14). Ryan’s eight-straight appearances are sixth-best in the country, with only Mike Montgomery (11), Bill Self (11) and Mark Few (10) ahead of him.

FANTASTIC FIVE: The Big Ten has five coaches that have appeared in at least one Final Four during their head coaching tenure. Tom Crean, Tom Izzo, Thad Matta, Tubby Smith and Bruce Weber have all coached in at least one national semifinal while four of the five have coached in a national championship game. No other top-six RPI conference has as many coaches with such experience, regardless of conference size (ACC 4, Big East 4, Big 12 2, Pac-10 2, SEC 1).

Mr. March: Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is no stranger to coaching basketball in March and has a top resume to prove it. Izzo has coached the Spartans to 12 NCAA appearances and owns a 26-10 record in its previous 11. He became only the second coach in NCAA history to reach four Final Fours in his first 10 years of coaching, joining Ohio State’s Fred Taylor who took his Buckeyes to four Final Fours in his first 10 seasons. Izzo is also one of only 10 coaches in NCAA Tournament history to advance to three straight Final Fours, which he accomplished from 1999-2001.