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For as good as the Big Ten was, Michigan is its last Final Four hopeful

Mar 31, 2013, 10:02 AM EDT

Michigan v Indiana Getty Images

For as dominant as the Big Ten appeared to be throughout the conference schedule, generous in giving us marquee matchups every week, how could we have ended up here on the verge of a Final Four that doesn’t include a single team from the conference?

We began with the possibility of three or maybe even four Big Ten teams in Atlanta, but now it all comes down to one: Michigan.

The Wolverines are the conference’s last hope to have a representative in the Final Four after No. 2-seed Ohio State fell to No. 9-seed Wichita State on Saturday in the Elite Eight and both Indiana and Michigan State were knocked out in the Sweet 16.

There was a sense during the conference season that we could see a “Big Ten Effect” in the NCAA tournament that we seem to see with college football in the SEC. That “effect” is when all the teams from a particular conference beat up on each other throughout the regular season, but are stronger for it in the postseason.

It appeared to be coming true after the Round of 64 when the conference was 6-1, with only Wisconsin losing to Ole Miss. But then Illinois and Minnesota each lost their Round of 32 games. That led to the Sweet 16 losses mentioned earlier and Ohio State’s loss on Saturday, which leads us here. It is simply scheduling that led us here, with Michigan playing a day later than the Buckeyes, but the fact remains: there is only one team left standing from the Big Ten.

So what can the Wolverines do to beat Florida and advance to the Final Four?

Michigan comes into this game knowing that against a strong defensive team like Florida, they do not turn the ball over at a high rate. That should help to keep the Gators from flipping turnovers into points and getting out into transition offensively.

A major concern for Florida should be whether or not it can find a go-to scorer down the stretch and whether or not it can seal a game in the final minutes. With a team like Michigan that can get out on the run led by point guard Trey Burke and has three-point shooters like Nik Stauskas and Tim Hardaway, Jr., Florida will need to lock down defensively or leads can disappear quickly.

Coach Billy Donovan’s team showed it could come back from a major early deficit against a transition-oriented team after falling into a 15-4 hole against Florida Gulf Coast. The difference this time around will be that the Gators will likely not have the benefit of turning so many turnovers into points. Michigan will not turn the ball over at the same rate as FGCU.

Florida will want to exploit any weakness it can in the paint on both ends of the floor, which means Patric Young needs to be a presence in the paint against Mitch McGary. Michigan was able to neutralize Kansas’ advantage in that department in its Sweet 16 win.

Tip off is at 2:20 p.m. ET, followed by the day’s other Elite Eight matchup, Louisville-Duke, at approximately 5:05 p.m. ET.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

  1. barkleyblows - Mar 31, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    The thing about the Big Ten is… The officials let them play in the Big Ten. It’s actually refreshing to watch! But once tournament time comes you get stuck with “turrible” ticky tack touch fouls that destroy the flow of the game. It’s a shame the NCAA Tournament is going down hill with horrible officiating every other game and the “turrible” NBA insight on the games. It would be nice if they could get the names of the players right once in a while!

    Normally it’s the Big East that gets embarrassed in the tournament!!

  2. drewvt6 - Mar 31, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    ….it could just be the big 10 isn’t as good as their fans and the media want you to believe. Indiana’s guards looked like typical mid major guards against Syracuse. Skilled but undersized and nowhere near as quick as Louisville or Marquette.

  3. barkleyblows - Mar 31, 2013 at 1:14 PM

    Is that why Syracuse can only play zone? Maybe they aren’t athletic enough to play man.

    Big Ten has always been a slower paced, smash mouth, defensive minded league. Maybe you should expand your horizons and watch sometime

  4. clonefanatic - Mar 31, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    The talking heads have been wrong all year putting Indiana on a pedestal and influencing the committee to put too many teams in the tournament. The Big10 has been a fraud and the fraud has been exposed. Now the whining about how they have been called for fouls in the tournament. If their league would play the game by the rules during the season, they wouldn’t have as much difficulty at tournament time. Florida takes down the last remaining Big10 team today!

    • avermaver - Mar 31, 2013 at 5:32 PM

      Indiana failed to live up to its seeding obviously but the big ten did fine. There should have been 4 big ten teams in the sweet 16 according to seeding, there were 4. There should have been 2 big ten teams in the elite 8, there was 1. There should be 1 in the final four, there is one. They’ve lived up to their seeding, just not the hype

      • avermaver - Mar 31, 2013 at 5:35 PM

        should have said they had 2 in the elite 8. Ohio State should have won btw, they just fell asleep and woke up too late

  5. mblue24 - Mar 31, 2013 at 1:24 PM

    The Big Ten is still the best conference not matter what.

  6. swmerry - Mar 31, 2013 at 3:47 PM

    If we are now judging the quality of a conference based on how many teams they get in the Final Four, the MVC must be one of the top 3 or 4 conferences in the country.

  7. swmerry - Mar 31, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    Oh, and the Big 10, too after that whooping put on Florida. The Big 10 has also had at least 25% of the field since the round of 32 so far. I would not call that a failure, or a reputation ruining performance in the tournament.

  8. elwaysmilehighdenver - Mar 31, 2013 at 4:33 PM

    Clonefanatic..@ you and your gators were both embarassed today. The Big 10 was the most competitive conference this year!

  9. midnightmaurader - Mar 31, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    Matchups, people. It’s all about matchups, both in-conference and tournament time. Michigan has been fortunate to play a couple of different styles in the Big Ten. We’ll see if they can hit perimeter shots with their taller wing players against Syracuse. If they can, it doesn’t mean the Big East is trash all of a sudden, and if they can’t its no knock on the Big Ten.

  10. kingghidora - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:59 AM

    Here we go again about how mighty the Big Ten is. Horse hockey. They have won exactly ONE title in the last 20 years. That’s not good. During that same period the SEC has won SIX. But every year the mighty Big Wind err… 10 gets more teams in the tournament. That’s just sick.

  11. kingghidora - Apr 1, 2013 at 1:13 AM

    I meant to say six titles in 23 years. Not 20. I forgot to change that number. Still even 5 titles in 20 years is far better than just one. The media hype that goes with the Big Ten is just ridiculous. Like last year Indiana lost 9 games and all we heard all year was how they were back. Back to what? Being mediocre? 9 losses at UK is a bad year, not a comeback of the century year like the media hyped IU as being. You want to talk about how they call games in the Big Ten? IU gets more home cooking than any team in America. No sane program will go to Bloomington to play. UK wouldn’t do it for decades. Why? Look at the last game and you’ll know why. Within the first few minutes the best player will have 2 fouls. That happens EVERY time UK plays in Bloomington or anywhere in Indiana against the Hoosiers. They practically had a riot after the game knocking women down stairs, jumping over rows of old people, and pushing UK players on the floor (I’m talking the fans did that). That’s the only reason IU won but you’d think IU was the best team in history all because they managed to beat UK. The reaction I see in every UK fan’s face when we talk about an upcoming IU game anywhere in Indiana is, “Oh no, here it comes again.” They cheat. They aren’t good. It’s just very funny that the two games that Anthony Davis played and got in foul trouble last year were both against IU. Funny how that works. Ever pay attention to who calls the NCAA tournament games?

    The Big Ten is in a highly populated area. That means big money. So they get promoted. Kentucky is only loved by the state of Kentucky. So the media doesn’t want them to win. Too bad. They win anyway.

    The next time someone tells you the Big Ten is the best conference just remember how many titles they have going back to 1990. Yes they did ok before that but that’s been a very long time ago. The 1980’s was before most fans were even born. But still we have to hear about how great the Big Ten is. Horse hockey.

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