Last night's play-in game was merely an appetizer. The true feast begins in about 24 hours when work productivity (especially at my desk) grinds to a halt for the next two afternoons. It is already apparent that our new President is a true basketball fan. If he wants to achieve true change and stimulate the economy, however, he will declare tomorrow and Friday a national holiday and give everyone the day off to go to sports bars and watch basketball. I would love to have a Hammer & Rails watch party at Buffalo Wild Wings in downtown Indy for the Purdue game tomorrow, but sadly I'll be watching with March Madness on Demand from work. Ah well, at least I have work. I was unsure if I would or not about this time last week.
Yes, I know it has football helmets, but so what?
As a prelude to tomorrow's sharp economic downturn at around noon, I decided to host a Big Ten bloggers' roundtable table. Here are your participating blogs with their responses:
Buckeye Battle Cry - Ohio State
The Enlightened Spartan - Michigan State
Maize N' Brew - Michigan
The Daily Gopher - Minnesota
Hail to the Orange - Illinois
Lake the Posts - Northwestern
Hammer & Rails - Purdue
We had participation from every team involved in the tournament except Wisconsin. Apparently Bucky's 5th Quarter doesn't care. Northwestern even represented for the NIT. Iowa and Indiana are conspicuously absent, but it should be noted they did play hard this year. Penn State's large contingent of bloggers were rewarded for their silence with an overtime win over George Mason in the NIT last night, but since it wasn't a Big East or ACC team we must still suck as a conference. On to the questions!
- For those in the tournament, what was your signature win that made sure you were dancing? For those out, what was that one loss that prevented you from going?
As expected, the responses to this question ranged from overwhelming surprise and joy to bitter sorrow. Hail to the Orange stands out because they see us as the reason they are dancing:
The key when the Illini beat Purdue for the second time, it seemed to alleviate any worries some of the more skittish fans had after the team posted the low score in Minnesota, and were beaten in Madison. That is what cemented Illinois in the top 25 and basically punched their ticket for March. - Hail to the Orange
Conversely, Lake the Posts seemed to rue the day they saw us in Evanston, as well as the Illini above:
Really? Do I have to? Let's see...oh that took about a second. The 14-point blown lead with 5 minutes to go at home to the Illini (complete with last second shot) comes to mind, but the double-digit leads blown at home to Purdue (12 points with about 8 to go) and the second half meltdowns at Penn State and Butler are all in the running. The prerequisite sequence of graphics packages for NU hoops games includes our wins against Top 50 RPI (6) and heartbreaking losses which list several of the above. - Lake the Posts
- The conference jumped from four bids to seven this year, and it could have been nine with the right breaks. What is the biggest factor in this jump?
Two themes really stood out for this question: coaching and experience. The general consensus out there is that the Big Ten has some fantastic coaching and the sophomore talent is unbelievable. Maize N' Brew gave high praise to the coaches, even the ones at the bottom of the pile:
Coaching. People can babble on about the ACC or the Big East, but the best coaching in the country can be found in the Big Ten. How in God's name is Northwestern even in the conversation? Coaching. How is Penn State a breath away from an invite? Coaching. Go from the top of the standings down, you're going to find outstanding coaches at every rung on the ladder. Hell, I'm more afraid of the coaches at the bottom of the pile than I am of some of the coaches in the middle! Tom Crean is an amazing coach who, mark my words, will bring Indiana back to prominence. And at Iowa, I actively campaigned for Licklieter at Michigan. Izzo, Smith, Ryan, Webber, Beilein, Painter, etc... This conference got better because the coaching got better. - Maize N' Brew
The Daily Gopher jumped on the sophomore bandwagon and pointed out that most of them will all be back next year, leading to more cohesiveness:
Notice the first five on the All-Conference team were sophomores, and very likely most will be back next year (if not all of them). This league isn't full of future NBA All-stars but the league is deep and talented. - The Daily Gopher
- Talk about your first round opponent for a moment. What advantages/disadvantages do you see in facing them (Penn State and Northwestern fans may talk NIT here).
Everyone here seemed to like their first round matchup except Northwestern. The Wildcats travel to face a senior dominated team in Tulsa tonight, and Lake the Posts pointed out that the Cats are not a great road team. Since everyone else is playing at a neutral site that will not be a factor. The best response came fromt eh Enlightened Spartan, who has to feel the most confident of all of us facing a #15 seed. Too bad Dr. Naismith wasn't also a member of the Continental Army.
Michigan State Advantage: Robert Morris was a financier for George Washington's army, he wasn't a basketball player. Michigan State Disadvantage: RMU's stunning, 48-46 Northeast Conference tourney victory over Mount St. Mary's. - The Enlightened Spartan
Apparently Robert Morris is instrumental in us enjoying the freedoms we have today, but had a terrible jump shot.
- What are your realistic postseason expectations?
As much as everyone in this conference wants to tell ESPN and the rest of the media to go suck it, most expectations are pretty grounded until next year. Michigan State is aiming high by not accepting anything less than the final four. Everyone else seemed to realize that the sweet 16 is reasonable if everything falls right, but most are expecting to win just one game or be one and done. I felt like the sweet 16 is very reasonable for Purdue, while challenging Uconn in that game:
I want the sweet 16. That was my expectation before the season started and it hasn't changed. I also think we have a very good chance against Connecticut because I don't see them as a strong #1 seed. UConn is one of those teams that annoys me because they always seem to play with a cocky, "We're going to be NBA draft picks so we should win on talent alone," attitude. I still love when George Mason played team basketball three years ago and shocked them. - Hammer & Rails
- How will your team get back to/make the step forward to the NCAA Tournament next year? This is officially known as the Iowa and Indiana question.
I loved everyone's responses to this question because the general feeling is that everyone in the conference will just get better. A lot of that has to do with the outstanding sophomore talent out there, plus the coaching factor. Northwestern is afraid of taking a step back, but the race for the conference crown will be very crowded if everyone else is to be believed. The award for the strangest response on this roundtable came from the Buckeye Battle Cry. Instead of elaborating on Ohio State's chances next season, who chose to give some advice for the teams at the bottom of the standings:
Iowa and Indiana are big farming states, and they need to respect that. Make the boys EAT the corn on the cob instead of using it to perform deviant rituals on the freshmen players. - Buckeye Battle Cry
I just don't have words...
Thanks again to everyone who participated. I am looking forward to seeing how we all do over the next two days and would love to see all seven of us in the Elite 8. Of course, if the 8th team was from the ACC or Big East we would still suck.