The beauty of this time of year is that when somebody looks at you and says "It's March", you understand what they mean. Maybe you think of Jim Valvano running around looking for someone to hug after Lorenzo Charle's put back dunk to win the 1983 tournament. Maybe you think of pretty boy Christian Laettner's turnaround jumper to break the hearts of Kentucky as the buzzer sounded. Michigan fans probably conjure recent images of Trey Burke and Jordan Poole hitting buzzer beating 3's on two Wolverine runs to the title game. Regardless of which historical moment pops into your head, you understand that ANYTHING can happen in March. With the B1G Tournament in Chicago culminating in Tom Izzo's 602nd win and a Tournament title over in-state rival Michigan, March is starting to heat up. The B1G Conference is sending 8 teams to the NCAA Tournament, strongly backing up the opinion that it's the best conference in basketball. With the bracket set, let's look to what lies ahead for some local teams.
MICHIGAN STATE: 2 SEED IN THE EAST
Did the Spartans get screwed? Yea, they really did. A B1G regular season and tournament title rewarded them with a 2 seed in the region with #1 overall seed Duke. With losses against Illinois and Indiana, it's hard to argue that Sparty deserves to be a #1 seed. To be put in the same region as 18 yr-old phenom Zion Williamson and arguably the best basketball coach of all time in Mike Krzyzewski, is rough treatment for Tom Izzo and his crew. Having said that, I do think Michigan State can make some noise in the tournament. They beat Michigan three times this season and despite the Wolverines being a flawed team, it's still a major accomplishment. Despite losing Langford to a season ending injury, it seems that the Green and White have a weapon for every situation. Cassius Winston is a top 5 player in the country. He makes plays in big moments and can carve you up even when your defense is at its best. Kenny Goins and Xavier Tillman are big guys that play lock down D, with Goins proving to have an outside game as well. They have a sniper from 3-pt range in Matt McQuaid, a kid I believe got snubbed from the conference's All Tournament Team after lighting up the scoreboard with 27 points. Plus Nick Ward is easing back into his role as the man in the middle, capable of strong post play on both ends of the court. Maybe it isn't Tom Izzo's most talented team, but they look to have all roles covered. If Izzo wants to live up to his name of "Mr. March", he may have to go through Duke; we all want to see it.
OHIO STATE: 11 SEED IN THE MIDWEST
I'm not going to spend a lot of time on Ohio State. They have a first round match-up against Iowa State, the Big 12 Conference Champs. They're coming off a win against Kansas, while the Buckeyes lost big to Michigan State over the weekend. Andre and Kaleb Wesson are talented players, but the Buckeyes aren't complete enough to make a big tournament run. Hell, some journalists don't even believe they should be in the tournament at all. Fans should believe in Chris Holtmann and trust the process. Your time is coming, just not this year. If they pull off the upset against the Cyclones, they'd likely face Houston next. It will take some "March Magic" to pull that off.
MICHIGAN WOLVERINES: 2 SEED IN THE WEST
I don't want to hear Michigan fans complaining about the officiating in the loss to the Spartans yesterday. Do I think Matt McQuaid should've gone to the line to shoot 3 at the end of the game? No. Do I think Jordan Poole was fouled on the last shot? Yes. Do I think the Wolverines offense went cold at the end of the game for a third straight meeting against their rival and chucked up bad 3-pt attempts? YES! Michigan was beaten due to a great defensive plan by the Spartans, an often wide open Matt McQuaid, and a dazzling performance by Cassius Winston. None of that matters anymore, and honestly, the Wolverines are in GREAT shape to make another run at a title. They face Montana in the first round for a second straight year, and are the 2 seed behind the often under-performing Gonzaga Bulldogs. The Wolverines showed this weekend how dangerous they can be when the offense is clicking. They won by close to 30 pts against a decent Iowa team Friday night, in which 5 players put up double-digit points. For a big run, the Wolverines need to make sure they don't take their foot off the gas offensively when they have a lead. The defense was solid all tournament and I expect the same to be the case for the big dance. Iggy Brazdeikis and Zavier Simpson proved their worth by garnering all tournament team selections this weekend. The key for Michigan is to keep Isaiah Livers and Jordan Poole involved offensively when they can't work Teske in the post. Livers seems to have gained confidence from 3-pt range, while Poole seems to have too much confidence. Head Coach John Beilein was infuriated with Poole's shot selection yesterday towards the end of the game. It's not that Poole isn't capable of hitting a James Harden-esque step back jumper from 3, but there are many other better options on the floor. This team is at its best when they play as a team (super cliche, I know). The reality is that too many guys are trying to be heroes towards the end of close games. If they remain calm and play smart basketball, they're the most dangerous team in the B1G to make a run.