Columnists, Sports

Dropping the Gloves: Big Ten teams show dominance in NCAA March Madness

The Big Ten has 3 teams in the Sweet Sixteen, the most of any conference. Despite Michigan and Purdue’s losses, the conference recovered from a subpar regular season. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIPEDIA

My bracket is in shambles, but there is still so much to enjoy about March Madness.

The Big Ten conference showed up this year, and we are only in the Sweet Sixteen. No team in the conference has won the tournament since Michigan State University did 17 years ago in 2000. However, four Big Ten teams have shown that the drought may be ending soon.

The Northwestern University Wildcats were eliminated by Gonzaga University last Saturday, but the team has a lot to celebrate. This is the first ever tournament Northwestern has appeared in. Screams from Evanston, Illinois could have been heard all over the country when Northwestern’s bid was announced for them to play against Vanderbilt University.

The Michigan Wolverines are becoming more and more dominant on the football field ever since Jim Harbaugh was brought on for the 2015 season, but this year’s basketball program has given Harbaugh and company a run for its money. They have been a bit rocky and unpredictable in the regular season since appearing in the 2013 NCAA championship game, but this year things have really changed for the team.

On their way to the Big Ten tournament, the team’s plane was involved in a takeoff crash. No one was injured, but everyone was noticeably shaken up. The team would not let anything else take them down, as they went on to win the conference tournament with an exciting championship victory against fellow Sweet Sixteen team Purdue University.

Michigan harnessed that energy into wins against Oklahoma State University and upset the University of Louisville, the No. 2 seed in the Midwest part of the bracket. Their determination is inspiring, and the Wolverines are not done yet.

Michigan is set to play third-seeded University of Oregon to start off the Sweet Sixteen. The jersey colors are sure to clash, and both teams are bound to put up a good fight. Although Oregon is seeded higher, all bets are off in March Madness.

The Purdue Boilermakers have not seen the Sweet Sixteen for seven years. They got here by beating the University of Vermont and Iowa State University. Iowa State is a notoriously scrappy team to play against in the tournament, but Purdue resisted and held onto its lead in the second half.

Stars like sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan and junior center Isaac Haas have helped this team grow into an aggressive group capable of great play. The Boilermakers have a tall task ahead of them, facing off against the No. 1-seeded University of Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen, and that game should definitely be worth watching.

The Wisconsin Badgers are arguably the most talented of the group and the most likely candidate to be where they are despite being an eight-seed.

After losing to Duke University in the 2015 National Championship, the Badgers seem poised to take home the trophy for the first time since 1941. They have played two strong games and they are not close to stopping.

Even with stars like Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky out of the picture, this group has more than enough talent to get back to the Final Four.

Badgers senior Nigel Hayes has seen a lot of tournament action in his four years, but Final Four, National Championship and Sweet Sixteen appearances are all lacking one thing: victory on the final night.

It is no small feat to eliminate the reigning champs of the tournament, but the Badgers beat Villanova University 65-62 in the round of 32. With 14 seconds left in the game, it was tied 62-62. Hayes made the game-winning layup and the Badgers held off a final shot from Villanova to eliminate the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and the defending champions.

It has been a thrilling tournament thus far, and Michigan, Purdue and Wisconsin are three teams to keep an eye on when the second weekend of March Madness resumes.

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