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March 25, 2013The Big Ten once again flourished during the Round of 32, sending four teams to the Sweet Sixteen. Here is a closer look at how the conference performed
Weekend winner: The Big Ten
In a chaotic 2013 bracket permeated by the unforeseen, the Big Ten's four heavyweights have plodded along as planned, and the conference boasts 25.0 percent of the Sweet Sixteen participants. An all Big Ten Final Four is not out of the realm of possibilities with Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State all looking like legitimate national championship contenders.
Biggest disappointment: Temple senior guard Khalif Wyatt's teammates
Wyatt was absolutely unconscious and single-handedly kept Temple afloat with 31 points in a 58-52 loss to Indiana. The versatile scorer shot 12-of-24 from the field (50.0 percent) to outclass superstar Hoosier guard Victor Oladipo (16 points, 8 rebounds). Unfortunately, his teammates were ice cold, making good on just 9-of-38 looks (23.7 percent). The struggles of senior forward Scootie Randall were particularly apparent; he finished with just three points on 0-of-12 shooting.
Biggest play: Aaron Craft's three-point dagger
Who would have thought that a pull-up three-point dagger by Ohio State junior Aaron Craft would be the biggest shot of the tournament's opening weekend? The audacious last-second shot - his first three-point attempt of the game - helped OSU avoid a monumental upset by No. 10 seed Iowa State in the 78-75 win, and further cemented his legacy in Columbus. The typically defensive-minded guard finished with 18 points on 5-of-10 shooting (50.0 percent) alongside six assists and two steals.
No. 7 Illinois (East Region)
The Illini battled tooth and nail with ACC juggernaut Miami, but ultimately fell to the No. 2 seed 63-59. UM sophomore guard Shane Larkin scored 17 points against a pugnacious Illini defense, and hit a key shot from behind the arc to give the Hurricanes a 57-55 lead they would not relinquish.
Senior guard Brandon Paul scored a team-high 18 points in his final game for UI, and sophomore forward Nnanna Egwu added 12 points and 12 rebounds. Characteristically consistent senior guard D.J. Richardson was abysmal, scoring just five points on 1-of-11 shooting (9.0 percent).
Illinois, which finishes the season 23-13, converted only 23-of-61 field goal attempts (37.7 percent).
"The start of the NCAA tournament.
"The Illini's R.I.P. date arrived five days later on Sunday night with a 63-59 loss in the NCAA tournament at the hands of a No. 2-seeded Miami squad with all the makings of a championship team.
"That the seventh-seeded Illini still were ticking this late in the season will be considered a success."
No. 1 Indiana (East Region)
The Big Ten's top team was pushed to the limit, but downed Temple 58-52 after outscoring the Owls 12-2 down the stretch. Junior guard Victor Oladipo (16 points, eight rebounds) was outdueled by Temple senior guard Khalif Wyatt (31 points), but hit a gigantic three-point bucket with 13 seconds left give IU an insurmountable 56-52 lead.
Sophomore forward Cody Zeller scored 15 points and snatched six rebounds, and junior forward Will Sheehey added 10 points off the bench. The 58-point outing was only the third time this season Indiana failed to score at least 60.
The Hoosiers clash with No. 4 seed Syracuse March 28 in Washington D.C. The Orange possess a 3-1 all-time record against IU, but Indiana holds the biggest win in the series - a 74-73 triumph in the 1987 national championship game.
"He said he didn't think about it at all. He was simply moving away from the ball, caught the pass and took the shot.
"It was among Indiana's biggest baskets of the last two years."
No. 3 Michigan State (Midwest Region)
Michigan State earned its fifth Sweet Sixteen appearance in the last six seasons with 70-48 annihilation of No. 6 seed Memphis. The Spartans wore down an athletic Tiger squad with overbearing physicality, ultimately gaining a 50-32 rebound advantage. MSU led just 32-29 at halftime, but outscored Memphis 45-32 in the second half.
Freshman guard Gary Harris hit four of his first six three-point attempts, and finished with a career-best 23 points. Junior forward Adreian Payne and senior forward Derrick Nix combined for 27 points and 18 rebounds.
Junior guard Geron Johnson paced the Tigers with 16 points, but UM was limited to just 29.7 percent shooting by a relentless Michigan State defense.
The Spartans renew their rivalry with No. 1 seed Duke March 29 at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis. MSU is 2-7 all-time against the Blue Devils, but knocked off Coach K's squad 78-68 in a Sweet Sixteen matchup in 2005.
MSU junior point guard Keith Appling, who missed time after injuring his shoulder against Memphis, is likely to play.
"You know things are heating up nicely for Michigan State when its own players are tossing laundry during a huddle. Shortly after Derrick Nix and Keith Appling slapped towels at each other, poor Memphis threw in the towel itself. The Spartans are relentless that way. They wear on you and wear on you, and before you know it, someone's agitated."
No. 11 Minnesota (South Region)
Minnesota could not overcome a 21-point halftime deficit, and fell to third-seeded Florida 78-64. Led by 25 points from senior guard Mike Rosario, the Gators shot an eye-popping 56.8 percent from the field.
Sophomore guard Andre Hollins paced the Gophers with 25 points despite playing much of the second half with four fouls. Standout senior forward Trevor Mbakwe was also limited by foul trouble, tallying 11 points and six boards in just 21 minutes.
UM cut Florida's massive lead to single-digits multiple times in the second half, but never less than seven points. Minnesota finishes the season 21-13, and head coach Tubby Smith was reportedly fired following the loss.
"There weren't any tears in sight.
"Perhaps, after everything - the highs, the lows and everything in between - there weren't any emotions left."
No. 2 Ohio State (West Region)
Ohio State outlasted No. 10 seed Iowa State 78-75 on a colossal three-point bomb by junior guard Aaron Craft with 0.5 seconds remaining. The blistering Buckeyes have now won 10 in a row, and will make the trek to the Sweet Sixteen for a program-record fourth-straight season.
Junior forward Deshaun Thomas led all scorers with 22 points and sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross added 17. The Scarlet and Gray led 69-56 heading into the final six minutes of the contest, but the Cyclones stormed back on the shoulders of former Michigan State guard Korie Lucious, who finished with a team-best 19 points.
OSU, which is the only top-five seed remaining in the whacky West Region, is slated to face sixth-seeded Arizona March 28 in Los Angeles. Wildcat head coach Sean Miller is a prot? of Ohio State boss Thad Matta, and spent three years as his assistant at Xavier before beginning his head coaching career for the Musketeers when Matta moved on to Columbus.
"And yet another opponent another reason to hate him.
"The junior guard did it again yesterday, this time not with his pugnacious defense but with a jump shot that has not been the prettiest this season.
"This time, it could not have been prettier."