INDIANAPOLIS — Let’s dance.
Selection Sunday is the best day of the year for college basketball fans, and it once again was a good day for the Big Ten, with seven teams — half the conference’s 14-team total — included in the NCAA tournament’s field of 68.
Big Ten Tournament champion Michigan State earned the league’s automatic bid to the Big Dance. The Spartans are the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region and will take on No. 15 Middle Tennessee State in a Round of 64 game Friday in St. Louis. The Spartans were shockingly not a No. 1 seed. Michigan State is looking for back-to-back Final Four appearances after reaching the Final Four for the seventh time under Tom Izzo last season. Behind Big Ten Player of the Year Denzel Valentine — who’s also one of the leading candidates for national player of the year honors — the Spartans will be one of the favorites to get to Houston.
Big Ten Tournament runner up Purdue is the No. 5 seed in the Midwest Region and faces off against Little Rock on Thursday in Denver. Purdue looked dominant in its two Big Ten Tournament games prior to Sunday’s championship game, smoking Illinois and Michigan. The Boilermakers, who have had their share of upsetting defeats this season, have looked the part of a contender in recent weeks, getting terrific play from their massive front court and their cadre of shot-making guards.
It sets up a potential rematch of the Big Ten Tournament title game if Michigan State and Purdue both advance to the Elite Eight, a game that would take place at the United Center.
Maryland, which lost to Michigan State in Saturday’s conference tournament semifinal game, received a No. 5 seed in the big tournament and will square off against No. 12 South Dakota State on Friday in Spokane. The Terps felt good about their performance this weekend in Indy despite a tough loss Saturday. They have dropped five of their last eight heading into the NCAA tournament.
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Big Ten regular-season champion Indiana suffered an embarrassing loss in its one and only game during the Big Ten Tournament, losing to Michigan on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. The Hoosiers earned a No. 5 seed in the Big Dance and will take on No. 12 Chattanooga on Thursday in Des Moines. Indiana looked great at the end of the regular season, finishing on a five-game winning streak that featured three wins over ranked opponents in a four-game span.
Iowa was also eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament in its lone contest, embarrassed in an upset loss to Illinois. The Hawkeyes are in the midst of another late-season collapse, winning just twice in their past eight games. They are a No. 7 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament and play No. 10 Temple on Friday in Brooklyn.
New permanent head coach Greg Gard will look for his Badgers to bounce back from back-to-back bad losses. After winning 11 of 12 in an impressive stretch during conference play, Wisconsin allowed a total of 161 points in losses to Purdue and Nebraska, the latter an embarrassing first-game exit from the Big Ten Tournament. The Badgers are a No. 7 seed in the Big Dance — their 18th straight appearance in the tourney — and take on No. 10 Pittsburgh on Friday in St. Louis.
Michigan found itself on the right side of the NCAA tournament bubble, and it will play in a First Four game Wednesday against Tulsa for the right to the No. 11 seed in the East Region. With a win in the First Four game, the Wolverines would play No. 6 seed Notre Dame on Friday in Brooklyn. Michigan entered this week’s Big Ten Tournament needing to impress in order to make the field, and that’s what it did with its big upset of top-seeded Indiana.
Take a look at the full bracket below.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 13, 2016