The Norman Transcript

Sports

March 26, 2013

Final Four could shape up to be an all Big 10 affair

(Continued)

EAST LANSING, Mich. —

Ohio State will face the sixth-seeded Wildcats in the West Regional semifinals.

Michigan State will be matched up with second-seeded Duke in the Midwest, a highly anticipated game featuring coaches who have combined to appear in 25 regional semifinals since 1998.

Michigan, which has won two NCAA tournament games for the first time since 1994, will have to get past top-seeded Kansas in the South.

The Big Ten had seven teams start the NCAA tournament last week and only fifth-seeded Wisconsin failed to advance, losing by 11 points to 12th-seeded Mississippi.

Minnesota routed UCLA by 20 — though that didn’t help Tubby Smith keep his job because he was fired Monday, a day after losing by 14 to Florida.

Illinois beat Colorado before losing a competitive game with second-seeded Miami.

The Golden Gophers and Fighting Illini helped to help the conference win 10 games, a total that trails the Big East’s record of 11 wins through the round of 32 in 2009 and 2012, according to STATS. The Big Ten had won nine games four times up to this point of the NCAA tournament, including last season, when it also sent four teams to the regional semifinals.

Spartans coach Tom Izzo started saying the conference was the best in the country before the season opened and he felt even stronger about his opinion throughout the nonconference schedule when his team had one of the league’s marquee wins by beating Kansas.

Even though the Big Ten has one more team than the Big East still in the NCAA tournament — and twice as many as the ACC and Pac-12 — Izzo insisted he doesn’t feel as if his point has been proven.

“To some, it won’t be validated unless the Big Ten wins a championship,” Izzo said. “Perception becomes a little bit of reality and the more games you win, the farther you go. I think we earned our keep, again, over the 18 grueling games and that Big Ten Tournament.

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