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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Heat....... Crying? - BUBBLE WATCH - 2011 Big Ten Tournament

2011 Big Ten Tournament
Park Ridge, Ill. - The Big Ten announced on Sunday the bracket for the 2011 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament, which will be played Thursday through Sunday, March 10-13, at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Ohio State is the No. 1 seed for the fifth time in history after winning the outright conference title with a 16-2 Big Ten record. Purdue earns the No. 2 seed with a 14-4 record, while Wisconsin is the No. 3 seed at 13-5. No. 4 Michigan (9-9) and No. 5 Illinois (9-9) also earned first-round byes.
The tournament will tip off at 2:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 10, as No. 8 Northwestern (7-11) takes on No. 9 Minnesota (6-12) on ESPN2. The second game will feature No. 7 Michigan State (9-9) vs. No. 10 Iowa (4-14) on ESPN2. The final game of the day will be between No. 6 Penn State (9-9) and No. 11 Indiana (3-15), broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State all tied for fourth in the conference standings, but the Wolverines earned the top spot in the tiebreaker with a 4-1 record against the other three teams tied for fourth. Illinois had the second-best winning percentage in the group, going 3-2, while Michigan State and Penn State each had 2-4 records among the other tied teams. Penn State earned the No. 6 seed by virtue of its 1-0 record against Iowa.

The second day of the tournament begins with Ohio State taking on the winner of the Northwestern-Minnesota matchup at Noon ET on ESPN. The second game of the day features No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 5 Illinois, also on ESPN. The second session of the day matches No. 2 Purdue with the winner of the Michigan State-Iowa game at 6:30 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network. Friday's games conclude with No. 3 Wisconsin facing the winner of the Penn State-Indiana game, also on the Big Ten Network.

Big Ten Tournament semifinal games will be played on Saturday, beginning at 1:40 p.m. ET on CBS Sports. The championship game tips off at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday and will also be broadcast by CBS Sports.

Ohio State's Big Ten title is the program's second consecutive, fourth in the last six years and 19th overall. The Buckeyes were the No. 1 seed in the 2010 tournament, eventually winning the program's second event championship. Purdue is making its second consecutive and third overall appearance as the No. 2 seed. The Boilermakers are looking for their second tournament title and received a first-round bye for the fifth straight season. Wisconsin earns the No. 3 seed for the second time and earns a first-round bye for the 11th straight year. The Badgers are seeking their third tournament title, most recently having won the event in 2008. Michigan earns its highest spot in the bracket since 2003 when the Wolverines were seeded third, and its first first-round bye since 2004, when the team held the No. 5 spot. Illinois earns a first-round bye for the third straight season and is the No. 5 seed in the bracket for the second year in a row.

Since the first Big Ten Tournament in 1998, six teams have captured the event's title with Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin each owning two tournament trophies. Purdue also has one tournament title. Tournament championship games have featured teams seeded as high as first, second and third and as low as eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th. Eight different schools have advanced to the tournament's championship game.


This part of the season's final week is always fun, as major-conference bubble teams sit and watch and hope smaller-conference teams don't hose them. There are fewer bid thieves than usual this season, but the next couple of days will have some tournament results worth watching:

• The most obvious one is VCU's quest to make the Colonial Athletic Association a three-bid league Monday night, playing in its hometown against Old Dominion. It's unlikely the Rams can get an at-large after a four-game skid to close CAA play, so bubblers are praying the already-locked-up Monarchs take care of business and use the auto bid as entry rather than burn an at-large.

• With St. Mary's and Gonzaga set for the WCC final Monday night, it's not impossible to think both teams could make it. A Gonzaga win would like create a two-team scenario.

• Indiana State's win over regular-season champ Missouri State on Sunday drops the Bears into the at-large pool. It's unlikely they can nab one with a resume that lacks top-end quality, but they have more than the nil chance ISU did, so it muddles the picture a bit more.

• Butler will play at Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Tuesday for the Horizon auto bid, with a modest chance of landing an at-large if they lose. Bubblers are rooting hard for the Bulldogs.

Big Ten
Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin

Purdue's stunning loss at Iowa dings the Boilermakers' hopes for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs, but the most compelling news comes from the bubble, where Michigan's second win over MSU has created a mess in the middle.

Should Be In: None

In The Mix
Illinois (19-12, 9-9; RPI: 42, SOS: 16)
Next game: Friday vs. 4-seed Michigan in Big Ten quarterfinals

Another expected split, another week where the Illini spurned the chance to impress. They seem like the prototype 8/9-seed right now. They'll joust with Michigan in a game the Illini probably don't need to win, but could put the Wolverines into the dance.
GW: UNC, MSU, Wisconsin, Maryland (N)?, Gonzaga (N)?
BL: Illinois-Chicago (N), at Indiana

Michigan State (17-13, 9-9, RPI: 46, SOS: 9) Next game: Thursday vs. 10-seed Iowa in Big Ten first round

A loss at Michigan on Saturday, giving the Wolverines a season sweep, has more or less eliminated any wiggle room and puts the Spartans in a sticky situation. With Penn State's win over Minnesota, the Spartans are now the 7-seed and staring at a quarterfinal matchup with Purdue. If they don't win that game, this could end badly.
GW: Washington (N), plus Wisconsin and Minnesota at home
BL: Swept by Michigan (for bubble purposes), at Iowa

Michigan (18-12, 9-9; RPI: 53, SOS: 19)
Next game: Friday vs. 5-seed Illinois in Big Ten quarterfinals

The Wolverines got the critical sweep of Michigan State and now let the debates begin. Whichever team ends up ahead in the pecking order will come down to Big Ten tourney performance. Right now, I think the Spartans are barely ahead on the basis of better top-quality wins (although two of MSU's three top-50 wins came with Korie Lucious on the roster).
GW: Sweep of Michigan State, Harvard
BL: at Indiana

Penn State (16-13, 9-9; RPI: 61, SOS: 4)
Next game: Thursday vs. 11-seed Indiana in Big Ten first round
The Nittany Lions are 9-9 like three others, but have a weaker profile that's fueled mostly by schedule strength. They probably need to make the tournament final to have a truly legit claim.
GW: MSU, Illinois and Wisconsin all at home in league play
BL: Maine

MVP????? Rose is sure playing like one.

1. Tears Of A Crown? Long Way Off For Heat
By Brian Windhorst
Good article about the crying Heat!
MIAMI -- Reality is spoiling the Miami Heat's season of good intentions.
They aren't bullies and don't want you to hate them, even if they've pretended like they do. Dwyane Wade isn't comfortable playing with LeBron James, even if they've both tried hard to eliminate egos and to figure it out. Chris Bosh thought he'd be applauded for taking less of a role, even if it has come off looking like he fades into the background.
Things simply aren't going as planned for the Heat, their 87-86 loss to the Chicago Bulls being the latest example. The Heat aren't just on a losing streak, they're on a backfiring streak.
Coach Erik Spoelstra is the man in the crosshairs, because when teams underachieve it is the default reaction the blame the coach, whether it makes sense or not. After the game, he tossed in a detail he may regret about the Heat's troubles.
"This is painful for every single one of us to go through this," he said. "There are couple of guys crying in the locker room right now. It is not a matter of want."
Spoelstra wanted to illustrate how vested his team was in getting things turned around. Instead it came off as a referendum on the club's collective manhood. Just another near miss with consequences for a team that's been dealing with this for months.
As the comment exploded with reactions when it hit "SportsCenter" and Twitter, the Heat were feeling like targets again. And were being reminded they're largely responsible for putting the bull's-eye on themselves.
"Inside our locker room, we stick together; we're like brothers," Wade said. "We win together, we lose together. Outside, the Miami Heat are exactly what everyone wanted, losing games. The world is better now since the Heat is losing."
The immediate reaction is a desire to know which players were crying. Bosh denied it was him, though he "almost did." Wade refused to answer.
Who shed tears or almost shed tears is really immaterial. What's clear is this team is steeped in talent but challenged in basketball chemistry. The Heat are hurting deeply and personally as they struggle to figure out what they've done wrong. The problem is they don't know. And all the recent losses -- four now by three points or less since the All-Star break -- are pushing them to the breaking point.
"We haven't addressed the problem yet," said Bosh, who took one shot in the fourth quarter. "We have to find the problem first."
The Heat genuinely believe they should be winning. They feel like they are putting in the work and making the required concessions to make it happen. But the results, unfairly or not, say otherwise. Sunday the Heat played the Bulls tough but, for the second time in two weeks, Wade and James were outplayed by Derrick Rose and Luol Deng in the fourth quarter.
The number that crystallized the issues is 1-for-18. That's what the Heat are shooting in the final 10 seconds to win or tie a game this season. It should be pointed out that the one make, a James dunk to force overtime in November in Memphis, didn't even result in a win, as the Heat ultimately lost on a Rudy Gay buzzer-beater.
Perhaps no one took the latest loss harder than James, who missed a shot in the closing seconds that could have won it, as did Wade.
This has happened to James four times in the past 11 days. He had chances to win or tie and has missed twice on 3-pointers and twice on drives to the basket. On none of the four attempts did James say he thought he'd made any mistake other than missing.
Just a few days ago, James was declaring to his Twitter followers that he was refocused and going into battle. It could have been seen as a confident, galvanizing statement from a player who has been accused often of not having a killer instinct.
Sunday afternoon, as James felt compelled to apologize to his teammates for not getting it done, it just seemed like another self-inflicted misstep.
"I told my team I'm not going to continue to fail them late in games," James said. "I put a lot of the blame on myself."
Enough blame to cry? That is what Wade's proverbial "world" really wanted to know, but James wasn't saying.
"That stays in the locker room," Bosh said about the outward emotion.
Beyond all the delicious focus on tears and the last-second shots was a game that unfolded in a way that showed the Heat's core flaw. Trailing in the fourth quarter and looking skittish, the Heat were carried by Wade, as he made three consecutive baskets and two free throws.
After that, the focus shifted to James down the stretch. He drained a couple of baskets to help the Heat establish a brief lead before his late miss. The final play, as it has been regularly, was drawn for James. Wade managed to get his hands on the ball for his own attempt, but it was off an offensive rebound.
Once again, James and Wade, the two superstars who agreed to join forces, were not joined and didn't have any force when they needed it.
It is clearly something Wade is struggling with.
"You're just trying to get comfortable with whatever role you're put in at the moment and you try to be your best at it," Wade said. "That was one of the things we had to understand when we all decided to come together. There was going to be sacrifices we're going to have to make, and you live with the consequences."
What Wade, James and Bosh didn't think they'd be sacrificing, though, was winning big games.

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