Can Big Ten teams shed conference's tarnished image in NCAA Tournament?

No. 3 seed Michigan State to open NCAA Tournament vs. No. 14 seed Bucknell in Detroit

The variable that makes it (even) tougher to predict performance is that none of the teams has played since MI beat Purdue in the Big Ten tourney championship game March 4.

With March Madness in full swing, national media outlets are talking about this year's bracket and making their picks.

The ACC got nine teams in the NCAA tournament.

Purdue, Butler and Michigan State will all open up NCAA Tournament play in Detroit while Michigan is headed to Wichita.

They enter this year's tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country, if not the hottest. The Irish were the first team out of the Big Dance and will instead play in the NIT. Their last trip came in 2013.

After much speculation about the possibility of playing close to home, MI will head out to Wichita, Kansas for the first weekend of the dance.

We are just hours away from the first round's tip-off on Thursday afternoon, but Michigan State doesn't play Bucknell until Friday evening in Detroit.

In a conference that is admittedly not the most competitive among the Power Five, the Spartans' resume is highlighted by a 68-65 thriller against the then-third-ranked Boilermakers.

They will play No. 6-seed LSU in Columbus, Ohio, also the site of this year's Final Four.

(4) Auburn vs. (13) College of Charleston - Charleston is led by a trio of players, Grant Riller and fifth-year senior Joe Chealey, both first-team All-Colonial selections.

Maybe this is a conspiracy theory, but three of the biggest teams left out of the field - Louisville, Oklahoma State and USC - were connected to the FBI investigation in September. We worked on our offense, our defense, so I feel like we're going to be better on our offense, our execution is going to be better.

The Big Ten has taken a beating all season when it comes to national perception. Montana defeated Eastern Washington University 82-65 in the Big Sky Conference Championship game Saturday, in Reno, Nevada. This year the top 10 total efficiency ratings are, in order, Virginia, Villanova, Duke, Cincinnati, Purdue, Michigan State, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Kansas and Michigan.

On the season, Michigan State basketball averages 81.0 points, 40.8 rebounds and 19.3 assists per game.

The biggest crutch in Simpson's game continues to be his free throw shooting, converting on just under 52 percent of his attempts this year.

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