marching to march: hoosiers hold top spot…but here comes sparty.

Junior guard Victor Oladipo scored 21 points in IU's 75-70 win over Michigan State on Jan. 27. The Hoosiers travel to East Lansing Tuesday night in a battle between the B1G's two first-place teams.

Junior guard Victor Oladipo scored 21 points in IU’s 75-70 win over Michigan State on Jan. 27. The Hoosiers travel to East Lansing Tuesday night in a battle between the B1G’s two first-place teams.

There’s been an audible change in tune coming from my birth state: the great state of Michigan. Chants of “Go Blue” have been quickly replaced by “Go Sparty!” Michigan State’s 75-52 beatdown of the Wolverines in East Lansing last week means the B1G championship—and, potentially, the top seed in the Midwest Region of the Big Dance™—is a two-horse race between the Michigan State Spartans and Indiana Hoosiers. Fret not, A2, you will get your shot at redemption in 12 days. And I’m thoroughly convinced the Big Ten will send at least two teams to the Final Four.

Welcome Back, KU & Louisville.
This week’s NCAA Top Ten won’t shuffle too much. Although, Duke’s 83-81 road loss at Maryland will knock them down a few pegs. Miami, Gonzaga, Florida and Michigan State should round out the Top Ten behind the Hoosiers, while Kansas and Louisville might make big leaps, thanks in part to 1-1 weeks from Arizona, Butler and Kansas State. I’m not 100 percent sold on the Zags yet. Their record speaks for itself, but why are they a top five team and Memphis is hovering around the bottom when, in my mind, neither team has a very tough schedule?

Here’s my best shot at predicting the AP Top Ten:

1. Indiana (23-3/11-2). Tuesday night’s game at Michigan State will be (yet another) epic battle of great B1G regular season games this year. And to the victor goes the Midwest Region…for now.
2. Miami (21-3/12-0). Tomorrow night’s Virginia game could be a trap game, if the ‘Canes aren’t careful.
3. Gonzaga (25-2/12-0). They’re on cruise control and should win out their season, barring an upset loss.
4. Michigan State (22-4/11-2). It’s Sparty’s turn (again) to challenge the Hoosiers for the top spot in the conference. And nation.
5. Florida (21-3/11-1). Despite already manhandling Missouri 83-52 once this season, the Gators could be in trouble on the road tomorrow night. Mizzou is 14-0 at home this season.
6. Michigan (22-4/9-4). Wolverines will complete the season sweep of Illinois this week.
7. Duke (22-3/9-3). The Blue Devils shouldn’t have any trouble this week. A road game at Va. Tech and home against BC should be easy wins.
8. Syracuse (21-4/9-3). Saturday’s home game vs. Georgetown is the first of two battles for the Orangemen against the top teams in the Big East.
9. Louisville (21-5/9-4). Seton Hall at home is a tune-up game, really.
10. Kansas (21-4/9-3). Wednesday night at Okie State will be a test to see if the Jayhawks are ready for primetime or not.

What Rhymes with NIT? Kentucky!
I’m no Florida fan, but they beat No. 25 Kentucky this week. Anytime Kentucky loses, an angel gets its wings.

O-H! Oh No! (redux)
Who said, a week ago, “there’s no hiding the fact that Ohio State is not a top-tier team in the nation, much less the conference.” Oh yeah, that was me. At the time, they were 1-6 vs. ranked teams. They’re now 1-7, after losing to Wisconsin.

Purdue? Pur-Don’t!
What’s better than one beatdown against Purdue? How about TWO BEATDOWNS AGAINST PURDUE! It’s no secret the Hoosiers are my favorite college basketball team. I can holster my allegiance to Bloomington when ranking the top teams. However, I choose to wear my cream-and-crimson pride on my sleeve when it comes to beating Purdue.

Spoiler Alert.
After the Top Ten, there are a few teams to watch as we march toward the conference tournaments that could serve as spoilers for someone’s season, to say nothing of sneaking into the Sweet 16 during the NCAA National Championship Tournament.
* Oklahoma State has a chance to make a statement this week vs. Kansas. For me, this will be a harbinger of both team’s chances moving forward.
* Wisconsin has already made its statements. Too bad for Whisky they keep losing, too. I guarantee the Badgers will spoil someone’s season in the B1G Tournament.
* New Mexico is currently in first place in the Mountain West. I don’t know why, but this team strikes me as trouble for whomever they face in the Big Dance™.
* Memphis is quietly putting together a strong season. But is it a strong March Madness resume? Yeah, they’ve won 16 in a row, but they’re 0-1 against their only ranked opponent of the season (Louisville). I don’t see them any higher than a No. 4 seed. In fact, I’d put them at No. 5 or 6. You heard me.

If Today Were Selection Sunday…
My No. 1 seeds would be: Indiana (Midwest), Miami (South), Michigan State (East) and Florida (West). But these selections are strictly written in pencil. They could change tomorrow (and might). And they’ll likely change again before the season’s out. In other words: the next three weeks of the regular season will be fast, furious and fun.

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