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Big Ten to be March Madness power

If the current standings are any indication of the power coming into March Madness, then the Big Ten is going to be terrorizing folks in about six weeks.

Right now, the Big Ten conference has a pair of top-10 teams and the No. 12 Michigan State Spartans, who took down the Northwestern Wildcats by 31 points in Evanston. Michigan State has been anything but consistent in conference play with a 5-4 record, but head coach Tom Izzo and a talented cast led by Denzel Washington has to be concerning to any opponent.

Meanwhile, the Iowa Hawkeyes and Maryland Terrapins are clearly title contenders. The two played a terrific game on Friday night, with the host Terrapins using a 17-point, 7-rebound night from Robert Carter to pull off a 74-68 victory at home. Iowa, which entered the game at 7-0 in the conference and third in the nation, will likely remain in the top five when the rankings come out on Monday.

Maryland might be the most dangerous of the group, though. The Terrapins have a team that has been building to a crescendo for years, led by guard Melo Trimble. Trimble is one of the most dynamic players in the country, able to penetrate the lane or knock down the open shot from outside. Trimble has enjoyed plenty of support to get Maryland to 18-3, namely from Carter and Diamond Stone. Jake Layman and Rasheed Sulaimon are also averaging scoring in double digits.

While March is still ways off and the conference tournament stands in the way, these three teams are going to be rough to deal with. All have experience, and Michigan State has one of the two or three best coaches in the country. Izzo is almost a lock to get his kids to the Sweet 16, and anything can happen from there.

The other reason to be bullish on these teams? While all have flaws, there are no dominant teams this year. Last year, it would have taken a massive effort to beat the Kentucky Wildcats, who would eventually sustain their first loss of the season in the Final Four to a Big Ten foe, the Wisconsin Badgers. This season has brought us many good squads, but none that will be blindly running away with a title.

All told, there are seven teams that likely make it to the NCAA Tournament out of the Big Ten. The Indiana Hooisers are another team to keep an eye on, with Tom Crean’s club actually leading the way for the top seed in the conference tourney at the moment.

In recent years, it has been Michigan State and Wisconsin carrying the Big Ten. This time around, there will be a host of schools, both familiar and otherwise, aiming for the top of the mountain.

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