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Sweet 16 roundtable: Get ready for the B1G Four

Cinderella stories are fun, but with apologies to Florida Gulf Coast, LaSalle and Wichita State, a March Madness plot twist is on the horizon.

Are you ready for the B1G Four?

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

For the second year in a row, the Big Ten was the most dominant conference in the country by virtually every metric imaginable. And just like 2012, the Big Ten returns four teams to the Sweet 16. No other conference has been represented so well in consecutive years since 1998.

The Big East made NCAA history by sending three teams to the 1985 Final Four, but that record could fall if Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan play to their potential this weekend.

And who would be surprised? The Big Ten's regular season is a meat grinder, with seven different teams appearing in the AP's top 25 at various points in the season. And while Indiana was crowned Big Ten regular-season champs, a one-point win in their finale was all that prevented a giant four-way tie atop the standings.

Your bracket might be busted, but there's still room on the B1G bandwagon. Let's turn to SB Nation's team bloggers for talking points on why we should expect an all B1G everything Final Four.

Indiana: John M from The Crimson Quarry:

1. Why should casual fans cheer for the Hoosiers to win the East?

IU historically is the heavy, and I can't really cast the Hoosiers as the underdog in 2013 when they are the No. 1 seed and spent more time at the top of the rankings than any other team. Still, consider that two years ago IU was sitting at home after going 12-20 and 3-15 in the Big Ten.

Most of these current players were on that team, and those who weren't on the team took a leap of faith and signed with IU despite all of that losing. While IU's program will never be considered an underdog, it would be a great story for guys who began their careers in the Big Ten cellar to end their careers at the Final Four.

Plus, I think the team that really should be the casual fan's enemy is Miami. The East Region includes three basketball schools ... and Miami. I'm generally happy when a true basketball school wins the title. I'm fine with football schools with good basketball support, such as Ohio State and Michigan.

But Miami? It's a football school that doesn't even support its football program. I really can't abide the Hurricanes in the Final Four. and IU has the best shot at knocking them off.

2. What will opposing fans discover about the Hoosiers this weekend?

The defense is the main difference between last year's four-seed and this year's No. 1 seed.

They will discover that while most of the hype surrounding IU concerns the offense, the defense has improved significantly. The defense is the main difference between last year's four-seed and this year's No. 1 seed.

If anything, the defense has been a bit steadier than the offense in recent weeks. Those who haven't paid much attention to IU since last year's tournament may be surprised by that.

3. If the Hoosiers were a beer, they'd be ...

Three Floyd's Alpha King. There are many fine breweries in Indiana, but one of them clearly stands above the others. The same is true of basketball programs. And the name of the beer nicely corresponds with the position the Hoosiers hope to hold two weeks from now.

4. Which of the other three remaining Big Ten teams scare you the most?

This is a really tough call. Ohio State was playing the best at the end of the regular season and in the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan has played the best so far in the NCAA Tournament. Still, it's the NCAA Tournament, so I think that Michigan State and Tom Izzo have to be the answer. IU was 5-1 against the group, so I don't think any of them truly "scare" me, but all of them are more than capable of beating IU.

5. Show us a GIF that exemplifies this year's season:

I'm not sure it truly exemplifies the season, but this Christian Watford block saved it. As I mentioned above, IU has improved its defense this season, and for all of his ups and downs Christian Watford has produced IU's most memorable clutch plays of this season and last.

Ohio State: Luke Zimmermann from Land-Grant Holy Land

1. Why should casual fans cheer for the Buckeyes to win the West?

Look, if you want to be a front runner but not have everyone know at first glance that you're being one, Ohio State is the team for you. The experts' consensus is that the Buckeyes have the easiest path to the Final Four. They've also made it this far on the heels of a ten-game winning streak that included a wild run in Chicago to the Big Ten Tournament title. The Buckeyes have two games remaining -- Arizona and most probably Wichita State -- and they're back in the Final Four for the second time in as many years.

They play defense-first, mostly selfless basketball, and while they seldom look flashy doing it, Aaron Craft looks and feels the way you imagined yourself at the heights of your basketball playing prowess. Plus Deshaun Thomas is totally that one guy you always pass the ball to at the Y. Who doesn't want that guy on your team running the wing?

2. What will opposing fans discover about the Buckeyes this weekend?

Opposing fans, ostensibly even the bandwagon ones piling on to hope the Buckeyes fail, are going to hate Craft. Just abhor him. He plays a concurrently intelligent and instinctive brand of basketball predicated on being in the right place at the right time and always doing the right thing. He is "that girl in drama class" in basketball form.

That even the Buckeyes' third and fourth best on-the-ball defenders keep getting turnovers will also be maddening. Easy baskets will be in rare supply, and so will anything resembling style points (unless Sam Thompson is cleared for takeoff).

3. If the Buckeyes were a beer, they'd be:

This Ohio State team in beer form has to be Yuengling traditional lager. Cheap but not as appalling as Budweiser, Miller Lite, or Coors Light, and while nothing special at first glance, it's something you also won't decline when it makes sense against the other choices. When it's particularly scarce -- as it was in Ohio from every year leading up until 2012 -- it seems like the nectar of the gods. When you can get it all the time (and at a low cost), it's less impressive, but still better than the most dull and unimaginative next best alternatives when push comes to shove.

4. Which of the other three remaining Big Ten teams scare you the most?

Indiana is the most talented team, but I'd probably put their X&O coaching accumen three-out-of-three. Michigan is so streaky, it's a coin flip whether you get the championship-caliber team with the Big Ten (and possibly national) player of the year, or merely a good one. And Michigan State is probably the least talented of the three (plus the only one Ohio State's beaten twice this year). I think given the talent collection, IU takes the cake as being the one most Ohio State fans want the least of -- though such a hypothetical would mean the Buckeyes are playing for a national championship.

5. Show us a GIF that exemplifies this year's season:

Michigan State: Chris Vannani from The Only Colors

1. Why should casual fans cheer for the Spartans to win the Midwest?

Tom Izzo. Have you ever met a person who doesn't like him? Seriously. Even Michigan fans will begrudgingly admit it. Also, Sparty will beat you up if you don't root for MSU.

2. What will opposing fans discover about the Spartans this weekend?

The Spartans are more athletic than people realize. MSU (and often the Big Ten) have a reputation of mugging it up and winning low-scoring games (thanks, Bo Ryan) unless you're Indiana or Michigan with a load of future NBA scorers. MSU has a 6-foot-10 power forward who could win a dunk contest in Adreian Payne, and although center Derrick Nix is 270-ish pounds, he's got quick feet and can drive to the hoop (if Izzo lets him).

3. If the Spartans were a beer, they'd be:

I'll defer to TOC writer KJ on this one:

Founder's All Day IPA. Not all that distinctive or strong, but versatile enough to go with everything and big enough when you need it.

4. Which of the other three remaining Big Ten teams scare you the most?

Indiana. They've been one of the best teams all season and they beat MSU both times, though both were close.

5. Show us a GIF that exemplifies this year's season:

For context: the reason Izzo is hugging him.

Michigan: Zach Travis from Maize n Brew:

1. Why should casual fans cheer for Michigan to win the South?

Because it's Michigan, fergodsakes.

But barring that, I think casual fans should cheer for Michigan because the Wolverines have a great style of play, a transition game that leads to all sorts of highlights, and the team is led by arguably the best player in the college game. If you can't get excited to watch Michigan play this year, you don't have a pulse. While this team has its weaknesses (rebounding and interior defense to be exact), there are few teams able to reach the level of Michigan's offense when everything is clicking.

2. What will opposing fans discover about Michigan this weekend?

I think college basketball fans that aren't familiar with Michigan are going to learn first-hand just how good Trey Burke is. Thus far this year he has been a phenomenal leader for Michigan. Burke is the catalyst for everything Michigan does on offense.

Nobody is more deadly with the ball in his hand late than Trey Burke.

It is his ability to get into the lane with a quick first step and using pick-and-rolls that breaks down defenses and creates shot opportunities for the rest of Michigan's players. It is his open court ability to push the tempo and find passing lanes in transition that leads to most of Michigan's best highlights. And nobody is more deadly with the ball in his hand late than Trey Burke. He is even a savvy defender with a habit of pick-pocketing point guards in the backcourt and (surprisingly, given his size) blocking shots.

Burke has been so good this season that by the Big Ten tournament I wasn't sure what was making me root for the team more, a love of Michigan basketball or a desire to see Trey Burke in a Michigan uniform a little bit longer. Anyone who doesn't know about Burke at this point, or hasn't seen it with their own eyes is going to get quite a show.

3. If the Wolverines were a beer, they'd be ...

Despite the fact that I run a blog that is predicated around beer consumption, I'm pretty terrible at these beer comparisons. It wouldn't be a very strong beer, so IPAs are out. Probably some sort of amber ale or wheat beer, something that packs a lot of taste but doesn't always do the trick when its real cold (February, anyone?) and you want a strong beer. So probably something like Fat Tire.

4. Which of the other three remaining Big Ten teams scare you the most?

Until Michigan beats Indiana, the Hoosiers remain the most daunting of Big Ten teams.

In order of scariest to least: Indiana, MSU, OSU. The Buckeyes are good and have improved on defense, but they still have offensive deficiencies that can be taken advantage of, and of the 80 minutes the two teams played this year, Michigan probably played better for more than 60 of them. Michigan State has the post presence and rebounding to attack Michigan's poor interior defense and limit transition opportunities, but Michigan showed it could play with and beat MSU in Ann Arbor.

That leaves Indiana, the team Michigan has had no answer for so far this year. The Hoosiers are a good, disruptive defensive team, and a capable offensive team that can go on scoring runs as well as or better than Michigan's offense. Until Michigan beats Indiana, the Hoosiers remain the most daunting of Big Ten teams.

5. Show us a GIF that exemplifies this year's season:

I'd like to say it is the McGary .gif from last Saturday when he flattened that VCU player on the screen, but Michigan has gotten flattened a few times itself, so that would be a disingenuous choice.

It is probably this one:


(courtesy of MGoBlog)

Michigan is in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in almost two decades, the Wolverines played in some of the most exciting and high stakes games I can remember as a basketball fan, and the whole thing is led by Trey Burke, who I've already fawned over enough.

Yeah, those are about as good a list of reasons to dance as any.

Although if you want to look at some of the disappointment of the season compared to the heights Michigan reached early, you might pick this gem from MGoBlog:


I'm an optimist -- at least when it comes to Michigan basketball after the last decade and a half of purgatory -- so I'll stick with the first one.