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Hard to pick favorite in wide-open Big Ten

INDIANAPOLIS — Michigan State's Tom Izzo has never seen anything like this.

He says he can't remember a Big Ten season where the top of the league was so balanced and the bottom-tier teams so competitive. Not since he became a head coach, not since he joined the Michigan State staff in 1986. He believes the Big Ten is the nation's best conference.

"I don't think there's any question, and you'll get arguments until the cows come home about what conference is the best, this and that, I still say, you look top to bottom, and if it isn't the best, this year is the best of the 27 years I've been here," Izzo said.

It also means that the Big Ten tournament, which begins today at Banker's Life Fieldhouse, is one of the most unpredictable ever.

"In years past, you would say, these two teams and maybe a surprise here and there," Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said. "This year, I really wouldn't know what to say. Anybody could beat anybody. I think all the way down, there could be some upsets. It's going to be a fun tournament."

Play begins today when No. 8 seed Iowa faces No. 9 Illinois, followed by No. 5 Indiana against No. 12 Penn State. The evening matchups are No. 7 Northwestern against No. 10 Minnesota and No. 6 Purdue vs. No. 11 Nebraska.

BIG SKY: Kareem Jamar scored 23 and Montana (25-6) beat Weber State 85-66 in the tournament final in Missoula, Mont.

NORTHEAST: Fast-breaking Long Island University (25-8) made it two straight conference titles with a 90-73 victory over Robert Morris in New York.

PATRIOT: Gabe Knutson blocked Cameron Ayers' baseline layup attempt with seven seconds left to help Lehigh (26-7) hold off Bucknell 82-77 to win the league tournament in Lewisburg, Pa.

BIG 12: Dash Harris and Khris Middleton hit key 3-pointers in the last four minutes and Texas A&M (14-17) hit 14 straight free throws to beat Oklahoma 62-53 in the opening round in Kansas City, Mo. … Keiton Page scored 20 and Oklahoma State (15-17) knocked off Texas Tech 76-60.

PAC-12: Oregon State (18-13) won 69-64 over Washington State in the first round in Los Angeles. … UCLA (19-13) recovered from an awful first half to beat USC 55-40. … Chasson Randle scored 27 of his 30 in the first half as Stanford (21-10) beat Arizona State 85-65.

WAIT OVER FOR CRIMSON: Harvard is going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1946. It clinched the Ivy League title Tuesday night when Princeton beat Pennsylvania 62-52.

ARIZONA: Freshman point guard Josiah Turner was suspended for the second time this season for violating team rules.

MINNESOTA: Center Ralph Sampson III (knee) might miss the Big Ten tournament.

Titans fall: Santa Fe beat St. Petersburg 57-56 on a tip-in in the final seconds at the Florida College System Activities Association state tournament in Marianna.

Women

NO. 10 WIS.-GREEN BAY 77, VALPO 53: The host Phoenix (28-1) advanced to the semifinals of the Horizon League tournament.

>>Automatic bids

Men

Belmont Atlantic Sun

Creighton Missouri Valley

Davidson Southern

Detroit Horizon

Harvard Ivy

Lehigh Patriot

LIU Brooklyn Northeast

Loyola (Md.) Metro Atlantic

Montana Big Sky

Murray St. Ohio Valley

St. Mary's (Calif.) West Coast

South Dakota St. Summit

UNC Asheville Big South

VCU Colonial

W. Kentucky Sun Belt

Women

Ark.-Little Rock Sun Belt

BYU West Coast

Connecticut Big East

Dayton Atlantic 10

Fla. Gulf Coast Atlantic Sun

Marist Metro Atlantic

Maryland ACC

Purdue Big Ten

Samford Southern

South Dakota St. Summit

Tennessee SEC

Tenn.-Martin Ohio Valley

Hard to pick favorite in wide-open Big Ten 03/07/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 8, 2012 12:33am]

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