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The Front Row: Dr. Dime here for your NCAA fever

By Todd Jones • Mar 15, 2017 at 3:30 PM

Is there a doctor in the house?


Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

I've got a fever, and it has nothing to do with a need for more cowbell.

Oh, wait, Dr. Dime can help me with this raging fever for the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Dr. Dime is a local friend who loves hoops and who, shall we say, knows all the pluses and minuses before each matchup. He often has to duck away for a phone call.

After enduring a brutal Big Ten season, I decided to call Dr. Dime and see if he could help me forecast how each of the league's seven teams that earned NCAA tournament berths will fare.

The Big Ten hasn't won a national championship in basketball since 2000 when Michigan State took the crown under a much-younger Tom Izzo.

Don't look for the streak to end this year either.

No Big Ten teams made it past the Sweet 16 of last season's NCAA tournament, and that might be the case again in the coming days because of the league's mediocrity. (Tremendous parity, the coaches say.)

My eyes are glazed after watching a Big Ten season in which just about every team looked the same. By the end, I couldn't tell Minnesotawisconsinmichiganstate from Michiganmarylandnorthwestern.

So, for entertainment purposes only, here is how Dr. Dime sees the Big Ten performing against first-round opponents and thereafter:


4 seed, 25-7 overall, regular-season Big Ten champion at 14-4

The Boilermakers play No. 13 Vermont (29-5) on Thursday

Dr. Dime: "I'm actually a big fan of Purdue. They got a top-20 offense (in Kenpom.com rankings), a top-20 defense, and they have great inside play with Caleb Swanigan. They've got underrated players in both Edwards' (Vincent and Carsen). They've got Dakota Mathias. I kind of like Purdue to possibly come out of that bracket (for the Final Four). Purdue is the one Big Ten team I'm high on.

"My thing with Vermont is Vermont is just an inside scoring tm. They don't shoot threes. They just grind inside. Purdue loves that. Vermont is not going to beat Purdue. Vermont will try to pass the ball down low, and that plays right into Purdue's hands. I don't think they're going to get anywhere with Purdue."

"The thing with Purdue is: are their guards good enough? I kind of think they are. Mathias is the X factor. It's definitely a question of is their offense good enough? They've got a great defense. Can they score enough? But I really like their first matchup this weekend, man."

The pick: Purdue 74, Vermont 65


5 seed, 24-9, 11-7

The Gophers play No. 12 Middle Tennessee State on Thursday

Dr. Dime: "Ummm . . . I don't really like Minnesota. They get Middle Tennessee State, who beat Izzo when Izzo actually had a good team last year. They got some experience, three guys back from that team. Middle Tennessee State beat Vanderbilt by 23. They beat UNC-Wilmington. They played VCU pretty tight. Minnesota, honestly, lost (Akeem) Springs, their guard, a couple games ago. He was their best three point-shooters on the road.

"To me, Minnesota is a team that's happy to be there, and Middle Tennessee is a team with experience. I like teams with tournament experience. Experience in the tournament is a big deal. You always have a 12 beat a 5, and that's the 12 beating 5 that I like. Vegas has them as a pick 'em (Note: this is not an endorsement for gambling.)

"I do like Minnesota's inside guys. I would say right now Minnesota is a very dangerous team in next year's tournament. This year seems like one-and-done."

The pick: Middle Tennessee State 70, Minnesota 67


6 seed, 24-8, 12-6

The Terrapins play No. 11 Xavier (21-13) on Thursday

Dr. Dime: "I'm not a huge fan of Maryland because of the way they finished down the stretch. That's a key thing to look at. However, they're playing a team that was 3-7 down stretch with key injuries suffered, especially to (Edmond) Sumner, their best player.

"(Maryland point guard) Melo (Trimble) has played in five tournament games and he's averaged 20 in those games. Maryland has won first-round games both years with Melo. To me, where you beat Maryland is on the boards. The best rebounder on Xavier is that (Tyrique) Jones kid, and he's been in concussion protocol. Can Xavier take advantage of Maryland on the boards? I don't know if they can.

"I just like Melo, man. He's experienced, scores 20 a game, and is ready to roll. Xavier's team is a little wounded. Look at their wins. They've beaten DePaul about 50 times. They really haven't done anything other than beat butler in a low-scoring game.

"Maryland is in Arizona's bracket. I don't see them getting past Arizona in any way. They would potentially have Florida State in the second round, and they could sneak past Florida State. I don't like Florida State, but I'd rate Florida State-Maryland as a toss-up. Maybe Maryland gets by them, but there's no way they beat Ariz, and even if they did, no way they beat Gonzaga."

The pick: Maryland 77, Xavier 73


7 seed, 24-11, 10-8 and Big Ten tournament champion

The Wolverines play No. 10 Oklahoma State (20-12) on Friday

Dr. Dime: "Everybody loves Michigan. Oh, they're so hot. Their plane skidded off the runway. Blah blah blah. They have a toss-up game with Oklahoma State, for sure. The things Michigan does well, Oklahoma State does better. Michigan is all offense. They're number 5 in offensive efficiency Oklahoma State is number one. Oklahoma State is basically the Big 12 version of Michigan. And Oklahoma State is number 6 in offensive rebounding and Michigan is 294 in offensive rebounding.

"Oklahoma State plays fast. Michigan plays slow. Oklahoma State won at West Virginia, which is not an easy place to win. They got the best guy on the court in Jawun Evans. I got Oklahoma State. But let me say this about Michigan: if they beat Oklahoma State, I think they could definitely outscore Louisville. I think it's kind of a good matchup for Michigan against Louisville, and then they're in the Sweet 16."

The pick: Oklahoma State 83, Michigan 80


8 seed, 23-11, 10-8

The Wildcats play No. 9 Vanderbilt (19-15) on Thursday

Dr. Dime: "If you like Northwestern and you're enjoying the Northwestern storyline (about its first NCAA tournament berth), make sure you watch the first game because they're only going to play one. When I watch Northwestern, I wonder about who can get their own shot? Who takes you off the bounce for Northwestern? I don't see it. I see a lot of skilled three-point shooters, who am I double-teaming? Vandy has a 7 footer who likes to go outside on the three point line. He'll pull (Derek) Pardon outside. Vanderbilt beat Florida twice and had Kentucky on the ropes. When I saw Northwester on the selection show celebrating and taking picture and getting all this extra media attention, I thought are they really ready to go win a game? No. I like Vandy."

The pick: Vanderbilt 56, Northwestern 50


8 seed, 25-9, 12-6

The Badgers play No. 9 Virginia Tech (22-10) on Thursday

Dr. Dime: "I thought Wisconsin was a little under-seeded. Talk about experience, look at this game for tournament experience. It's a classic example. Wisconsin has tons of experience, seniors like (Bronson) Koenig, (Zak) Showalter, and Nigel Hayes. They've made runs in the tournament. What has Virginia Tech been doing? They made the NIT last year and won 9 or 10 games the year before that. Unless Virginia Tech has some transfers, I don't think they have anyone who has played one second in an NCAA tournament game, and now they're going to play Wisconsin. Who is going to guard (Ethan) Happ for Virginia Tech? This is a good match-up for Wisconsin. I like Wisconsin, but I don't like them against Villanova at all. Villanova is tough as hell."

The pick: Wisconsin 72, Virginia Tech 64

Michigan State

9 seed, 19-14, 10-8

The Spartans play No. 8 Miami (21-11) on Friday

Dr. Dime: "This one could go either way, but I think it's not Michigan State's year. Their freshmen are great, but they turn it over a lot, they've got bad free throw shooting. They're really not that good. To me, how Michigan State wins is by getting into a rock fight with you with defense. I haven't seen a ton of Miami, but they have good guard play, which is key. Miami doesn't have to guard Tum Tum (Nairn Jr.) at all because he can't shoot. So you can double the post.

"A lot of people think Izzo sprinkles fairy dust on his team and they win in March. But (Miami's) Jim Larranaga is a good coach. He took George Mason to the Final Four, which no one has done. I just think Michigan State is one-and-done this year unless their freshmen go off. And if they win one game, then they play Kansas. That's Frank Mason against Tum Tum. Ha-ha-ha."

The pick: Miami 63, Michigan State 58

So there you have it, Dr. Dime has the Big Ten going 3-4 in the first round. Other than Purdue, and maybe Maryland, he expect that there are "going to be a lot of long faces among Big Ten fans."

I trust the doctor. You should, too, when filling out your bracket sheet.

However, I'm not sure how Dr. Dime will be paid based on the new health care bill being tossed around Congress. Are you covered?


Besides the expertise of Dr. Dime, I suggest a couple of other friends for you to get a fix on March Madness, and on sports in general.

Check out the latest The Rob and Mob Show podcast for an entertaining and informative NCAA tournament preview.

You can listen to that episode here.

Rob Havener and Jeremy Lynch are two great guys with local ties, sports journalism backgrounds, and an unmatched passion for sports. They're smart and wicked funny.

For more about the self-described "bad boys of sports broadcasting," go to the Rob and Mob website.


My Dispatch colleague Tim May shares a love with me for all things First Four. We've often tag-teamed the event in Dayton that annually begins the NCAA tournament at historic University of Dayton Arena.

May was in Dayton Tuesday night for the initial double-header, and he'll be there again tonight when the results of two more games shrink the field to 64 teams for a full-slate launch Thursday.

If game one of the tournament is a harbinger, we're in for another wild ride for the next three weeks.

Mount St. Mary's beat New Orleans 67-66 in a battle of 16 seeds that featured a star player for the victorious Mountaineers in 5-foot-5 guard Junior Robinson and two New Orleans teammates who ended up in an altercation. (More on that later in this column).

By winning, Mount St. Mary's advanced to play defending national champion Villanova, the tournament's overall No. 1 seed, in Buffalo on Thursday.

It was nice knowing the Mountaineers.

Bruce Weber, a familiar face to Big Ten fans from his days at Illinois, was the winning coach in the second game.

Weber's Kansas State Wildcats took down Wake Forest, coached by NCAA tournament legend Danny Manning, by a score of 95-88 in a duel between at-large No. 11 seeds.

The victory earned Kansas State a date against sixth-seeded Cincinnati on Thursday in Sacramento, Calif.


Ohio State basketball fans have nothing to cheer about since the Buckeyes didn't even make the Nobody's Interested Tournament, much less the NCAA dance.

But don't despair. Dispatch sports columnist Mike Arace upheld his annual tradition of going through the rosters of the teams in the NCAA field and finding Ohio connections.

Maybe Columbus can adopt one of those players or coaches to root for.

And, hey, Ohio State spring football practice resumes next week!


You're not the only one who had enough of watching the Buckeyes play basketball this season.

Add Trevor Thompson to that list.

Thompson isn't sure if he wants to return for his senior season on the Ohio State team.

The big man plans to enter the NBA draft but still could return to OSU. Thompson, a 7-foot center, went through the draft process last year, too. He averaged 10.6 points and 9.2 rebounds this season.


Thursday will be a huge -- or is it Yuuuuuuge? -- day for the Ohio State men's hockey team.

The third-seeded Buckeyes will play sixth-seeded Michigan State on that day in the first round of the Big Ten tournament at Joe Louis Arena.

OSU (20-10-6) needs a win to helps its NCAA tournament chances.


Bravo: Welcome back to the British Open rotation, Muirfield.

The world's oldest golf club in Scotland can once again host the Open after voting 80.2 percent in favor of allowing women to become members.

And then men at Muirfield went out and discovered fire.

Brick: As mentioned earlier, the New Orleans basketball team had an interesting way of trying to win its First Four game to begin the NCAA tournament. Teammates Travin Thibodeaux and Christavious Gill got into a confrontation on the court.

And they're best friends.

Check out the choke job here:

13: The number of penalties taken by the Blue Jackets in their past two games. They overcame eight in a win at Philadelphia, but five contributed to a loss at Buffalo.

Clean it up, boys.

2: The number of times a Major League Soccer team can unsuccessfully appeal a red card during a season. That's why Crew SC decided not to appeal center back Jonathan Mensah's Week 2 red card, meaning he'll serve a one-0game suspension Saturday at D.C. United.

Quote of the day

Crew captain and midfielder Wil Trapp, a Gahanna native, on signing a multi-year contract with the club through the 2020 season:

"This is home; it's a club that I've obviously grown up with and known for the majority of my life and been fortunate enough to play for, and I want to win here. At the end of the day, that's the most important thing for me, and this contract, this extension, gives me and this club the opportunity to pursue the dreams we have from an individual as well as a collective basis."


Look back: On this day in 1997, North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith eclipsed Adolph Rupp's NCAA division I record of 876 victories when the Tar heels defeated Colorado 73-56 in the NCAA East regional tournament.

North Carolina went on to win two more games in the tournament, reaching the Final Four for the 11th time under Smith. He retired after losing in the semifinals to eventual champion Arizona. His career record was 879-254 (.776).


Thanks for reading. Offer any thoughts about Ohio State, Blue Jackets, Crew SC, and sports in general to me by email or on Twitter at the below addresses. Rock on.




(c)2017 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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