The Big Ten is feeling pretty good about basketball these days. With three teams — Michigan State, Ohio State, and Purdue — in the Sweet 16, the Big Ten has more teams still in contention than any other conference. For a moment, at least, the Big Ten has quieted critics who say that the league pales in comparison to the Big East or the ACC, that Big Ten teams play a boring, bruising style that is not attractive to fans or talented players, and that Big Ten teams underperform in big games.
I’m not sure that you can conclude that the Big Ten was the strongest conference this year based on its performance in the NCAA Tournament, any more than you can argue that the league has sucked in the past based on prior tournament disappointments. The NCAA Tournament often boils down to individual team match-ups that don’t allow for sweeping conclusions about entire leagues. Still, it is gratifying for the Big Ten teams to perform well in the spotlight, and particularly meaningful because Michigan State and Purdue overcame significant injuries in winning their games to advance.
The reality is that the Big Ten plays good, solid basketball and features a number of tough, hard-nosed players who don’t quit. The fact that most Big Ten teams score in the 50s and 60s, and not in the 70s and 80s, does not detract from the high level of play and fine coaching. Perhaps, with this NCAA Tournament, basketball fans outside the Midwest are starting to realize that.
how do you think the big ten will match up this year v. all the other conferences?
I’m going to do a post here on Buckeye basketball, but I would answer your question by saying I think the best teams in the Big Ten — like Michigan State, Illinois, and Ohio State — should be playing as well as just about anyone in the country by the end of the season. There are some other teams in the Big Ten, such as Purdue and Wisconsin and perhaps Minnesota, that might be good but might not. Then, there are teams that seem likely to end up at the bottom of the league.
I don’t think this year’s Big Ten has the same top-to-bottom strength that we saw in the league last year, which was the first year the Big Ten won the Big Ten-ACC challenge. Look for the ACC to resume its winning ways this year.