The NCAA Tournament is put up or shut up time. All year we hear about teams and conferences, and then March Madness comes and separates the pretenders from the contenders.
This year, there’s been a lot of talk — from people not named Charles Barkley — about the Big Ten being the best conference in basketball. Seven teams from the Old Conference made it to the Big Dance, and so far they’re represented the league well. The Big Ten’s record after the round of 64 is 6-1, with the only hiccup being Wisconsin’s dismal performance against Mississippi in a game where the Badgers simply could not put the ball into the basket. The Big Ten’s top-seeded teams, Indiana and Ohio State, both won by wide margins, Michigan State and Michigan played well in convincing wins, Illinois survived some poor shooting to beat Colorado, and Minnesota spanked UCLA in a surprising upset. Other conferences that were touted prior to the tournament, such as the Big East and the Mountain West, did not fare so well during the first round of play.
The great thing about the NCAA Tournament, of course, is that everything can turn on a dime. All of these Big Ten teams could lose their next game — and if that happens the conference will be viewed as an overrated paper tiger. For now, the Big Ten has 6 teams in the round of 32, and that’s not bad.