MBB: Postseason Implications: Lack of the Big Ten Elite
Big Ten basketball is normally one of the best conferences around, as numerous high-profile teams play within the conference. Indiana, Michigan State and Wisconsin are the normal powerhouse teams that rule the Big Ten with ACC addition Maryland adding another storied program.
This year is a little different, as no current team in the conference is deemed as elite. The selection committee released a mid-season bracket of the top 16 teams this past weekend without Big Ten representation.
The lack of a Big Ten team amongst the elite is surprising as there is always one team in the conference that seems to take that honor. Michigan State and Wisconsin were the teams to beat in the Big Ten for the past three years as they were consistently amongst the top 10.
It is even stranger that the ACC is so strong, having five teams within the top 16, considering the ACC-Big Ten challenge is almost even. The top team in the Big Ten is Wisconsin, but the Badgers got demolished in Maui by North Carolina in a game that the score looks better than the game.
The 15-point loss looks good, but it was almost 25 with about 1:30 remaining and the bench players were put in. The Badgers also lost to Creighton on the road, missing another opportunity to win a marquee game.
Purdue has the best resume of any team in the conference, as they beat Wisconsin and Notre Dame. Games against Louisville and Villanova could haunt the Boilermakers as they were so close to knocking off either team.
Indiana has the best nonconference wins of any team in the conference, as they beat Kansas and North Carolina. In a normal year, that would make the Hoosiers the elite team in the Big Ten.
Unfortunately, they lost to Fort Wayne and currently have 11 losses on the season. At this point in the season, Indiana would be lucky if they made the NCAA Tournament, as their RPI is in the 70s.
Outside of Indiana, no other team has done a whole lot in the nonconference with teams like Maryland playing a fairly easy nonconference schedule. In fact, the Terrapins lost a home game to ACC bottom dwelling Pittsburgh.
The conference has lots of good teams, but none have really done anything to truly separate themselves from each other. Wisconsin is close, but losing to Northwestern puts them right back in the thick of things.
Purdue can establish itself as one of the elite in the nation, but losses to teams like Nebraska hold the Boilermakers down. Every loss to a sub-par team takes away a team’s credibility of being elite.
Top teams in the Big Ten continually lose to the bottom-dwellers, leaving the conference with a bunch of very good teams. That is good for conference play, but the elite teams are the ones that succeed in the tournament.
Last season was the first since 2011 the Big Ten did not have a team make the Final Four. No team in the Big Ten looks like they will make the Final Four, making it the first time since 2003-2004 the conference will go two years without making the Final Four.
Joe Esquivel-Murphy is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email email@example.com.