photo: SI.com, mlive.com
by: Steve Tichenor
I guess BIG 10 basketball isn’t all that bad. The critics were certainly taking their swings all season, insisting it was a down year. It even came down to SB Nation’s blog for Alabama, The Crimson Quarry, calling the BIG 10 “historically” bad in late January.
The Big 10 conference had only three ranked teams in the top 25 entering the tournament. Purdue was the highest at #15, with Michigan at #23 and Wisconsin at #25. Wouldn’t you know, they all made the Sweet 16. And for two teams it was done the hard way. Wisconsin who was clearly better than an eighth seed knocked off the #1 seed and defending champs, Villanova by shooting 53%. Michigan, won the Big 10 conference tournament. The tournament committee was so unimpressed they slapped them with a 7th seed. It may have taken an airplane skidding off the runway to fuel the Wolverines resurgence but the boys from Ann Arbor were lethal from the perimeter. They shot #2 seed Louisville out of the building. Purdue got the most respect with a #4 seed, and took care of business with favorable match ups against Vermont and Iowa State.
It’s actually a pretty even representation from the big conferences. Heading into the Sweet 16, The Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC all have three teams. The Big East has two and the always celebrated ACC has one. That’s right one! As much as the West Coast Conference with Gonzaga.
Let’s be clear, three teams in the sweet 16 is nice but not extraordinary. But when your conference is getting trashed all year for being “down” or “weak” it’s kinda nice to see you are at least on par with the rest. Hear that critics? How about giving the ACC or the Big East a little heat for now?
No conference is ready for a victory lap. We have a long way to go, so we’ll see how things shake out. In the end, it comes down to who’s on top come April 3rd in Phoenix.