Year in and year out everyone tries to project how the upcoming season will play out. Some people utilize formulas and advanced statistics to calculate projections while others base their predictions on their personal opinions and what they've seen so far. The reality is, no matter how accurate any projections are or how informed the person making the predictions is, things never pan out as they should.
So that leaves us with Wisconsin Badgers, a team that just got edged out of the Final Four by Kentucky and returns pretty much everyone heading into the 2014-15 season. With last year's success, the returning talent and Bo Ryan as coach, the Badgers have become the overwhelming favorite to win the Big Ten according to pretty much everyone, fan and expert alike.
The question is does this even matter?
Wisconsin may be the overwhelming favorite, but two years ago everyone rode Indiana's high horse as not only the best team in the Big Ten, but likely the best team in the nation. The Hoosiers did end up winning the conference but couldn't make it past the Sweet 16. Michigan State found themselves in a similar position last year as they were the heavy Big Ten favorite and seen as a legit Final Four contender.And when Michigan State look decidedly average and entirely beatable, excuse after excuse was used to justify that they'd eventually get it together. And while they picked things up at the end, they still finished three games back of conference champion Michigan and lost in the Elite 8.
That leaves Wisconsin, the team predicted by pretty much everyone to win the Big Ten and a favorite to return to the Final Four. But does it matter? For whatever reason the conference has seen quite a bit of parity, with the bottom feeders capable of knocking off the top teams and no one being able to dominant the conference. Beating up on each other has become second nature and at the end of the day the team to win the conference likely could be whatever program gets hot early in 2015. Look no further than last season when a Michigan team won the conference even though their non-conference run had people questioning if they were even a lock to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
And of course once the season ends things go out the window all together. More often then not the "best" team during the regular season means nothing come March and April. Last year was a great example of this, with Connecticut closing out the regular season by losing to Louisville by 33 points. That Huskies program would go on to win the NCAA Tournament, something practically no one predicted would happen. Kind of like when a mid-major program named Butler found their way to the title game in back-to-back seasons.
My point? Wisconsin may be the favorite to win the Big Ten and are the preseason favorite out of the Big Ten when it comes to the team with the best chance at a title. That being said, it's October...and none of it will matter come winter. Hell, if Wisconsin dominates this February it will mean absolutely nothing when the postseason begins. So while it seems like everyone is almost dismissing the idea of anyone else winning the Big Ten, it's the preseasons...and if recent history means anything, it's to expect the unexpected.
Especially in the Big Ten.
Also, SB Nation web site Bucky's Fifth Quarter introduced the T-rank yesterday and it's a very worthwhile read that ranks the teams in the conference, as well as probabilities for conference wins for every team. And for what it's worth, while my above post seems down on Wisconsin, I do think they'll win the conference. At the same time, though, I also thought Michigan State would win last the Big Ten last season. Just like everyone else did.