Since 2010, the Big Ten has been one of the most dominating conferences in college basketball. The conference sent a total of six teams to the Final Four, many more to the NCAA Tournament, and has consistently been rated as one of the strongest leagues in the country by the advanced stats.
Even in a conference with as much history as the Big Ten, it's been a remarkable run.
Unfortunately, that reputation has chipped away some over the last two seasons. The addition of Rutgers really damaged the conference's overall ratings, teams like Illinois, Minnesota, and Penn State have continued to struggle, and the Big Ten just hasn't had a deep group of serious title contenders. Seriously speaking, the success of Wisconsin over the last two years and Michigan State's Final Four run last season covered up many of these issues.
At least until this weekend.
On Selection Sunday, the Big Ten was able to land seven teams in the field, but many felt that the conference had been underseeded. Only one team (No. 2 seed Michigan State) was seeded higher than a No. 5 seed and it looked like the vast majority of the teams would have trouble even making it past the first weekend.
It wasn't just one or two teams either. Michigan State probably deserved a No. 1 seed and ended up as a No. 2, the Big Ten regular season champions (Indiana) got placed as a No. 5 seed, and a Michigan team with better numbers than teams like Syracuse was put into the First Four.
Nonetheless, after one weekend, those seedingss aren't looking as crazy now.
Although the conference did get Indiana, Maryland, and Wisconsin into the Sweet 16, it's hard to view last weekend as a great success for the conference. Michigan State and Purdue got upset in the Round of 64 by teams each should have blown out, Michigan blew a first half lead to an underwhelming Notre Dame team in the Round of 64, and Iowa was blown off the court by Villanova on Sunday in the Round of 32.
Generally speaking, getting three teams to the Sweet 16 is a pretty good performance. After all, the ACC is the only conference that has more teams (six) in the Sweet Sixteen than the Big Ten this season. Plus, from a seeding perspective, the Big Ten was actually only projected to send one team to the Sweet 16.
However, it's not what happened, but how it happened.
As nice as it was to get three teams to the Sweet 16, the only Big Ten teams that really did anything significant were Indiana and Wisconsin. Both teams beat quality opponents, highlighted by No. 2 seed Xavier and No. 4 seed Kentucky and really played well. The Terps also made the Sweet 16, but got gifted with a matchup against Hawaii thanks to a California upset. Maryland did get two wins, but beating Hawaii and South Dakota State isn't exactly that impressive.
On top of this, the Big Ten also took a huge hit to its Final Four and championship hopes. It wouldn't be shocking to see a Big Ten team continue its run, but the only Big Ten team favored in its Sweet 16 matchup is Wisconsin and the Badgers are narrow 52 percent favorites over Notre Dame according to KenPom. As such, i's actually pretty reasonable to think the Big Ten sends no teams to Houston.
The Final Four isn't everything, but if the conference doesn't send a team for just the second time since 2008 and again continues its national title drought, it's hard to feel too great about things, especially with the way the ACC and Big 12 have been performing so far. Whether right or wrong, people are going to look at the Final Four to evaluate conferences and if the Big Ten is left out, that's not going to be a good look.
With three teams in the Sweet 16, there's no way to view last weekend as a failure for the Big Ten. However, with the tough matchups coming up for the three teams this weekend, the Big Ten's opening weekend could very well mean that the conference doesn't send a team to Houston.
Don't rule anything out just yet, but if the Big Ten is going to continue arguing its one of the best conferences in the country, it's going to need some good fortune this weekend.