The final USA Today Coaches Poll released the day after the NCAA D-I national championship basketball game is not one of the more highly anticipated polls among basketball fans, but it is useful to take a quick glance and see how teams performed in the tournament compared to their expectations going in. It's also worth comparing it to the preseason poll and see how squads performed compared to the expectations prior to the first tip-off of the 2015-16 season. Six Big Ten teams ended up in the final top 25, while no other teams in the conference received votes.
The Iowa Hawkeyes managed to stick around in the top 25 at the 25th spot despite their first weekend exit from the tournament. Fran McCaffrey's team got a double scoop of Philadelphia Big Five opponents, which was appropriate considering McCaffrey played college basketball for the Penn Quakers. Adam Woodbury's buzzer-beating tip-in in overtime took down the Temple Owls 72-70. Sunday in Brooklyn did not go as well for the Hawkeyes, as they ran into the eventual national champion Villanova who buzz-sawed them 87-68.
Greg Gard and the Wisconsin Badgers jumped into the top-25 following an unexpected Sweet Sixteen run, finishing 23rd. Wisconsin likely would have ended up at or above their preseason ranking of 17 had they been able to hold on to their final minute lead over Notre Dame in their Sweet 16 game, but even a Top 25 finish did not seem like a reasonable goal following a struggle-filled start and the December departure of Bo Ryan. The coaches voting in the poll were able to overlook Wisconsin's brutally ugly 47-43 win over Pittsburgh thanks to Bronson Koenig and the thrilling 66-63 upset of Xavier in the second round.
The Purdue Boilermakers suffered the largest drop of any top 25 team in the final poll, falling nine spots to 19th after their first-round upset at the hands of Arkansas-Little Rock. It took two overtimes for the Trojans to secure the 85-83 victory, but it was a truly disappointing loss for the Boilermakers as they were unable to hold onto a 13-point lead in the final 3:33 of regulation. Purdue overall had a solid year, and Matt Painter's team slightly over-performed their preseason ranking of 24. Ending the year with a loss in the Big Ten Championship and a first-round exit in the tournament is a tough way to finish the season, but hope springs eternal and the Boilermakers are showing up in early 2017 top-25 projections.
Mark Turgeon and the Maryland Terrapins jumped up five spots from 17th to 12th in the final poll by virtue of avoiding the upset bug, taking care of South Dakota State and Hawaii in the first weekend of the tournament. In the Sweet 16 battle of preseason top-five squads, Kansas showed they were most deserving of their high preseason ranking by taking control late against the Terrapins to win 79-63. Turgeon was unable to mold his roster of talented players into an elite team, but they racked up 27 wins and should have enough returning to be a team in the hunt again next year.
Checking in at 9th are the Indiana Hoosiers. Tom Crean's team made quick work of Chattanooga in the first round and defeated Kentucky 73-67 in the highly-anticipated second round matchup. They weren't able to keep up with eventual national runner-up North Carolina on the scoreboard in their Sweet 16 matchup, and the Hoosiers' season ended with a 101-86 defeat in Philadelphia. Indiana did reasonably well considering the difficult tournament draw. Hoosier fans will dearly miss Yogi Ferrell, but the skies are blue in Bloomington and 2016-17 is shaping up to be a special season in Hoosierland.
That brings us to the sixth and highest ranked Big Ten squad, the Michigan State Spartans at 7th. The polled coaches weren't too hard on the Big Ten Tournament champions after their 90-81 first round exit at the hands of Middle Tennessee State, dropping Tom Izzo's club five spots from 2nd. Overall, the Spartans outperformed their preseason ranking of 13; the early tournament exit and a stretch of losses in January conference play were the only negatives in another highly successful year of basketball in East Lansing. No team in the nation looked better than the Spartans in February and early March; they were blowing the doors off of most of their fellow Big Ten teams with a slew of 15+ point victories.