The tournament is heeeereeee!!!
I’ve always felt that, while the brackets and wall-to-wall games are lots of fun, the best thing about the tourney is getting to see teams from other conferences, and particularly those unfamiliar teams face teams from the conference we’re most familiar with.
This year should be particularly interesting in that sense. In 2016-17, the Big Ten wasn’t what has been the past few seasons. No team was truly dominant from wire to wire, and several teams made surprising runs throughout the year. What that means is that the matchups we can expect are going to be very interesting, especially early on in the tournament.
Let’s take a look at how the Big Ten compares to other conferences heading into the postseason.
Conference Postseason Comparison:
- NCAA Tournament Bids/Seeds: (4) Purdue, (5) Minnesota, (7) Michigan, (6) Maryland, (8) Northwestern, (8) Wisconsin and (9) Michigan State.
- NIT Bids/Seeds: (1) Iowa, (2) Illinois and (3) Indiana.
This is a pretty solid showing for a conference probably in a down year. The best part about it is that Northwestern made their first NCAA tournament in school history. Of course, they’ll play Vanderbilt, which we’ll dub “The Genius Bowl.”
- NCAA Tournament Bids/Seeds: (2) Duke, (5) Virginia, (9) Virginia Tech, (3) Florida State, (5) Notre Dame, (2) Louisville, (8) Miami, (1) North Carolina and (11) Wake Forest (lost to Kansas State in a First Four matchup on Tuesday evening).
- NIT Bids/Seeds: (1) Syracuse, (6) Georgia Tech and (2) Clemson.
The ACC has the most bids of any conference in the NCAA tournament, including a number one seed in North Carolina. They were probably the best conference in the country this year.
- NCAA Tournament Bids/Seeds: (1) Kansas, (3) Baylor, (4) West Virginia, (5) Iowa State, (10) Oklahoma State, (11) Kansas State.
- NIT Bids/Seeds: (4) TCU.
Kansas State beat Wake Forest in the First Four to get into the field. Aside from that, the Big 12 ended up being just about the status quo.
- NCAA Tournament Bids/Seeds: (2) Arizona, (3) UCLA, (3) Oregon, (11) USC.
- NIT Bids/Seeds: (1) Cal, (3) Utah, (5) Colorado.
USC plays Providence in a First Four matchup tonight in Dayton. If they win, they’ll join a group of Pac 12 teams that packs a punch, but is underwhelming in terms of numbers. Arizona is expected to make a deep run, as is UCLA.
- NCAA Tournament Bids/Seeds: (4) Florida, (7) South Carolina, (2) Kentucky, (9) Vanderbilt, (8) Arkansas.
- NIT Bids/Seeds: (2) Georgia, (3) Alabama, (5) Ole Miss.
South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Arkansas were the big surprises this year in the SEC. No one thought much of them coming into the year, and they made their way into the tourney. Michigan fans know first hand just how good South Carolina can be.
Sure, the Big Ten probably wasn’t what it had been in the past few seasons. But, it was still good. I think that the perception of the conference is really driven by its top few programs. When Indiana, Michigan State and Ohio State are going through down years, outsiders will look at the conference differently.
Now, a number of the conference’s usual heavy-hitters–Michigan, Wisconsin, Purdue, Maryland–had great seasons, and made the tournament because of it. But, can you imagine the Big Ten’s current field, plus Indiana and OSU? That would be insane.
Instead, Minnesota and Northwestern had their best seasons in a while and made it into the tournament. What I’m trying to say here is that the conference isn’t down. Rather, a few of its major programs are, which is hurting the way people view it.
The ACC probably has the strongest group of teams in both the tournament and the NIT. Nobody should disagree with that. (I totally have UNC winning the entire tournament in all three of my brackets). The Big Ten, however, isn’t all that far behind. The difference is that their top programs (save for Syracuse) made it into the field.
This should be a very exciting tournament for the Big Ten.