It was supposed to be a down year for the Big Ten or at least that’s what many said about the league. But as we enter the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament look who has the most teams left still playing. Well at least tied for the most with three other conferences, but still more then the so-called powerful ACC. That’s right the Big Ten is leading the way in March yet again.
The Big Ten conference was well represented in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, sending five of its seven participants to the second round and from there sending three to the Sweet 16.
Purdue was expected to be playing this weekend as the highest seeded Big Ten team, but Wisconsin and Michigan each pulled off big upsets to keep their seasons alive. All three will enter the Sweet 16 as the lower ranked seeds in their respective matchup, but each will certainly have a chance to move on.
Michigan will take on Oregon and Purdue will battle Kansas on Thursday in the Midwest Region semifinals, and Wisconsin will face Florida out in the East Region. If both Michigan and Purdue were to win in the Sweet 16 then it would set up an all-Big Ten Midwest Region final and guarantee at least one Big Ten team into the Final Four.
But before we get too far with all of that, let’s take a look at how the rest of the conferences did in comparison to the Big Ten.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, the Big Ten tied three other conferences for the most teams playing in the Sweet 16 — the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12. Each league, like the Big Ten, has three teams remaining in the tournament.
Florida, South Carolina and Kentucky are all left for the SEC, which had five teams in the tournament. Higher seeds Florida and Kentucky are no surprise to be still playing but South Carolina certainly raised some eyebrows when they knocked off Duke in the second round.
Well, it at least surprised me — I had Duke winning it all in my bracket. Anytime you send a majority of your teams to the Sweet 16 then it’s a great showing for your league and that was certainly the case for the SEC.
The same can be said for both the Big 12 and Pac-12, who also had strong showings last weekend. The top heavy Pac-12 has Arizona, UCLA and Oregon all remaining with each of those teams able to make it to the Final Four.
The Big 12 is equally loaded at the top of its league with Kansas, Baylor and West Virginia still dancing in the second weekend. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Pac-12 or Big 12 send at least one if not two teams to the Final Four.
So, you know 12 of the 16 teams remaining belong to the Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12, but what about the ACC? I thought that was the best league in all of college basketball? Well, if you go by NCAA Tournament result,s then that’s not the case.
The ACC fell flat on its face last weekend with only one, yes that’s right only ONE, of its nine NCAA Tournament participants making it to the Sweet 16. That lone ACC team is North Carolina.
Duke, Louisville and Florida State were all upset victims in the second round, while Virginia, Miami and Notre Dame experienced double-digit defeats to have their seasons ended. Embarrassment is an understatement for what happened to the ACC this past weekend, and the only way to redeem itself now is to have the Tar Heels go on and win the National Championship.
The remaining three Sweet 16 teams belong to the Big East (Butler and Xavier) and West Coast Conference (Gonzaga). Villanova was expected to be still playing this weekend for the Big East, but not many would had Xavier in the Sweet 16 so that’s a wash. And St. Mary’s gave Arizona a game in the second round so the West Coast Conference has to be happy with where it stands.
The Big Ten stands right up there with all of the other major conferences and should be proud of how the first weekend went. However, if you get embarrassed in all three games this weekend then that’ll go away. I personally don’t see that happening, and even like a few teams to move on to the Elite Eight out of the Big Ten but we’ll see how everything plays out starting tomorrow evening.