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My journey into Big Ten hoops began some time ago. In fact, despite being a passionate follower of the Michigan Wolverines, it actually began thanks to some March Tournament runs by the Michigan State Spartans at the turn of the century.
Maybe that sounds a bit odd, so give me a second to explain.
If you’ve ever lived or been in Michigan, the college basketball world revolves around two things: March Madness and Michigan vs Michigan State. While March is certainly the focus of college basketball in Michigan (as it is everywhere), it’s the clashes between the Spartans and Wolverines that really get on the radar of fans.
As a kid growing up in the Great Lakes State, it was the passion of that rivalry that really got me hooked. Maybe the rivalry wasn’t all that competitive in the early 2000s (thanks to Michigan State kicking Michigan’s butt), but the passion was there. Even if the Spartans were better, everyone wanted to see if the Wolverines could pull off an upset. After all, smack talk exists for a reason.
And, for the immediate future, that’s how I grew to love college basketball. How I began to look forward to every March. And how I grew to love the passion that Spartan and Wolverines fans displayed leading up to those rivalry clashes.
But when I moved to college, that’s where I truly got to experience the Big Ten.
Luckily for me, I moved to Ann Arbor at a good time for Big Ten basketball. My freshman year was the 2009-’10 season and I graduated in 2013. Of course, as fans around these parts are well aware, that stretch may very well have been the absolute pinnacle of Big Ten basketball in the modern era.
The list of names during those four years is mind boggling. Indiana had an elite roster featuring Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, Ohio State had Jared Sullinger, and Purdue had Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, and E'Twaun Moore. And even schools like Illinois and Minnesota had stars like Brandon Paul and Andre and Austin Hollins.
Oh, and the two in-state rivals? Well, Michigan had a National Player of the Year in Trey Burke and Michigan State had Draymond Green.
Not too bad for the on-court battles.
That’s where it grew for me. And even if part of my passion grew out of the major success of the Wolverines, it was the day-to-day battles in the Big Ten that truly perked my interest. The passion out of places like Bloomington, East Lansing, and Madison was incredible.
In fact, the one game that truly pops out to me was a game from the 2012-’13 season, when No. 1 Michigan traveled to face No. 3 Indiana on the road. While Michigan ended up losing the game, Indiana’s crowd was simply unbelievable. Simply put, if you can watch that game without getting excited, you’re following the wrong sport.
Big Ten basketball may not have the glamour of the ACC or the history of the Big East, but the passion of the fans is what sets it apart. There’s a reason why the Big Ten dominates the nation in attendance every year.
Other leagues might have a place or two that compares, but if you’re a Big Ten team, you expect to see raucous environments in every game. That’s what makes college basketball fun and what makes me love the Big Ten.
So, why do you love Big Ten hoops?
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