Throughout the college basketball regular season, the Big Ten’s lack of quality teams has been a talking point. A conference that normally gets 7-8 teams in the NCAA tournament per year only got four in this year and the preseason conference favorite was quite underwhelming all year.
Teams like Northwestern, Maryland and Minnesota all came into the year with high expectations and talented teams and all missed the tournament and had very disappointing seasons. Other teams like Indiana, Iowa and Illinois had expectations for a good season and a chance at the tournament all finished at the bottom of the Big Ten
The four teams that made the tournament for the conference were Michigan State, Michigan, Purdue and Ohio State. Michigan State and Purdue were both predicted to finish at the top of the conference while Ohio State and Michigan exceeded expectations and played above their preseason prediction. Even though Michigan State was a three seed and had a good season, many still felt that they underachieved as they only beat three tournament teams and struggled at times throughout the season. They were widely expected to be a championship contender, only to fall to Syracuse in the round of 32 in a huge upset. Coach Izzo and the Spartans have to be somewhat disappointed on how the season ended.
For Purdue, they were also expected to be a championship contender as a two seed and they made a run to the Sweet 16 where they fell to Texas Tech. They lost their starting center Isaac Haas in the first round to a fractured elbow and it would have been interesting to see how far they could have gone with him in the lineup. Nonetheless, they fell in the Sweet 16
For Ohio State, they were projected to be a bottom dweller in the Big Ten this season after they lost players to transfer, the draft and lost their head coach after a season where they missed the NCAA tournament and NIT tournament. However, due to the superb coaching of Chris Holtmann and the senior leadership of Kieta Bates-Diop, JaeSean Tate and Kam Williams, they made the tournament safely and soundly as a five seed. They beat South Dakota State in the first round but fell in a close back and forth match up against a talented Gonzaga team. All in all, it was a huge year for the Buckeyes and set themselves up well for the future, but still failed to make a run in the tournament.
Now, on to the Michigan Wolverines. After they won the Big Ten tournament many felt they had the talent and specifically the defense to make a great run in the NCAA tournament. They have proven that to be true and have gone on a fantastic and fun to watch run to the Final Four. They will play Loyola-Chicago in the National Semifinals and then if they win, will move on to play Villanova or Kansas in the National Championship game.
A championship for the Big Ten this year would be absolutely huge. In a year where they were one the worst power 5 conferences (Pac 12 wasn’t too great either) and they got their lowest number of bids since 2008, they have a chance to still grab a national championship for the conference and could change the opinion of the conference from the public eye, even if it is only a little bit.