I have been following college basketball this year with a fair amount of regularity, but one glance at my bracket, and everyone else’s bracket, tells me that Big Ten Basketball was completely over-sold this season.
The Big Ten Conference had half of the one and two seeds, yet only one team is still standing. It turns out that nine of the Big Ten teams were given bids to the March Madness NCAA Tournament.
Those teams consisted of Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Purdue, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Rutgers, Maryland, and Michigan State. Only Michigan has survived and made it to the Sweet 16.
Ohio State and Purdue lost first-round games. Ohio fell to 15th seeded Oral Roberts, and Purdue lost to 13th seed, North Texas. In the second round, both highly touted teams, Illinois (1) and Iowa (2), lost in heavy upsets.
What is interesting is that all the analytics and computer models projected that the Big Ten teams were really good. Yet, because of Covid-19, they played games in pared-down, non-conference schedules at the beginning of the season.
So, when they started playing each other, the play seemed more difficult than it really was, and the teams seemed better than they really were. This resulted in the KenPom rankings, which I always considered to be the gold standard for rankings, listing 6 of the top 15 teams as Big Ten teams.
I have heard it said that during March Madness, anything can happen due to the single-elimination format. Any team can lose on an off day.
Maybe that is why it is called “March Madness.” But here, it was more than a one-off day. Here, the teams fell one after another in early rounds of play. Watching them, one after another, put up poor performances makes me believe that they were overrated. They just seemed so slow.
Michigan is the Big Tens’ final and only hope. Interestingly, the Wolverines were the highest-seeded Big Ten team even though things seemed uncertain due to the stress injury sustained by Isaiah Livers, their star forward.
With Isaiah Livers out, their way forward was not a sure thing, and in fact, they had a very tough, close game against LSU (58-54).
But in the game against LSU, Michigan senior wing Chaundee Brown scored a season-high 21 points, rising to the occasion and helping Michigan take the win and advancing to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time. This Sunday, with the elite 8 on the line, the Michigan Wolverines will face the Florida State Seminoles.
Florida State is making its 3rd trip to the Sweet 16. They are a strong, athletic team. A few years ago, Florida State lost to Michigan in the same round. According to FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton, “When you look at Michigan…they have done a tremendous job.
They are very well-coached. They are loaded with talent. They execute very well. They play with a lot of pride, representing…the maize and blue. I know Juwan is going to have his kids ready….in order for us to be successful, we’ve got to be our best.”
Will Michigan be able to save the Big Ten? I’ll be watching at 5 pm on Sunday, hoping that Michigan can hold on as the favorite to beat the Seminoles.
Maybe Michigan can survive to show that the Big Ten wasn’t altogether a sham this season. With their demise, the Big Ten might go down as the most overrated conference of all time.