Who says we can't write about basketball on OTE? With Spring Practice not quite heating up yet and some excellent storylines to be discussed, I wanted to ponder a little bit of media/reality disconnect I've been seeing regarding the B1G's basketball conferences.
Early this month, I read a few articles claiming the B1G is the best conference in college basketball. I was a tad surprised, well more than a tad surprised, because after watching a ton of games this year, I felt like the B1G wasn't that strong a conference. Sure we have tenacious Michigan, peaking Michigan State, and uber-talented OSU. But beyond them, very few teams strike me as dangerous or even Tourney worthy. These teams just don't pass the "do they look like an NCAA team" test. The conference as a whole plays defense well, which is important and half the battle, but...Illinois? Dead in the water. Purdue? Limping. Wisconsin? Cannot score the basketball.
My fears were confirmed today when "the best conference in the NCAA" was given only three locks for the NCAA Tourney by the SI Bubble Watch expert. Indiana and Wisconsin are "probably in", but not locks, according to this expert. The other possible four teams (Purdue, NW, Illinois, Minnesota) are closer to not making the Tourney...than to making it.
So what did we learn here?
It should be markedly obvious that the Big Ten is not in fact the dominant conference in college basketball. Our national championship results (no title since 2000, and before that, 1989) plus our Final Four presence of late (MSU and...) plus the amount of teams we're pushing into the Tourney this year, doesn't exactly equal dominance.
When the Mountain West may qualify as many Tourney teams as the SEC and the Pac 12 could qualify two teams overall, it should ALSO be markedly obvious that there is no dominant conference in the country. And any discussion of the Big East's tremendous depth is always colored by the huge amount of teams in that conference. Parity truly reigns across the basketball landscape, something we already knew coming off a 2011 Final Four that involved VCU and Butler.
There is one more issue this season taking down our national profile - disappointing teams. I would place Minnesota, Illinois, and Purdue squarely in that group, although I'm sure an argument could be made that Purdue has lost key players and lacks depth, thus their in-conference struggles could be expected.
Illinois has tremendous physical talent, it seems, but no cohesive offensive game and little defensive presence. The label of underachieving is never one you want to put on that program, but it's a great basketball school with fertile recruiting fields to sow, so I ask: What's the problem here?
Debbie Downer-ing aside, I don't want to piss on anyone's parade too much. This season has been so much fun, especially if you like defense and low scoring close games. We should start a whole other discussion thread just to discuss Coach of the Year: Does it have to be Izzo (from unranked to Top 10)? What about Fran McCaffery, winning games that this team doesn't deserve to win?
BONUS OTE FEATURE - My Three Favorite B1G Moments So Far
Michigan beating Ohio State at home. Well, of course I'm going to love that moment, but still, this was the biggest win for the Michigan basketball program since...the 90's?
Every game involving Draymond Green. He's running away with B1G POY because he's the glue guy and the star at the same time.
The Matt Gatens three point explosion against Indiana the other night. Last game I watched involving Iowa, they were getting beat by 40 at the Breslin. I turn around and BAM, Gatens goes off for 30. Beautiful.