Let's talk a little bit about basketball...
Last year, you could very easily make the argument that the Big Ten was the best basketball conference in the nation. At minimum, look no further than the guru of NCAA Basketball statistical models, Jeff Sagarin, and see that the B1G finished atop the conference rankings. Of course, as we all know - especially those of us here for football - it is difficult to judge a conference on the sum of its parts without actually understanding just how good those parts really were. Specifically speaking, there were three Big Ten teams that finished in the Top 9 of the Sagarin ratings, two of which finished in the Top 5. Eight teams of twelve finished in the Top 60 of the rankings, and honestly, that probably still isn't doing the strength of this conference justice.
Well, if we're being honest, 5.7 seconds.
Of the 12 teams in the Big Ten last year, all but three finished with an overall record above .500. Northwestern was .424, and they managed to knock off Wisconsin, Illinois, and Purdue. At points in time last year, the conference slate basically meant that on any given night, you were very likely to lose. This had less to do with some strange sense of weak playing weak that football often seems to suffer from and more to do with the reality that - as our friends from Black Heart Gold Pants pointed out so often - this conference was full of blood and spiders. In fact, with six bids, the Big Ten showed that it was a strong conference from top to bottom and deserved much of the praise we are giving it now.
A missed shot at the buzzer...
So what is the problem?
The problem is that the last time the Big Ten was able to hoist a National Championship banner was 2000, and if you are really the best basketball conference in the nation, it should really back that up with a title in less than fifteen year gaps. Last year, Wisconsin was exactly 5.7 seconds away from a chance to make that streak go away. Up two, they had Kentucky on the ropes. However, as we all know, a lot can happen in those precious 5.7 seconds. A clutch three, and a shot that was inches away from bringing Wisconsin into the title game. Look at it again. Wisconsin was this close.
You can feel the emotions on the player's faces. It sucks to be that close and know that you may not ever get that chance again.
A New Season
Two seasons ago, Off Tackle Empire set out to give our 'Empire' touch to basketball coverage. Sure, this is where you'll still get your football takes, your football Power Polls, your football talk, and your writers who don't watch football, but we all were fans of the best basketball conference in the nation and we had a website, so it worked out. Well, now in our third season, we think we're getting a little bit better. Last year, we started to settle in even more and were able to document a lot of what happened including that crazy run that Wisconsin had. It was lots of fun, and we hope to d even more.
Of course none of this means our football coverage will be going away either, but you'll now start to see a mix of basketball coverage until the end of the year. If you don't like it, just try and avoid the article about basketball. For everyone else, just take a few moments to sort the basketball ones out and make sure to stop by and chat a bit.
Lucky for you, that shouldn't be too big a deal. I'm excited for what this season has to bring. Will Wisconsin make a run at the title again? Can Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State continue to just reload? Can Iowa rebound from a late season slump? How about the state of Indiana? Is Tim Miles that good? Look, there are questions that will need to be answered this year, and we look forward to being one of the voices who shamelessly look to answer them... very often in the moment. But you know what? That's what we're good at.
All of that in mind, we currently are preparing lots of different in-season pieces for basketball, and we're always open to new ideas. If you want to see something, shoot us an email or write a comment. If you have something interesting to say, go into the fanposts. We're always reading through those and some of the best content on OTE is happening over there. Just like the Big Ten, we're excited to see what happens this season, and I think you'll enjoy what we have planned. Look for our first set of previews tomorrow. Happy Basketballing!