(2) Michigan State Spartans
L, (15) Middle Tennessee State, 90-81
(5) Purdue Boilermakers
L, (12) Arkansas-Little Rock, 85-83 (2OT)
(11, Last Four In) Michigan Wolverines
W, (11) Tulsa, 67-62
L, (6) Notre Dame, 70-63
(7) Iowa Hawkeyes
W, (10) Temple, 72-70 (OT)
L, (2) Villanova, 87-68
(5) Maryland Terrapins
W, (12) South Dakota State, 79-74
W, (13) Hawaii, 73-60
L, (1) Kansas, 79-63
(5) Indiana Hoosiers
W, (12) Chattanooga, 99-74
W, (4) Kentucky, 73-67
vs. (1) North Carolina, tonight, 8:57pm, TBS
(7) Wisconsin Badgers
W, (10) Pittsburgh, 47-43
W, (2) Xavier, 66-63
vs. (6) Notre Dame, tonight, 6:27pm, TBS
I bring these (for some) painful losses up not to rub those losses in or claim the world is ending, but to gauge where the Big Ten as a conference stands through two-and-a-half rounds of the NCAA Tournament. As of today, the conference as a whole is rated 4th-best by Sagarin, narrowly beating out the PAC-12 and just trailing the Big East, but quite a ways behind both the ACC (2nd) and the Big XII (1st). StewPoll has the conference at 5th, a full point behind the PAC-12 and far outpaced by the Big XII, ACC, and Big East (go Marquette). Breaking down the teams left by conference, then, we get:
ACC (4): North Carolina, Virginia, Notre Dame, Syracuse
Big XII (3): Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa State
Big Ten (2): Indiana, Wisconsin
PAC-12 (1): Oregon
Big East (1): Villanova
West Coast (1): Gonzaga
Look, the Michigan State loss is a black eye. No one wants to join the ranks of 2013 Georgetown, 2012 Duke or Mizzou, or [/snicker] 2001 Iowa State. Our own Andrew Krapolishsomething wrote about how this is a deep, deep stain on Tom Izzo's legacy at Michigan State. But looking at the blue bloods left in the tournament, how bad a mark on the conference's reputation for having competitive basketball that can never quite break over the top is this?
At this point, I've only been able to break the losses into two categories:
Michigan State, Purdue
Expected but Still Ugly
Iowa, Maryland, Michigan (for the collapse, not the loss)
My question, then, is this: How well would Indiana or Wisconsin need to do to "redeem" the conference's perception based on performance in the 2016 NCAA Tournament?
One of Indiana (the regular-season champion!) or Wisconsin (the always-around-like-shit-on-your-shoe brand of the conference) making the Final Four would at least keep the conference in the conversation long enough that Michigan State not making it would be a bad memory, but still competitive with the best from around the nation.
I would have to see Wisconsin and Indiana both through to this round to make the case that the conference was not as down as some might have you believe. The fourth-best conference (by Sagarin) putting a quarter of the Elite Eight teams through would be enough to stave off some of the #narrative that the conference can't compete on the big stage.
Then again, did you hear Ben Simmons ordered a bowl of soup for lunch today? Here's Jay Bilas with a full breakdown of what that means for his draft stock...
None; It's Damaged Goods
Michigan State (so, so, so many people's champion pick) and Purdue (a dark horse to upset UVA) bombing out meant the conference needed a finalist to even have a shot at not losing face. Maryland's thrashing by KU did nothing to help that, and Iowa's whipping by Villanova just confirmed that the Big Ten plays an ugly style of basketball doomed to irrelevance in March.
If I'm being truly honest, I fall on the side of "fuck you, I hope your team loses because my team can't have anything in March." But thinking (as we try to do once in a while at OTE) about the conference as a whole, I think it's a relevant question to ask of the #B1G #brand. What do you think constitutes a "successful" or "redeemed" March for the conference? Maybe you reject the idea that the Big Ten as a whole looks terrible because of its performance so far in the tournament. Either way, tell us in the comments!