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Big Ten Basketball Power Poll

Now that everyone’s out of the the Big Dance, we review the season that was.

Jelly Belly Candy Factory Churns Out Easter Treats
The couple that gazes upon gigantic Easter bunnies together, stays together.
Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The seasonal candy aisles at your local big box are filled with pastel-colored sugar. Oh, and March Madness and spring and all that crap too. That’s fun. But today, we’re here for the candy, with a side of Big Ten basketball. Is your team a jelly bean or a marshmallow egg? And who ended up with the dubious honor of Peepdom? Read on to find out!

1. Purdue - Cadbury Mini Eggs

Something as horrifying as Purdue Pete doesn’t deserve candy this great, but here we are.

I am 99.9% sure that the “crisp sugar shell” on these babies is crack cocaine, because there is pretty much no stopping with these things once you’ve opened a bag. They’re a dangerous thing to have around the house, and they will destroy you. Or, at any rate, they’ll destroy your diet and your path to the perfect summer beach bod. That Cadbury bunny is a nefarious little dude.

Similarly, most teams found it pretty tough to stop Purdue once they got going, and the Boilermakers dropped only four games in conference play (five if you count the Big Ten Tournament). They were a dangerous thing to have around, and that Caleb Swanigan is a nefarious gigantic dude.

Note: We completed this vote after the first weekend of the Tournament, and thus, none of us had yet seen Purdue get rocked by Kansas to the tune of 32 points in the Sweet Sixteen when we made our picks. If we had, that might have been enough to knock the Boilermakers out of the top spot. But we didn’t, and it wasn’t, and here Purdue is. Sorry. The world is an imperfect place.

2. Michigan - Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs

Pairs beautifully with a nice, cold glass of milk.

I suspect that there will be more than one comment arguing that Reese’s Eggs are far superior to Cadbury Mini Eggs, and thus this entire list is a despicable falsehood and illegitimate. I can live with that, and I stand by my ranking—but I’m not going to ridicule you for your staunch defense of these little peanut butter bombs, because man, are they delicious. Regular Reese’s peanut butter cups are delicious too, of course, but by some strange alchemy, they get even MORE delicious when they’re shaped like an egg. Magic!

Michigan’s regular season was... fine. Maybe even a little disappointing. But boy, did they hit another gear once the post-season started, beginning with a rampage through the Big Ten Tournament. They acquitted themselves well in the Big Dance too, narrowly getting bumped out of the Sweet Sixteen by Final Four team Oregon. Anyway, whatever magic Michigan found at the end of the season worked like gangbusters, and earned the Wolverines the second spot on our list.

3. Wisconsin - Cadbury Creme Eggs

God bless the British.

Have you ever discussed Cadbury Creme Eggs with someone? The conversation, invariably, goes one of two ways:

1. “OMG I loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooove those!!!!!!!!!!!”

2. “Holy sh*t, those are disgusting! They may as well be filled with mayonnaise. So wrong. Eating one makes it feel like your teeth are going to fall out.”

What I’m saying is that it’s rare to meet someone who is neutral on the subject of Cadbury Creme Eggs. There’s just not a lot of middle ground. Likewise, Wisconsin basketball tends to be a program that provokes extreme reactions. Adherents are vociferous in acclamation and arrogance, everyone else is vehement in denunciation and wishes of spectacular failure.

Also, Cadbury in the past few years converted to a different chocolate, made by Hershey’s, for use in their US-sold creme eggs. This was a monumental mistake, and the difference in quality is noticeable for aficionados. Still a tasty treat, but certainly not as great as it was a few years ago. Wisconsin too, while still a solid team, is not what it was a few years ago.

4. Northwestern - Starburst Jelly Beans

All the flavor of Starbursts, without the fun of peeling off waxy paper from every single piece of candy!

Here we have Easter’s most trendy candy. Ask any 20- or 30-something what their favorite Easter candy is, and they’ll affect a detached, disaffected air for said sweets, denouncing creme eggs and Peeps, and then slowly, painfully, confess that they find Starburst jelly beans delicious. There now, Millennial, was that so hard? Candy is delicious. It’s ok to admit that. You can drink your kombucha and eat your Starburst jelly beans too.

Coming to terms that it was, finally and legitimately, THE YEAR for Northwestern basketball was much like that journey of acceptance. You wanted to believe. You really did. And finally, you accepted it, and the relief was so, so sweet. And delicious. Even non-Northwestern fans kind of liked this one, just like pretty much everyone seems to like Starburst jelly beans.

5. Minnesota - SweeTarts Chicks, Ducks, and Bunnies

They’re coming for you, Goldy.

Assorted waterfowl and small furry animals? Sounds like the perfect candy for a fan of a team called the gophers in a land of 10,000 lakes. SweeTarts’ crunchy little animals are a bit of an Easter dark horse—in a holiday packed with the ooey, the gooey, and the chocolatey, they don’t grab your attention. But it turns out, they’re actually pretty good, and a nice counterpoint to the usual suspects of the holiday candy aisle.

The Gophers looked good early in the season, dropping only one OOC game, but conference brought more difficulty and a five-game skid in January. The Gophers recovered well, but a certain streakiness characterized most of their season. Nevertheless, and in spite of being bounced from the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Middle Tennessee in the least surprising upset ever, Minnesota’s season was solid, and surprisingly so.

6. Michigan State - Chocolate Bunny (Hollow)

Their eyes are maize and blue-hoo-hoo.

The chocolate bunny is sort of the big kahuna of Easter candy. He’s always there, top of the Easter basket, just waiting for you to bite those ears off. A confection so emblematic of the holiday’s sweets, you’re not really sure what you’d do with a basket without one.

For a long time, that’s been Michigan State’s role in the Big Ten basketball landscape. MSU is always there, always good, and always makes it to the tournament. But this year, the chocolate bunny, instead of a delicious solid chocolate version, was definitely hollow. He still made the tournament, completing the expected vision of Big Ten basketball, but it just wasn’t the same this year. Victories were relatively sparse and unconvincing, and the whole thing just left MSU fans wanting more.

7. Maryland - Classic Jelly Beans

What is a “jelly bird”? Is that supposed to be a bunny egg or an egg bunny on the package? Why does it look so unhinged? I have a lot of questions, Brach’s.

Much like the chocolate bunny, the jelly bean has been a staple of the holiday long before every candy on the block got into the habit of pastel wrappers. There’s something comforting and satisfying about the sugary originals that the fruitier and trendier Starburst version just doesn’t offer. Ol’ reliable, that’s the jelly bean.

And it’s a bit like Maryland. Time was when Maryland was the star of most basketball shows, a symbol of the sport. But newer up-and-comers, and some inconsistency on Maryland’s part have tarnished that image somewhat. Maryland put together a solid 24-9 record for the year, but several of their losses were puzzling: Nebraska, Penn State, and Iowa (the latter of whom whalloped the Terps) were all losses that Maryland probably should have been above. Elimination in its first game of the Big Ten Tourney and of the NCAA Tourney at the hands of Northwestern and Xavier, respectively, left Maryland fans feeling like it was a season that really should have been a bit better than it was.

8. Iowa - Assorted Varieties of Russell Stover Cream Eggs

Anyone else bothered by the font inconsistencies on the wrappers?

The good people at Russell Stover have gone off the rails a bit in recent years, I’m afraid. It all started innocently enough, one suspects, with the ingenious idea for a marshmallow egg covered in chocolate. Yum. And a caramel egg seemed a natural-enough follow-up. But lately, things have gotten weird. Did the world need a Millionaires Egg? A Peanut Butter Creme Egg? (You aren’t going to beat Reese’s, so you may as well not try.) I’m half fearing I’ll find a Beans ‘n’ Franks Egg this year.

This is kind of where Iowa was this year. There were some hits and highlights in the season, much like there ain’t nothin’ wrong with a Truffle Egg or a Maple Creme Egg. There were also some times where the Hawkeyes, well... laid an egg. Losing to UNO (excuse me, OMAHA, as they have recently rebranded themselves) was your Banana Whip Egg, Iowa. Yuck. Losing by 35 points to Northwestern, even if it was THE YEAR, was also sub-optimal. On the other hand, the Hawkeyes rebounded from these stinkers to stomp Maryland, beat Wisconsin, and make the NIT, so the season at least ended on a high note.

9. Illinois - Peeps

One day, the Peeps shall rule us all.

Here we have it—Easter’s most loved, loathed, and pop-culturetastic candy. The Peep. You don’t meet a ton of Peep fans, at least not ones who are willing to identify as such in public, but they must be out there, given that Peeps proliferate more every year in a variety of shapes, colors, and seasonal variants. These squishy, sugary snacks are inescapable.

In a departure from the metaphor, Illinois itself proved pretty easy for most teams to escape this season. But the Peeps’ expression—cold, staring, and smileless—was a scarily accurate reflection of the faces of most Illini fans this season. For most of the season, Illinois’ game was softer than the inside of a Peep. In spite of this, the Illini finished with a winning record including a few surprise wins over the likes of Michigan and Purdue—but also a few surprise losses to PSU and Rutgers. In the end, being just above .500 wasn’t enough to save Coach John Groce’s job, and the Illini hope to have a sweeter season next year with former Okie Lite coach Brad Underwood at the helm.

10. Indiana - Malted Milk Eggs/Robin Eggs

Fun fact: A malted milk egg with speckles in the form of Bobby Knight once sold on eBay for $7.63.

Both the best and the worst thing that can be said about these malty ovoids is... “meh.” They’re fine. But you kind of know that people are only buying them because it only takes a few to fill a plastic egg, as opposed to a whole bunch of M&Ms or jelly beans, not because they really like them.

“Meh” might have actually been a pretty kind description of the Hoosiers this year. Not only did they finish only slightly above .500 (18-16), they turned in a dismal 7-11 record in conference play. In hindsight, losing their first conference game of the season to Nebraska seems more a harbinger of doom than it did at the time. Though the Hoosiers got it together enough to clobber Iowa out of the Big Ten Tournament, it was their last win of the season, as the subsequent NIT tournament saw them make a first-round exit. Also making an exit was Professional Funny Face-Maker and Sometime Basketball Coach, Tom Crean. Indiana replaced him with wunderkind Archie Miller, who may well be a better coach than Crean, but will never match him in pure gif-ability.

11. Ohio State - Marshmallow Eggs

Or, MarshMatta Eggs, if you’re in Columbus?

Marshmallow Eggs are pretty tasty, but they lack flair, and they’re ubiquitous. Every candy company has a version, and there are about 45,384 recipes for homemade ones on Pinterest, if that’s your bent. Sometimes keeping it simple works incredibly well (Reese’s PB Eggs), but in this case, the humble marshmallow egg tends to get a little bit forgotten and overshadowed in the ol’ Easter basket.

Speaking of forgotten and overshadowed, Ohio State basketball was both of those things this year. Turning in a near-duplicate of Indiana’s season with a 17-15 overall record and a 7-11 conference record, the Buckeyes underachieved compared to the successes of previous seasons, and capped off the season with an ignominious loss to Rutgers in the Big Ten tournament. Ouch. However, unlike Indiana, OSU coach Thad Matta survived to coach another season.

12. Nebraska - Regular Candy Bars Shaped Like Ovals, or, “Eggs”

I swear, if they do that tortured Left Egg/Right Egg ad campaign with these... unless they go with some sort of Great Gatsby homage, but that might be a little highbrow for Twix. I digress.

Alright Twix. Snickers, we see you. Milky Way, you too. And yes, you’re still delicious when your signature combinations of caramel, nougat, peanuts, and whatnot are shaped into an oval instead of a skinny rectangle. You all successfully got in on the Easter candy scene, so bully for you. I’m never going to get mad about a Twix bar, no matter what shape it’s in.

On the other hand, I’m never going to get very excited about a seasonal product that isn’t different in a substantive way than what it is every other month of the year. And Nebrasketball, that’s kind of where we’re at with you. You’re a perfectly nice team, with a perfectly charming coach, and a bunch of hard-playing, likeable kids. You win some games, but you lose more of them. After a particularly rough end to this season, some Husker fans tired of the same old product and clamored for big changes. It didn’t happen, and Tim Miles gets one more year—can he totally reinvent his product for next season?

13. Penn State - Pastel Candy Corn

We ARE! The Dumbest Candy!

Just...what are you even doing, pastel candy corn? You make zero sense. You are the equivalent of Starbucks issuing a special “Easter Pumpkin Spice Latte.” Sure, there are those that are going to buy you no matter what the season, but it’s just kind of an awkward fit and the rest of us see through to the shameless cash grab of the candy corn industry. Turning yourself pastel does not make you a spring candy. You need to seriously re-evaluate your decisions.

And Penn State? You might want to re-evaluate your decisions too, because we’re not really sure what you’re doing either. Most of what you were doing was losing, unfortunately. There were a few thrillers in there—the 3OT loss to Indiana was memorable, if nothing else—and you did beat Maryland, which was pretty funny. But by and large, this was another unsuccessful hoops season for the Nittany Lions.

14. Rutgers - Spring Tootsie Rolls

Really swinging for the fences there, aren’t you Tootsie Roll?

Here’s a rather overblown/slightly uncomfortable product description I found about “Spring Tootsie Rolls:”

Tootsie Rolls have given their Midgees a fresh look for Easter. Famously deep brown, their wrapper has been lifted in exchanged for a new one in tender shades of violet, pastel pink and mossy green. When most get an update, something about their core changes; they get haughty and most of the time it’s with good reason. But not the Midgees. Although this new look exudes pure beauty, it hasn’t changed their cocoa flavored bodies, which are just as chocolaty as ever. The sweet greeting of chocolate at your taste buds will be just like the first time you met a Tootsie Roll: chewy and humbly sweet.

Basically, they have taken an underachieving candy, suitable only for jars on receptionists’ desks the world over, changed absolutely nothing about it, and slapped a pretty (sorry... “pure beauty”) label on it and called it a day.

Obviously this is Rutgers. The parallels are many. Walk with me.

Rutgers has given their hoopsters a fresh look for 2016-17. Famously deeply shitty, their coach has been fired and exchanged for a new one in in tender shades of Steve Pikiell. When most get an update, something about their core changes; they get haughty and most of the time it’s with good reason. But not Rutgers. Although this new look exudes confidence that things will be different this time, it hasn’t changed the failure-flavored athletic program, which is just as Rutgers-y as ever. The sweet taste of being last in the Big Ten will be just like the first time we met Rutgers: pitiable, and unwarrantedly optimistic.

Oh Rutgers, I’m being hard on you. You were last in the Big Ten again, but you did win twice as many games this year as last year, so we’ve got to salute you for that. You did it against powerhouses like Niagara and Molloy (what?), but everyone has to start somewhere. You’re our little Midgees, no matter what your wrapper looks like.


Which Easter candy is best?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Cadbury Mini Eggs
    (40 votes)
  • 38%
    Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg
    (157 votes)
  • 11%
    Cadbury Creme Eggs
    (48 votes)
  • 10%
    Starburst Jelly Beans
    (42 votes)
  • 3%
    SweeTarts Waterfowl Etc.
    (13 votes)
  • 5%
    Chocolate Bunnies
    (22 votes)
  • 4%
    Classic Jelly Beans
    (17 votes)
  • 2%
    525,600 Russell Stover Egg Varieties
    (10 votes)
  • 3%
    (15 votes)
  • 3%
    Malted Milk Eggs/Robin Eggs
    (15 votes)
  • 0%
    Marshmallow Eggs
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Regular Candy Bars Gone Oval
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    Pastel Candy Corn
    (9 votes)
  • 4%
    Spring Tootsie Rolls
    (17 votes)
412 votes total Vote Now