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What’s wrong with Big Ten Basketball?

As a collective, that wasn’t ideal now, was it?

Syndication: Journal Sentinel
Is this the most punchable picture in the history of college basketball?
Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but the B1G shit the bed in the Men’s NCAA Tournament over the weekend.

If we want to be generous and add the play-in games, the conference went 9-7 and has just Michigan and Purdue still alive. And even though Michigan State, Illinois, Ohio State, and wisconsin got to the 2nd round, only Ohio State looked halfway decent in the process.

Is that surprising? I mean, I set an o/u of 10 wins for the conference and am pretty close to getting a push so not really if you were paying attention. But what’s causing this? What did we learn from the B1G’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad NCAA tournament 1st week? Being bored with regular 1st quarter accountant stuff, I asked the OTE “writers” what they thought and got some responses:

BoilerBettor: Nothing. Purdue is really good. Suspect teams got exposed by teams with superior talent/coaching. Michigan is a mismatch Hell. Fran still can’t win a NCAA game.

GreenAkres: Nothing about the conference at large, except perhaps providing another data point that we have a large cohort of generally good coaches who suck in the single elimination context.

StewMonkey13: Since it load like we’re gonna go full cliche, I’ll say guards play. Since apparently it makes so much difference in the tourney, and the team with the best guard (Purdue with Ivey) is looking the best. I mean when was the last time there was a big Ten guard (specifically point guard) that could take over and put the team on his back? Winston and Carson Edwards?

GreenAkres: Winston was two years ago, it’s not like the first round QB drought or something.

Misdreavus79: It taught us exactly what we already knew: Illinois wasn’t a national championship contender after all, Wisconsin was merely an average team that happened to win almost all their close games, and their luck ran out at the wrong time. Iowa seems to be destined to be a first weekend team under Fran McCaffrey, and Michigan State overachieved for most of the season. And, after all that, the two teams projected at the top of the conference in the preseason are the two teams still alive in the NCAA Tournament.

Beez: Pain. Tears and pain.

Re: guard play, it certainly mattered that wisconsin had no viable backup to its PG. some of the minutes that got filled after he went down were….oof.

He was a high school QB: I’m pretty tired of the what’s wrong with the B1G question. PAC-XX has a longer drought. SEC underperformed way more than B1G. ACC has been mediocre all season, but now has more teams surviving. Single elimination tournaments have huge amounts of small sample size noise and do a fairly poor job of determining the actual best teams.

Also, iowa lol.

Brian: As many have said, it’s not just one answer. All teams and all tournament results are not the same.

Of the nine tournament teams, I think there is/was one potentially elite team (Purdue), one very good team (Illinois) and a handful of good teams (Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa and Michigan).

Purdue is rolling and Michigan has played two very good games. Of those that have bowed out, Ohio State came up against a very good ‘Nova team. Michigan State played very well against a very good Duke team. Illinois played a very good Houston team even for much of the game, but also had trouble shooting (especially from deep) in both games. Wisconsin and Iowa … not much to say other than pretty disappointing performances.

Kind of...: his gets brought up every year, but the preseason polls tend to be a better—or at least just as good of a—predictor of tournament performance than the final regular season poll. AP preseason: Michigan (6), Purdue (7), and Illinois (11). OSU was 17. Maryland was 21. MSU and Indiana were top two receiving votes, and Rutgers received a few. Wisconsin didn’t get a single vote. (Nor did Iowa) If the B1G sucks, it’s not because UW stunk up the joint in the round of 32. It’s because UW was able to win this conference and get a 3-seed.

BoilerUp89: First, I’ll talk about this year’s teams: out of the teams that lost... Sparty played well. OSU & Indiana also lost games they were supposed to (and IU had plane issues that had them flying cross country the day before the game). Rutgers Scarlet Knights & Illinois lost games that are 50/50ish per seed line.

So really, it’s just Iowa and Wisconsin that are culprits here. And if we are being honest, Wisconsin’s luck or clutch factor or whatever you want to call it probably wasn’t going to last. Iowa has Franimal who (thanks to Purdue) now has 1 combined Sweet 16/regular season championship/BTT championship in 12 years as Iowa’s head coach.

More generally, the B1G has not been a place for top basketball recruits. Despite that the B1G still somehow regularly has several guys on the top players in the country lists. So, I don’t think talent is the biggest issue (and it’s not like Virginia or Villanova or even Baylor had the best recruiting classes in the country).

So that means it’s a coaching issue. And while this won’t be a popular take (since most fans like their coaches - expected MNW & the Nebrasketball contingent), I don’t think the B1G coaches are all that great at the moment. Izzo has been, but it’s also fair to wonder if he’s lost a half step. Painter hasn’t broken thru in 17 seasons. Fran can’t even get to Painter’s level in 12 seasons. Underwood has shown some flashes but lacks consistency. I like Pikiell a lot, but the guy has also historically struggled in post season play. And the rest of your coaches are either garbage or have an incomplete grade due to too little time.

When we look at the great coaches in the B1G the past 20 years, they are the ones that have gotten close. Self, peak Izzo, Beilein, Matta, (fuck) Bo. These were all really great coaches and these are the guys that actually made deep tournament runs.

GreenAkers: The answer for MSU the last couple years is simple: their talent level has definitely slipped the last couple cycles. It’s not easy to replace Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman, but Izzo used to reload with new great players constantly. There are two players on the roster with serious NBA potential, and both were freshmen, so maybe more-experienced versions of Max Christie or Jaden Akins lead this team back to their standard of success.

But MSU just doesn’t have a star right now. I…have also opined repeatedly in game threads that Izzo doesn’t have the same touch as an in-game coach anymore. He can still out-plan certain mouth breathers pretty regularly, but when something isn’t working midstream, he really doesn’t seem to have answers anymore. Part of that is probably the limited roster, but again, who’s responsible for that?

As for your shit-ass teams, it’s fair to wonder if we have a crop of coaches who just aren’t good in these high-stakes single elimination spots. Painter, Holtmann, Underwood, and Fran are the main culprits I’m looking at here, though eventually Steve Pikiell needs to do something outside his home court, too.

RU in VA: I’m gonna echo GA’s comments above just Pikell-ized. Rutgers supposedly has star players, but is routinely outcoached at the end of games and does not make effectual changes. I’ve already whined about this in their loss to ND, but your four star top 5 center recruit in the country should not be guarding the three point line. I see the same trend, but a smidge different with Illinois. Shocker, Kofi is gonna get double teamed in the block. You had all season to mitigate this with rotating offensive sets. But it seems like when he can’t get 20-20 and they need to shoot and slash it’s Shocked Pikachu face.

My first conspiracy theory is that B1G coaches haven’t caught up with new age air-raid type basketball yet. Just like in football, they’re still running the Power I and Wing-T rather than switching to a zone mesh concept. Watch Gonzaga play and their take on the blob/motion/continuity offense. I don’t know how to coach it, but it’s a wing driven circly-cutty thing with constant baseline movement from corner to corner. It provides options CONSTANTLY without having to remember 10 different plays. No, it’s not the Princeton offense, or the motion offense. It frees the players to be creative and think less about the sequence of actions that happen in the standard pick and roll basketball play without the dumbass zipper dribble hand off that every B1G team seems to be in love with.

Second conspiracy theory is that kids are a bit confused on where to go nowadays. A B1G school likely doesn’t mean one and done, but there aren’t a lot of kids that fit that bill anymore. Banchero is the only one that comes to mind this year. So, going to OSU or Minnesota means a 4/5 year commitment and likely stuffing your NBA dreams. There’s a certain type of talent that accepts that—and some that are hellbent on going to Kentucky/Duke/Kansas. In a single elimination tournament these NBA bound kids can just turn it on (see: Duke-MSU last 5 mins).

Unless the B1G can recruit the “already NBA ready” recruits into their system, their success in the NCAA will be directly tied to #1—their seeding, and #2—the ability to get hot shooting distance, as that’s the great equalizer.

Thumpasaurus: Underwood is one of those coaches that you see a lot in B1G football that’s all about “we’re going to focus on playing our game and do what we do best,” aka they’re not going to change their approach during a game even if it’s not working. This kind of means Underwood will need a perfect storm of talent and matchup luck to go particularly far in the NCAA tournament. This year’s Illini team was fatally flawed in that they turned the ball over a ton, but in the regular season B1G teams weren’t scheming to exploit that. Houston absolutely nailed the assignment.

Underwood does change the strategy, but only between seasons to best take advantage of personnel. Once it’s installed, that’s what we’re doing for the rest of the year and rotations are the only changes that will be made.

WSR: Let’s be honest, some of that is pretty accurate and some of it’s a bunch of fluffy bullshit. It’s a knockout tournament for everyone, including the Big XII (9-3 with 3 teams in the Sweet Sixteen), ACC (8-2 with 3 teams in the Sweet Sixteen), and Pac-12 (4-1 with 2 teams in the Sweet Sixteen). We’ve got some problems with our conference, and it shows up regularly in March. My 3 culprits? Our recruiting isn’t actually that good where it matters, the style of play is...well, it’s shit on offense, and the reffing in conference play.

1) The talent (PG in particular) isn’t that good. Quick: name the last good B1G PG. I’ll go make a cup of coffee while I wait. We could make it more fun and have Michigan State and Purdue fans join me in the kitchen while the rest of you try to figure it out. The B1G may be a big man’s league, but that doesn’t do anyone a favor when you need somebody to break a press in a game away from your home court with friendly refs or find a way to drag a team to baskets. How many teams are one really good player and a bunch of absolute crap around them? And am I talking about Iowa or wisconsin or both? Anyway,

2) Bad Offense. Dribble up, maybe play a 2 man game, panic when the shot clock runs down, and either out-muscle the opponent for an offensive rebound or get back and reset on defense to force the other team to do the same thing. Why do we play like that? Because...

3) We tolerate absolute horseshit reffing in conference play. You may not believe this, but the NCAA doesn’t recognize Greco-Roman basketball (Or freestyle or folkstyle basketball, either). And yet our conference games are devoid of offensive players running through space. There’s enough clutching and grabbing to make NHL fan wistful about the 1990s. And I see you, Mr/Ms Rutgers fan shouting “But how are you going to change that? You can’t expect the refs to call all the fouls that happen, do you? And on the home team as well?!” Well yes.

There are plenty of unwatchable B1G games right now, so how is that going to change if we try to fix how teams play and have to sit through a couple ref shows with actual fouls called and inevitably free throws on teams that play trash basketball? And not just the typical “call a couple fouls when the badgers lose to Marquette and then stop calling fouls on them after Thanksgiving” fix that we get every few years. Actually call fouls for hand checks and impeding movement. Call moving screens.


What’s wrong with B1G Basketball?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    (22 votes)
  • 23%
    Not talented enough
    (60 votes)
  • 18%
    Poor style of play
    (48 votes)
  • 24%
    Terribly reffing in conference play
    (63 votes)
  • 25%
    It just needs a hug
    (66 votes)
259 votes total Vote Now