The Big Ten: the conference that was supposed to challenge the ACC for most teams in the bracket come March. They have certainly failed in that goal in the 2016-2017 season. According to Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology on ESPN.com, there are 10 teams from the ACC that will making the NCAA tournament, while the Big Ten has 7 projected teams making it, tied with the Big 12.
So what happened? First off, the so-called “experts” were wrong. What was anticipated a top three of Wisconsin-Indiana-Michigan State never came to fruition, and other teams have surprised in both positive and negative fashions. The Big Ten also got blitzed in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge this season, winning only five of the fourteen games played. Those non-conference losses showed that the Big Ten is relatively weak and set these teams back before conference play.
How do these teams stand right now? There are four teams that, barring a major collapse, will have their names come up on selection Sunday. Purdue has played solid basketball and have lived up to their preseason expectations, are at 20-5, with only 2 losses to teams with RPIs above 50 (both on the road to Nebraska and Iowa). Lunardi has them in as a #4 seed right now and have a favorable schedule down the stretch, with their most difficult game at Northwestern. Wisconsin has been playing a ton of close games, but have yet to have a bad loss, and sit at 21-4 and in the tournament as a #5 seed. The two semi-surprises: Maryland and Northwestern. Maryland is also at 21-4, sitting at a #6 seed and Northwestern, looking for their first ever tournament birth, is in as a #7 seed according to Lunardi.
The rest of the Big Ten? They are either “on the bubble” or currently sitting outside of the tournament looking in. Minnesota, who has also surprised the experts, is sitting as an #8 but will have to go to Maryland and Wisconsin before the regular season is over. Michigan State, who has really struggled to stay healthy, is clinging onto a #10 seed despite having 10 losses, thanks to a difficult non-conference schedule. Speaking of clinging on, the Michigan Wolverines are in right now, as an #11 seed.
The disappointments? The Hoosiers are the first ones on the list. Injuries plagued them, but head coach Tom Crean lashed out after their fourth loss in five games yesterday to Michigan due to IU’s “lack of maturity”. Michigan and Michigan State being bubble teams is shocking, and teams like Illinois, Ohio State and Iowa being out of it doesn’t make it seem like a normal year in college basketball. Safe to say, no matter if the conference gets four or eight teams in the tournament, the Big Ten did not reach it’s expectations coming into this season.