The Big Ten is more balanced than ever right now. I love it because every game is an adventure. Is this good for the conference? Will the teams eat each other up and bring down the number of teams that get into the NCAA tournament?
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From a competitive standpoint and from my commentating perspective, this is wonderful. Before last night, when would we expect to see Penn State and Northwestern enjoy road victories in the same night? It hasn’t happened since 1993. Are the Badgers and Buckeyes as good as they have been in years past? Probably not, yet both teams were still ranked in the AP Top 25 before Wednesday night. These are huge confidence boosts to these annual Big Ten cellar dwellers.
Right now, every team in the Big Ten has won at least two conference games. Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa are clearly the three best teams. Once you get past them it’s up for grabs. Wisconsin and Minnesota are tied for fourth place, with four losses each, and we’re only at the midway point in the Big Ten season. Don’t look now, but Northwestern is a half game out of fourth place.
How many teams will reach the NCAA Tourney from the Big Ten? It’s far too early to tell. I think the parity in the league will eventually hurt the conference as they may only get five or six teams into the tournament. If there was clear separation between the upper and lower level teams, the Big Ten would probably receive seven bids.
While it’s important to get as many teams into the dance as you can, in my opinion, it’s far more important to have teams that will advance. I’m content with getting fewer teams in the dance if it means better chances for multiple Big Ten teams to advance to the second weekend and beyond.
It’s been far too long since “the nation’s best conference” has won a National Title — 14 years to be exact. Eventually, you have to bring home the title to maintain that status, don’t you?
We have plenty of time to see how this all plays out come Selection Sunday. Until then, I’ll continue to appreciate the improvement of Penn State, Nebraska and Northwestern as they seem to be getting better with each game.
|About Stephen Bardo
||The BTN basketball analyst and former Flyin’ Illini star is a regular contributor to BTN.com. Follow Bardo on Twitter @stephenbardo, read his past posts right here, and use the form below to submit your questions to his Big Ten basketball mailbag.|