Why Has the Big Ten Stunk So Badly In The NCAA Tournament?
For the second year in a row, the Big Ten Conference has put the most teams into the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. They put nine teams into the Big Dance in 2021, and put nine teams in this season.
Last year, only Michigan made it at least to the Sweet 16 out of the B1G (they lost to UCLA in the Elite Eight). This year, only Purdue and Michigan have made it past the first weekend.
So, like the title of this article says: Why Has the Big Ten Stunk So Badly In The NCAA Tournament?
Here are some theories why (I do not necessarily agree with all of these, I'm just throwing them out there)...
Once again, the Big Ten is overrated
This is an ever-growing narrative nationally. CBS' Seth Davis said this year when the brackets were announced: "Ok Big Ten, show us something!!" Well, Rutgers was beaten in the First Four by Notre Dame. Indiana got boatraced by St. Mary's in the first round. Iowa (the Big Ten Tournament champion) was upset by Richmond in Round 1. Illinois deserved to lose in the first round, but then got crushed by Houston in Round 2. Ohio State, Michigan State, and regular season co-champ Wisconsin were all beaten in Round 2. Wisconsin's loss to Iowa State was particularly stunning.
The Big Ten teams spend too much time and effort winning the regular season title
This is a narrative that I believe in. Because so many people (rightly or wrongly) believe that the Big Ten regular season title is so prestigious, the teams just play their guts out for 20 conference games to win the regular season championship. And then when they get to the NCAA's, they have nothing left, energywise. Judging by the performance of the teams in the last two tournaments, I think this is valid.
Big expectations causing nerves/lesser play
Because there is such an emphasis on basketball in the Midwest, there is lots of outside pressure from fans and media to do well in the tourney. Look at Illinois. They were a number 1 seed last season, but lost in the second round. This year, after barely squeaking by Chattanooga in Round 1, they were beaten badly by Houston in Round 2. Purdue has also had several tank jobs early in the NCAA Tournament.
Style of play doesn't fit a deep run in the NCAA Tournament
This applies especially to Wisconsin (head coach Greg Gard pictured above). They are a terrific regular season team. They've shown that year after year with the way they run their offense and get the most out of their talent. But in most cases, when they get to the Tournament, they run into a team that has more talent than them and they get beat early on. This year was an exception, they were upset in Round 2 by an inferior Iowa State team in Milwaukee. No explanation for that.
On the other hand, give credit to Purdue and Michigan!!!
This year's runs by Purdue and Michigan are surprising in one respect, but not surprising in another. It is surprising because Purdue has underachieved for years in the Big Dance. And after getting to the Elite Eight in 2019, they're back in the Sweet 16 this year. Surprising for Michigan, because they were an 11 seed. But they've upset Colorado State and Tennessee to get to Thursday's regional semifinal against Villanova.
It's not surprising on the other hand, because Michigan has been to the Sweet 16 five straight years. They are tournament tested. And Purdue has everything you need on the court to make a deep run, with a great guard in Jaden Ivey and two good big guys in Zach Edey and Trevion Williams. And Eric Hunter, Jr. Has hit big shots for them this season.
What do you guys think? Let us know, we want to hear from you!