Seven Big Ten teams went in to the 2015 NCAA tournament, and just two of them remain after the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.
The hopes of the conference finally breaking a decade-plus streak without a national championship for one of its teams now rest on the shoulders of favorite Wisconsin and streaky underdog Michigan State.
A look at conference records would also trend towards believing this past weekend was nothing but a large disappointment.
Gone are Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Ohio State and Purdue — otherwise known as the group that was maddeningly inconsistent all season long. Should it be surprising that most, if not all, of these teams are gone after two games in to the NCAA tournament?
Especially when one considers the fact that only Wisconsin and Maryland were seeded in the top 4 seeds of their particular brackets. After that the other five Big Ten teams were seeded 7th or lower.
Not exactly bright prospects of heading out of the first weekend of the tournament if you ask me.
The fact that Michigan State, a team who was so up and down all season long, managed to knock off No. 2-seed Virginia and move on to the Sweet 16 (again) has to be a major thumbs up for Spartan fans and the Big Ten as a whole.
So does the fact that Wisconsin took a 30-point outburst by Oregon’s Joseph Young and still went wire-to-wire as leaders and winners. The Badgers also didn’t have the best of nights from national Player of the Year contender Frank Kaminsky, who shot just 6 of 13 from the field.
Where one could be disappointed is in how the Big Ten was dumped in the majority of the contests they lost. But, that’s more because opportunity was there, than expectations of major wins in the first weekend of the tournament.
No one was more disappointing than the Maryland Terrapins to be sure. They were out-muscled to the tune of 16 second-chance points by the West Virginia Mountaineers and first team All-Big Ten guard Dez Wells was held under double digits in the loss.
Purdue was on the losing end of a 1-point game to Cincinnati (66-65), and missed out on a chance to make a big impression in a matchup against No. 1-seed Kentucky in the next round. It was even more disappointing thanks to the fact that the Boilermakers had a 7-point lead with one minute to go.
Rival Indiana took on No. 7-seed Wichita State and did nearly everything they needed to do to pull off the mild upset. The Hoosiers kept Wichita State from going off from beyond the arc (2-of-23) and also forced some overall bad shooting by the Shockers.
However, they forgot that putting an opponent at the free-throw line over and over again and not being able to do anything inside are usually combinations that lead to losses. The Shockers went 29 of 34 from the free throw line and that was the difference between the two teams.
Outside of the state of Indiana’s meltdown in opening round games, can you really say losing most of the rest of the contests to top seeds in the entire tournament is a real letdown?
What the NCAA tournament showed us was exactly what most of us saw play out in conference play — there were some really good teams, but most just didn’t have what it took to get over the hump and be great teams.
No doubt this season put the Big Ten on the back foot of conference supremacy, but the two teams left standing have the pedigree and the rosters to still get the Big Ten represented in the Final Four once again.
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