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Big Ten basketball entertaining, maddening as it reaches halfway point

Talk about #SportsWritersProblems — the Big Ten is giving anyone and everyone who tries to figure out what’s going on complete fits. Ohio State’s dominating home win over No. 16 Maryland on Thursday night was just the latest example of that.

As we’ve now hit the halfway point for nearly every Big Ten basketball program, it’s clear we know very little other than Wisconsin is really freaking good. Still, one has to admit that this season has been one hell of an entertaining one, even if it makes us sports writers want to pull what little hair is left on our heads, out.

On any given night or afternoon we can sit down and likely bare witness to something we didn’t think we’d see coming — and isn’t that supposed to be the fun part of being a college sports fan or writer anyway?

Just think about some of the moments we’ve seen already.

“Lowly” Rutgers beating then-No. 4 Wisconsin? Really?

That same Wisconsin team beating a red-hot Iowa team by 32 points? Considering the last five games have been within two possessions, that’s just insane.

How about Purdue’s back-to-back wins over two ranked opponents in Iowa and Indiana?

That same Iowa team owning a season series sweep of Ohio State, who has in turn beaten ranked Indiana and Maryland squads in back-to-back games.

I could continue with examples, but the point is, Big Ten basketball has driven many a fan and sports writer crazy and it’s all because it’s so damn competitive every single night.

All of the carnage and entertainment has left the Big Ten with Wisconsin and then a jumbled up mess of seven teams sitting with three losses halfway through Big Ten play. I mean, could things be any more difficult to figure out?

Yet, all we hear about is how “down” the Big Ten is this season. Does a “down” conference have any team capable of beating any other team on any given night?

To be fair, some of that “down” reputation was earned in a maddeningly strange non-conference season. Losses by B1G teams to the likes of Eastern Michigan, NJIT, Eastern Washington, Texas Southern and Gardner-Webb were damning indeed.

It still shouldn’t sully what is happening within a conference, because you’d be hard-pressed to find another league in college basketball that is as competitive and full of quality play from top to bottom. In that regard the Big Ten takes the cake.

You can’t say that about most of the “Power 6” conferences, where many have established pecking orders and three or four great teams and a bunch of nothings after it.

That’s clearly not the case in the Big Ten, and it’s making each night the conference goes in to action “must-see TV.” Again, that’s not the case in other conferences.

Does anyone really want to tune in for some random SEC matchup not featuring Kentucky? How about the mighty TCU vs. Baylor basketball matchup? Maybe the oh-so thrilling Washington State vs. Cal matchup?

What’s that…no one really cares?

Now put that up against the 1-6 Northwestern Wildcats playing host to Purdue, who happens to be one of those seven 3-loss teams. Suddenly a random game between two non-powers becomes much more intriguing to the casual college basketball fan (and definitely to the hardcore fan out there).

Still, if you were to watch national college basketball programming or read national media talk, you’d think the Big Ten stinks. Yet, when pressed to find a reason why it’s only those non-conference losses that most are capable of pointing to.

Apparently competitive intra-conference play has become a bad thing all of a sudden.

It’s actually amazing that some pundits and media are falling in to the trap of mistaking competitiveness with weakness. Since when is it a bad thing to have nine teams capable of beating each other in any given game?

Not every school can by Kentucky, and not every school gets so lucky as to play in the SEC or in the Pac-12 either. Place a Maryland, Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State or Iowa in either of those conferences and chances are they rise right to the top of the league with ease.

For those who are hip to competitiveness being a good thing, you’ve been fully entertained already and hopefully there’s still more to come.

However, for those insistent on trying to figure out the mystery that is the Big Ten right now, we’ve got one piece of advice:

Instead of trying to figure out who the “next” best team is in the Big Ten, perhaps we (and I’m speaking to the rest in the media here) are wise to sit back and enjoy what has been one of the most entertaining seasons in my lifetime.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball


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