By: Brock Sanders
Who is the best team in the Big Ten? Even better, who is the best team in all of college basketball? These questions have perplexed the minds of many this college basketball season. With no clear-cut number one team as in years past, March Madness should live up to its name. However there is one conference which continually produces far more top 25 teams than any other conference: the Big Ten.
Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois, the list can go on and on. This powerhouse conference has proved to be the best in college basketball in 2013, but is having so many good teams in a single league a good or a bad thing for the conference? Take Michigan’s schedule for example. In a span of ten days, they played three top ten teams: 3 Indiana, 10 Ohio State, and 8 Michigan State. And don’t think Michigan is the only team to have to go through a dangerous stretch like that. Wisconsin played three top 15 teams in seven days, Illinois played four top 25 teams in fourteen days, and Minnesota played three top 15 teams in eight days. Almost every team in the Big Ten has, or will have to face the gauntlet of ranked teams coming after them.
As for the question of whether or not this is good for the Big Ten, I would have to say that in the long run it is an extremely good thing. They may be knocking each other around in the rankings now, but the regular season rankings mean nothing except for seeds when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. A mere seeding is nothing compared to the improvement and experience gained from the competition faced in Big Ten regular season play. Teams in weaker conferences, say third-ranked Gonzaga playing in the WCC for example, are used to playing against teams like Portland and Loyola Marymount, while Big Ten teams are used to playing in games with Indiana and Michigan State. While Gonzaga may get a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, they lack the experience of playing against elite opponents day in and day out like a fifth-seeded Wisconsin.
From a financial perspective it is definitely a good thing for the conference. The Big Ten Tournament from March 14-March 17 in Chicago has already sold out three weeks in advance. This is the first time the tournament has been sold out prior to its start since it was created in 1998. The fans obviously love it, the money is rolling in, and the teams will be well suited to make a run in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. If Big Ten regular season play is any indication for the conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament, we are sure to be in for a treat when March Madness rolls around.