Big Ten Has Three National Title Contenders, but None are Among the Favorites


Lots of college basketball pundits have deemed the Big Ten the strongest conference in the nation this season, and the numbers seen to verify this. From top to bottom, it’s the strongest conference in the country, but it’s strongest teams aren’t among the elite of the elite nationally.

The Big Ten has three teams, #6 Michigan State, #10 Michigan and #13 Purdue that have a legitimate shot of winning it all, but none are likely to earn a #1 seed on Selection Sunday. You won’t find any of that trio among the top favorites to be crowned kings of March Madness either. In short, the Midwestern based league, headquartered in Chicago, is just not top heavy enough.


After checking on SBD an informational source for betting online, we noticed they have Duke as the team gaining more steam and sitting as the biggest favorite before the tournament with odds at +240, above the nation’s #1 team Gonzaga (+700).

After that it goes Virginia (+950), Kentucky (+1200), Tennessee (+1200) and then one of the league’s two co-champions, Michigan State, comes in sixth at +1500. Their bitter arch-rivals, Michigan are eighth at +1600 while the other co-champion Purdue rounds out the top ten at +3300.

Since the turn of the millenium, when Michigan St. beat Florida for the 2000 national title, the conference has been exceptional at placing teams into the Final Four and even the national title game, but they just can’t get over that final step. Since 2001, the conference has seen one of their teams finish national runner-up seven times: Indiana- 2002, Illinois- 2005, Ohio State- 2007, Michigan State- 2009, Michigan (2013 and 2018) and finally Wisconsin (2015).

Maybe this is finally the year that the conference clears that last hurdle. Nebraska, the league’s second from bottom team, has advanced to the quarterfinals, and that achievement speaks to the conference’s depth. Maybe that depth ensures that the top teams are battle tested for the NCAA Tournament.

At the end of it all, come April, only one team will get to celebrate and cut down the nets.

“I say it all the time like at the end of the day only one team is going to be crying tears of joy,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said after his team was eliminated from the conference tournament.

“There’s going to be one Big Ten champion, and then there’s going to be one NCAA champion. Everybody else at some point is going to have a locker room like we had tonight.”

“The thing I love about being a coach is when you go into those locker rooms and you see the emotion pour out, you know how much the guys care.”

The league has certainly come very close in recent years. MSU has had five Final Four appearances since they last won it all. Michigan has been on the threshold twice in the just the past five years. Purdue is coming off back-to-back sweet 16s, and this year’s team might be better suited for The Big Dance than either of the last two squads.

Overall, it just feels like the league is just due in 2019

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC and Chicago, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

He also contributes sociopolitical essays to Chicago NowFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.


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