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.

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Vic Law is one of the Most Important Players in Northwestern Basketball History

vic law northwestern basketball

It will likely be a game time decision whether or not Northwestern senior wing Vic Law plays tonight in the Big Ten Tournament (“He’s very much questionable for the game,” NU coach Chris Collins said on the Big Ten Coaches Conference Call Monday), but his Wildcats legacy is already long cemented.

The St. Rita graduate and native of suburban South Holland collided with Big Ten scoring champ Carsen Edwards on Saturday, and the result was a cut to his shin which left him bleeding and unable to leave the court without being carried off. The good news is his basketball career won’t end with the scary scene on NU’s Senior Day.

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Illini basketball buzzer beat Gophers; adding to BTT wins record


Illinois has the most all-time Big Ten Tournament wins with 23 and the second-best all-time BTT winning percentage. With a Brandon Paul buzzer beater today, they added to that record. It was ugly, ugly 51-49 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers, but it helps solidify the Illini basketball resume for the NCAAs. Brandon Paul was pretty much the entire team’s offense as he scored 25 including the dagger as time expired (watch video of it here). Illinois has reached/automatically qualified for the quarterfinals in every year of the tourney’s existence except last year.

The Illini have really struggled at the United Center lately. Prior to escaping with a win versus a very very bad Auburn team on December 29th, the Illini entered that contest having lost three in a row and five of six at the United Center, their supposed home away from home. But now the Illini have won two in a row at the UC. They’re beginning a new streak.

Illini basketball has won nine of their last ten BTT games played at the United Center. Today’s  and they’re also now 16-5 all-time in BTT games at the United Center.

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2013 Big Ten Tournament Predictions/Preview


This could be the best Big Ten Tournament of all time. As it returns to its RIGHTFUL home, the United Center in Chicago, the league is as strong as it has ever been. So on paper it should be great. Indiana earned the season outright title for the first time since 1993 and the No. 1 seed for the first time in school history.

Ohio State, Michigan State and the Badgers also earned top-four seeds to secure first-round byes, as all four teams open play Friday. The tournament features 11 games over four days, beginning with four on Thursday. Six different programs have won the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan State and Ohio State have won the title three times. The Illini, Hawkeyes and Badgers have each won the championship twice, and Purdue has won the tournament once.

Chicago hosted the inaugural event in 1998. The Big Ten tournament averaged 18,882 fans per session when the event was last held at the UC in 2007. It set attendance records while in Chicago in 2001 with an average of 21,954 patrons per session. And just standing-room only tickets remain for this Big Ten Tournament.

So let’s get to my snarky preview/predictions

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Ohio State’s Aaron Craft: Best Distributor in College Basketball?



I believe the best compliment you can ever give a point guard is “excellent distributor.” I asked Ohio State “1” Aaron Craft what he thought of the term at Big Ten media day.

“I’ll take any kind words I can get,” he responded.

Craft has had the benefit of playing with a marquee player in Jared Sullinger; giving him a strong force to work the ball inside to.

“Playing with a guy like Jared, and a guy like Evan Turner (NBA overall #2 pick in 2010) in the summer, makes us better. It’s a lot more fun and you always now what you’re going to get.

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#2 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. #2 Kansas Jayhawks: everything you need to know


The eastern and western outskirts of what we call “the Midwest” will meet on Saturday in the prime time national semifinal game. The 2008 national champion Kansas Jayhawks will meet the 2007 runner-up Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2012 Final Four.

Let’s break it down!

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Michigan on Upset Alert Against 13-Seed Ohio

The Wolverines just completed their most impressive regular season since coach John Beilein arrived in Ann Arbor in 2007, a campaign that included 24 wins, 13 of those in conference, and their first Big Ten Championship since the 1985-1896 season–even if they only technically own 1/3 of that crown.

Those impressive numbers awarded the Wolverines a four-seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, which sets up a showdown with 13-seed Ohio. But let me clarify something, these are not the “Ohio” Buckeyes that Brady Hoke and Beilein are constantly referring to, the team that beat the Wolverines by 22 points in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal. No, this is Ohio University, a well-coached, athletic group that will give Michigan all it can handle.

The Maize and Blue haven’t been playing their best basketball of late, most recently falling, 77-55, in the semifinals of the conference tournament to the other “Ohio”, a game in which freshman point guard Trey Burke shot just 1-11 from the field.

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Reggie Miller: “Big 10 is the best conference in the nation”


The Big Ten was hands down the best conference in college basketball this year. It’s the strongest the league has been in some time, and all the signs show it: owning the challenge with the ACC, having the most ranked teams, and now the best chance to win the whole thing.

Turner Sports analyst Reggie Miller, a UCLA and Indiana Pacers legend agrees. Here’s what Miller said on conference call yesterday.

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Illinois Falls To Iowa In Big Ten Tournament, Likely Bruce Weber’s Final Game


When asked if he thought his team would accept an NIT bid, embattled Illinois coach Bruce Weber responded “I don’t know, I don’t know if we’ll make the NIT to be honest.”

After falling to Iowa in the opening game of the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, all signs seem to be pointing to Weber’s imminent departure from Champaign and the University of Illinois. In his post game comments Weber was reserved and calm, not the meltdown he had after losing to Purdue earlier this season or the anger he has shown so many other times. Weber who once guided the Illini to a Final Four and multiple Big Ten titles seemed to understand that this is likely the end.

“Sometimes, life isn’t fair, and basketball isn’t fair….If you just go on a pity party for yourself, nothing is going to happen.”

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Wolverines Win Share of Big Ten Title

Photo Courtesy AP Photo

Michigan shot 59 percent from the field, including 70 percent in the first half to overcome a valiant effort from Big Ten bottom dweller Penn State in a 70-66 victory. Trey Burke led the Wolverines with 19 points, but perhaps the most encouraging stat from Sunday’s victory was the scoring total of sophomore big man Evan Smotrycz. Smotrycz shot 6-7 from the field to finish with 17 points, his most in conference play this season.

The win won’t do much for Michigan’s already-impressive NCAA Tournament resume, but it did keep the Wolverines in play for a possible share of the conference title. John Beilein’s squad would learn of its fate later in the day, when Ohio State faced Michigan State on the road in a battle for Big Ten supremacy.

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Big 10 Announces Future Sites of Football Title Game, Basketball Tournament

lucas oil stadium

We already knew that the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game will be held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis this December, but today following a meeting of league big wigs, it was announced that the same facility will also host the title game 2012-15. The first of the league’s new premier college football games takes place on December 3rd, 2011.

The Council of Presidents/Chancellors approved this recommendation from university administrators for the cities of Chicago, Hoffman Estates and Indianapolis to rotate as the host sites for the Big Ten Football Championship Games and Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments for a four-year period beginning in 2012.

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College Hoops 101 (3/16/11)

uconn big east champs

There is doing work and then there is what I did during Conference Tournament week.  I was to watching college basketball what Bob Knight is to pump fakes; obsessed.  I did not reach my goal of watching all 15 Big East Tournament games but I did set a single week record for games watched. Plus, my final bracketology also held its own against Joe Lunardi’s which I consider a great success.  Now, let the madness begin!

If you are unfamiliar with College Hoops 101, it is a weekly feature here at The Sports Bank that breaks down everything you need to know going on in the world of college basketball.  I will look back at the conference tourneys and break down what to expect in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

By: David Kay
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