With the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in the books, several key storylines are dominating the 2017 version of March Madness. One of those storylines? Our perception of the Big Ten was off.
“I think we underrated the Big Ten,” Bleacher Report college basketball insider Reid Forgrave said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “What we saw with the Big Ten this year was a conference that didn’t have anyone great but had a lot of good (or) very good teams. Look, going into the tournament, everybody, all the pundits said there’s not a national-title contender coming out of the Big Ten.”
Well, there are three Big Ten teams – Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan – in the Sweet 16. No. 8 Wisconsin and No. 7 Michigan advanced by beating No. 1 Villanova and No. 2 Louisville, respectively.
The Badgers must beat No. 4 Florida and then the winner No. 3 Baylor versus No. 7 South Carolina to reach its third Final Four in four years.
“I would say Wisconsin, especially with that East region that’s become a pretty easy road, I think they’re certainly a national-title contender now,” Forgrave said. “And personally, I think Michigan, the fact that they’re playing so loose – it’s like they’re playing with God on their side. You get the sense that they have something special going on.”
Michigan has won nine of its last 10 games, with the only loss coming at Northwestern at the buzzer. Purdue, meanwhile, has scored 80 points in back-to-back tournament games, beating Vermont and Iowa State in the process.
So, how did we miss this?
“I think the way that we underrated the Big Ten is because we judge conferences based on how good are they at the top,” Forgrave said. And the Big Ten wasn’t great at the top, but it was deep all the way down to Rutgers. Iowa was a really good team this year. They barely missed the cut in the Big Ten. Indiana was great for about a month. So I think the Big Ten had tons of depth, (but) we kind of underrate conference depth.”