Will Big Ten come up big in tournament?
by Mike Lopresti, USA TODAY Sports
CHICAGO — From a United Center suite, as his guests sampled halftime fare, the commissioner of the Big Ten looked down upon a league living the best of basketball times this weekend, wondering what the next three weeks will hold.
“I fully expect if we do well, that would be a capstone,” Jim Delany said of the NCAA tournament to come, for a conference branded as the nation’s best. “If we don’t, the narrative will be, `You overachieved during the regular season, you’re over-ranked and you really aren’t that good because you didn’t advance teams to the Final Four and win the championship.’ I’m prepared for the good, the bad and the middle.
“The story will write itself.”
And now, the story begins.
Winter was wondrous and brutal in the Big Ten. It should have hardened its members for the most critical of moments.
March, for instance.
The Big Ten has four teams that were fixtures of the top 10 in the national polls this season — Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State — and another in Wisconsin who could join the group as a Final Four contender. Illinois and Minnesota also have been in and out of the polls and have the talent and coaching to make a run.
“I am really looking forward to playing somebody else, and I think all the Big Ten teams are, and deservedly so,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I’d play the Lakers tomorrow instead of some of the teams I’ve played recently.”
Izzo brought up the time-honored adage that to be the best, you have to beat the best. The credo of the Big Ten, circa 2013.
“I think about that all the time,” Izzo said. “Some people are wondering, is it going to wear everybody down? It will wear the weak ones down. The strong ones are going to be able to sit in the locker room before a big game in the NCAA tournament and say, ‘We’ve played this team, this team, this team, this team.’ You’ve been there before, you’ve done that.”
The players see it that way, too. They have competed in a league where, as … [For more on Will the Big Ten still come up big in NCAA tournament?, click here.]