Friday, March 13, 2009

Big Ten Hate-o-Rade

Pretty much everything that the Big Ten wanted to happen in its first-round conference tournament match-ups yesterday happened. Minnesota, Michigan, and Penn State all won their games against lesser competition, seemingly locking up bids come Sunday. Something that has been overlooked amongst most of the college basketball media this season as they swoom over the Big East and ACC (and I think rightfully so) has been the depth of the Big Ten.

When everything is said and done, the Big Ten has a pretty good chance at having as many (or maybe even more) bids than both the ACC and Big East. Seriously, Michigan State, Illinois, and Purdue are locks. Wisco and Ohio State were presumed safe heading into today and now the three bubblicious teams appear headed to the big dance as well. That's eight, count 'em, eight teams extending their seasons.

It doesn't have some basketball "purists", i.e. east coasters, who think the basketball world revolves solely around two leagues, very happy. Here's something that appeared in today's Washington Post, courtesy of their college bball writer Eric Prisbell:

If the Big Ten gets eight bids, the selection committee should be disbanded," The Washington Post's John Feinstein told me yesterday. "The committee should be ashamed of itself if the Big Ten gets eight. The Big Ten deserves two bids. ...

The issue many have with the Big Ten is that most of its teams struggle to pass the eye test, outlasting one another in low-scoring battles that are short on style points. For example, the team that tied for second in the conference, Illinois, lost to Penn State, 38-33, on Feb. 18.

The résumés for several Big Ten teams -- including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State -- are similarly mediocre, a tad stronger than those of other bubble teams. Several, but not all, middle-of-the-pack Big Ten teams also earned quality non-conference victories. Ohio State beat Butler. Minnesota beat Louisville. Michigan beat Duke and UCLA.

Like it or not, more than 70 percent of the league most want to bash likely will be offered invitations to the NCAAs.

You gotta love the Post's journalistic integrity. They use the phrase "Many Basketball People Have Issues With the Big Ten" as the headline, when in actuality it sounds like "Feinstein has issues with the Big Ten." Seriously, how does an editor let something like that appear in print with no proof to back it up. It's absurd. See, now if the Post were smart and actually wanted to try and make an argument with limited page space, they could have simply said "Maryland, a mediocre ACC team, beat both Michigan and Michigan State this season. Or something about how Penn State's best non-conference victory this season came against Georgia Tech, a team that finished dead last in the ACC this year.

And as for this "eye test", how abouit we do an RPI eye test on the bubble teams from the Big Ten and the bubble teams from the ACC ... and for the record RPi is calculated using a team's winning percentage and its strength of schedule. So let's do this, compare Michigan (43), Minnesota (36), Wisconsin (38), Ohio State (37), and Penn State (67) with Maryland (62) and Virginia Tech (56). Throw in the Big East's bubble team, Providence (70), for good measure.

Bash all you want, but you're wrong about the Big Ten. When you have nine teams finish within one game of .500 in league play, close, hard fought games don't show a team's weakness. If anything these Big Ten squads are battle-tested since pretty much all but two teams are either gonna make the Tourny or were perilously close to the bubble (Northwestern). Its the second-highest rated conference in overall RPI behind the Big East, so I'd say they deserve eight teams in the dance. ... And if Michigan gets snubbed .. no let's not talk like that, it would only happen to a Tommy team

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