I'm really tired ESPN talking heads suggesting the Big Ten has perception issues when it comes to basketball.
The conference might deserve its football reputation after the last few years, with our standard bearer (Ohio State) laying eggs in back-to-back national title games. But, when it comes to basketball, the Big Ten's style of play has translated relatively well to postseason play. The conference routinely sends teams to the Final Four.
And this season every Big Ten team sans Indiana and Iowa beat significant opponents during the non-conference slate. Michigan upended UCLA and Duke. Our Gophers beat Louisville. Illinois won at Missouri and Vanderbilt (no easy place to play). Purdue crushed Davidson and lost an unlucky game to Oklahoma. Ohio State won at Miami and Notre Dame. Michigan State has beaten Texas and Kansas, and their losses to North Carolina and Maryland came with Goran Suton injured. The Wisconsin Badgers have played the 5th toughest schedule in the country and went to Virginia Tech and won before losing a close road game at Marquette. Even Northwestern, yes the Wildcats who are on the NCAA bubble, picked up a nice win during the ACC Challenge against Florida State.
But the Big Ten has perception issues? I know the 38-33 Penn State win over Illinois was ripe fodder for Big Ten haters. Fair enough. But Wednesday night after Minnesota's 51-46 win over the Badgers, some ESPN talking head, Jimmy Dykes I think, made some asinine comment that the final score will add to the perception that the Big Ten can't win games because of its pace of play.
I know it's hard to swallow for ratings obsessed television networks, but offense isn't the only way to win basketball games. The Big Ten, love it or hate it, has always been a defensive oriented league where toughness and superiority on defense are a winning formula.
This has been a great year in the Big Ten. And I think this is going to be one of those years where teams from around the country are going to fret facing a Big Ten team come the middle of March whatever the perception is.
- Unlike whatever ESPN schmuck I referenced above, Gregory Hardy of CBSSports.com gets it. In making fun of every SEC basketball team, Hardy notes "My good friends at CBS Sports have spent too much money shelling out for the rights to broadcast SEC basketball for these schools to put out a product that's the awful equivalent of Big Ten football."
- Don't forget to root for Pam Borton's team tonight as they take on Iowa in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament. The Gophers are the 5 seed in this 4-5 match-up, Tip is about 7:30 on the Big Ten Network. Gophersports.com has your need to knows here.
- Marcus Fuller asks "Should Westbrook and Nolen come off the bench again?" I say yes. Fuller says no, though he also seems surpsied in the same post that Kevin Payton didn't play against Wisconsin. I think DJoseph in the starting lineup gives us more offense and not a huge drop off defensively.
- If Northwestern doesn't fight its way into the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever this year, some people think next year looks pretty bright. I like the job Bill Carmody has done, but I do wish he'd wear a tie instead of this open collar look.
- Sticking with Northwestern, Andy Katz makes a case for the Wildcats. I think I'll be rooting for the 'Cats unless they play the Gophers.
- Mike Trogan at Gang Green (MSU blog) takes joy in responding to a minor cheap shot leveled at the Spartans by Memphis coach John Calipari. Among other things, the blogger calls Calipari a "fraud." Ouch. I have similar disdain for Calipari and also tire of ESPN's coverage of Memphis' dominance over C-USA. Big deal. I hope the Gophers are an 8 or 9 seed and see Memphis in the second round. The Tigers have won 21 straight, and that's swell, but most games were against East this, Centreal thator third tier Texas teams.
- It's not pretty in Kentucky after the Wildcats might have seen their bubble burst the other night with a loss to Georgia. Jeff Goodman of FoxSports doesn't mince words. (Though I do wish to note that our friend Tru at ASOB refers to this writer as "the loathsome troll." )
Be careful what you wish for. Kentucky fans drove Tubby Smith out of Lexington despite a national title and 10 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. They wanted a guy who could recruit McDonald's All-Americans. Someone that could take them back to the promised land — where Big Blue was competing for national championships again. Instead, they got Billy Clyde Gillispie.