The Big Ten considers itself one of the best basketball conferences in the country, but the fact remains that no Big Ten team has won the NCAA Tournament in 17 years. And it's looking like that drought will continue with no true contender this season.
Will Streak Reach 17 Years?
The last Big Ten team to cut down the nets on the first Monday in April was Michigan State in 2000 when the Spartans gave Coach Tom Izzo his first and only championship with an 89-76 victory over Florida in Indianapolis. Izzo's Spartans have remained a powerhouse and have reached five Final Fours since that last title. MSU last reached the title game in 2009 and was crushed by North Carolina in Detroit.
Wisconsin never appears on any Top 20 list of top recruiting classes but all the Badgers do is win with their boring defensive style. The Badgers reached the Final Four in 2014 & '15. That latter year, UW upset unbeaten and No. 1 Kentucky in the national semifinals but then fell to Duke 68-63 in the national championship game.
Other Big Ten teams to reach the title game this century: Michigan lost 82-76 to Louisville in 2013, Ohio State lost to Florida 84-75 in 2007, Illinois was beaten by North Carolina in 2005, and Indiana lost to Maryland in 2002.
I'm here to tell you that no Big Ten team will even make it to Phoenix this spring, much less win it all.
Badgers Are Best Of Bunch So Far
Go take a look at the Associated Press Top 25. The highest-ranked Big Ten team is Wisconsin at No. 13. Purdue is at No. 20 and Indiana at No. 25. That's it for Big Ten schools. The Big 12 has three schools -- No. 2 Baylor, No. 3 Kansas and No. 7 West Virginia -- in the Top 7. The ACC has five in the Top 14. Shoot, the Big East has two in the Top 10 (No. 1 Villanova & No. 10 Creighton).
With all due respect to the Badgers, they aren't winning a national title. Good, well-coached team but without the athleticism to beat a Kentucky or UCLA or Kansas or Duke. UW is currently +2200 on BetOnline NCAA basketball odds to win it all. The Badgers already were thumped out of conference by Creighton and North Carolina. They did have a nice win at Indiana on Tuesday, 75-68, but that will simply knock the struggling Hoosiers out of the next polls.
Wisconsin could also knock Purdue out of the Top 25 with a victory in West Lafayette on Sunday. The Boilers already have lost at home to mediocre Minnesota. Purdue has one big-time talent in Caleb Swanigan. He has four 20-point/20-rebound games this season. The rest of Division I has a total of 3. But there's not much else there. The Boilermakers are +4000 on NCAA basketball picks to win the national title.
Indiana probably has the best roster in the Big Ten but is currently on a three-game losing streak and has puzzling losses to Fort Wayne and Nebraska. The defending conference champions have great non-conference wins over Kansas and North Carolina and entered Big Ten play with a 26-game home-court winning streak but have now dropped two in a row at Assembly Hall. IU is +2200 in NCAA betting to win it all.
Michigan State was ranked in the preseason Top 12 but then went out and lost to the likes of Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor and Duke. All those defeats are acceptable -- losing at home to Northeastern is not. Sparty is down to +4000 to win a national title.
How about Ohio State? Michigan? Penn State? Iowa? Nebraska? When's spring football?
Frankly, the most interesting story to watch in the Big Ten this year might be if Northwestern makes the NCAA Tournament for the first time. NU is the only Power 5 school never to do so.