Big Ten gets no respect
I simply cannot hold this in any longer, it’s something I feel must be said: the Big Ten is not down this year and it’s about time someone gives college basketball teams from the Midwest some darn credit.
Yes, I realize I bleed Wisconsin red and white and have watched the Big Ten since I was a wee lad in Iowa and that makes me a little biased, but after watching the Big Ten perform in this year’s NCAA tournament and come within six points of sending three teams to the Final Four – I think I have a leg to stand on.
Let’s just start with one of the roots of the problem: the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is worshipped like its teams can walk on water. In any given year, if the ACC doesn’t begin the season with three teams in the top 10, I would be shocked.
Quite simply, the national media loves the ACC, and the Big East for that matter, and any other conference, especially the Big Ten, is treated like a second-class citizen.
I agree that from top to bottom the ACC is the best basketball conference in the country, but each year teams change and it takes the country half the season to realize that other teams in other conferences may be better than some ACC teams. Every year the attitude that the ACC is far superior, makes it harder for other teams to gain attention in the national spotlight and rankings because they have to work so hard to prove that they are a deserving team. Whereas teams like Georgia Tech or Wake Forest simply have to point to which conference they belong to receive immediate street credibility.
Sure, come August and college football season, everyone hops on the Big Ten train and gives credit where credit is due, saying that the Midwest teams can play some smash-mouth, physical defense and are national forces to be reckoned with come bowl season. However, three months later when basketball season starts, the tables change.
I realize the majority of basketball fans in the country see Big Ten basketball as slow, boring and filled with less than stellar athletes.
I will concede that in the ACC or Big East, a fan may be more likely to see more dunking and fast-breaking than in the Big Ten, but that’s not to say that Big Ten games are lacking in those same areas. The difference is that Big Ten teams are also able to throw in some stingy half-court defenses that the rest of the country does not pride itself in playing.
I also think when people think about Big Ten basketball, they remember when Dick Bennet’s Wisconsin team made it to the Final Four in 2000, played a slowdown game against Michigan State and only scored 41 points in the entire game.
I must first point out that the Badgers have a new coach and a more upbeat tempo. Secondly, scoring tons and tons of points is perhaps the most over-rated part of a basketball game. If you want lots of scoring with no defense – let me suggest you head to the nearest NBA arena you can find.
Part of the reason I love college basketball so much is because of the traps, the changing defenses, players diving after a loose ball every time one hits the floor, players taking charges and a team winning a game by playing solid defense.
It is also important to note at this point that ACC teams averaged 71 points per game this year compared to the Big Ten’s 68. Wow, a three-point difference, I’m sure glad that myth has been dispelled.
I realize I am probably a minority here in my thinking, but I wish the rest of the country could figure out what Midwest people have long known – Big Ten basketball is the best of both worlds. The conference features exciting, athletic players who also play team defense and work hard for every possession.
I would like to think that this year, after Michigan State bullied its way to the Final Four and Illinois continues its dream season, that basketball fans everywhere will see that the Big Ten is no joke when it comes to basketball. Year in and year out Big Ten teams are a force when it comes to the final rounds of the NCAA tournament, and it’s about time for them to stop feeling the need to imitate Rodney Dangerfield’s “I get no respect” line every season.
The only thing “down” about the Big Ten this year is the level of credit the conference has received for fielding some tough basketball teams.
Stacy Hicklin is a sportswriter for The Union. She may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 477-4244.
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