Monday, March 14, 2011

Big Ten Ready For Big Postseason Run

Admit it. Even though Indiana is again a postseason basketball no-show (three straight years if you’re counting), this is still one of the most exciting times of the year.

March Madness rocks.

If nothing else, you can dream big about hitting big in your NCAA tourney bracket pool.

Important safety tip -- if you are a college coach, administrator or employee, DO NOT admit you are in a pool. It’s possible this could be considered gambling and a NCAA violation. We’re not telling you to lie. We’re just saying, keep it secret, like you would the fact that you watch Celebrity Apprentice and can’t believe David Cassidy got fired.

How do we know this?

We admit nothing.

Anyway, while coach Tom Crean and his staff are hitting the recruiting trail, eight Big Ten teams are about to see what kind of magic they can make this March.

How will they do?

Let’s take a look.

First, do you know the answer to this trivia question -- What is the Big Ten record for most victories in a single NCAA tourney?

And if you do, what is the answer to this second question -– Ohio State is the No. 1 overall seed in this tournament. Who and when was the Big Ten’s last overall No. 1 seed?

We’ll answer those questions in a moment.

Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State are among the 68 teams in the NCAA tourney. That ties the conference record set in 1999 and tied in 2009. The only conference to do better is the Big East. Eleven of its 200 teams made it.

Wait. Sorry. The Big East doesn’t have 200 teams. It just seems that way.

Northwestern made the NIT for the third straight year which ties its longest postseason streak. Someday the Wildcats just might do enough to make the NCAA tourney.

Minnesota, which collapsed at the end of the season, didn't get a bid to join IU and Iowa in March misery.

When you count those eight Big Ten teams you get 72.7 percent of Big Ten teams participating in postseason play, the best in the country. That tops the Big East, which had 11 of its 16 teams make it. That’s 68.8 percent, not that we’re counting.

The Big Ten has at least eight postseason teams for the second time in three years, and fourth time in the last decade. The Big Ten has twice had nine teams make postseason play -- 2006 and 2009.

Oh, consider Michigan State, which barely snuck into the 68-team field as a No. 10 seed. The Spartans are in the NCAA tourney for the 14th straight year, the longest active run in the Big Ten and the third-longest run nationally.

Are we impressing you with our Big Ten knowledge? Okay, fine. How about some more, courtesy of the Big Ten release.

Big Ten teams have combined for at least nine victories in each of the last two tournaments, and in three of the last four. They’ve had postseason records of at least .500 in 12 of the last 13 years.

Ohio State, as we know, is a No. 1 seed. Purdue is next at No. 3. Wisconsin got a No. 4. Michigan is a No. 8 seed going against No. 9 Tennessee. Illinois is a No. 9 seed and, in one of those NCAA tourney quirks, plays No. 8 UNLV coached by Lon Kruger, the former Illini coach. Penn State and Michigan State are both No. 10 seeds.

So, again, how will Big Ten teams do? That requires deep insight that we’ll provide in the next blog. All we can say it, bet the house, baby.

Anyway, here are those trivia question answers:

The FIRST trivia answer is 15 victories set by Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota in 1989. Illinios and Michigan both reached the Final Four, with the Wolverines winning it all.

The SECOND trivia answer is Illinois in 2005 was the No. 1 overall seed. The Illini lost only twice all year -- at Ohio State in the regular season finale and against North Carolina in the national title game.

So now you know -- just like David Cassidy.

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